Antigua, Penny, Puce (1937), a barbed tale of sibling rivalry, gave its title to a never-issued one penny puce-and-white stamp from Antigua with George VI's portrait on it and three puce pigs eating at a puce trough. Jane and Oliver are the siblings who fight for possession of the stamp. Philip Larkin praisede it as 'unique among novels' for 'its variety of original invention, not to mention its humour'. It can be read as a political parable about colonialism and the conflict in Spain between Communists and the Fascists.
They Hanged my Saintly Billy (1957), Graves' last major novel, is subtitled The Life & Death of Dr William Palmer and, like much of Graves' fiction, is based on fact, in this case the life of a notorious surgeon, racehorse owner and a confessed forger who got girls into trouble, doped horses, robbed a few people. But, Graves' novel asks, was he a poisoner? Palmer's actual trial took place in 1856, and the novel, as we would expect of a writer with Gfraves' classic skills, has all the immediacy and spiciness of contemporary life. It is told through interviews with Palmer's friends and foes, and we are involved in piecing the tale together.
Programme editor: Patrick Quinn