Leslie Charteris (12 May 1907 – 15 April 1993), born Leslie Charles Bowyer-Yin, was a British-American author of primarily mystery fiction, as well as a screenwriter. He was best known for his many books chronicling the adventures of Simon Templar, alias “The Saint.”
I first became aware of The Saint with the ’60s TV show starring Roger Moore. Just as Sean Connery is the epitome of James Bond for many of us, I think Moore is the epitome of The Saint for many folks my age. For people from my parent’s generation, The Saint might be Louis Hayward (one movie) or George Sanders (five movies) or Hugh Sinclair (two movies).
With The Saint, Charteris created an iconic, loveable rogue character. In some respects, Simon Templar is a Modern day (loosely speaking) update of Robin Hood. From the wiki for “Simon Templar“:
Simon Templar is a Robin Hood-like criminal known as The Saint — plausibly from his initials; but the exact reason for his nickname is not known (although we’re told that he was given it at the age of nineteen). Templar has aliases, often using the initials S.T. such as “Sebastian Tombs” or “Sugarman Treacle”. Blessed with boyish humor, he makes humorous and off-putting remarks and leaves a “calling card” at his “crimes”, a stick figure of a man with a halo. This is used as the logo of the books, the movies, and the 1960s TV series. He is described as “buccaneer in the suits of Savile Row, amused, cool, debonair, with hell-for-leather blue eyes and a saintly smile…”
Charteris’ books get re-published every so often. I know I read most of them from my local public library back in the early/mid ’60s after seeing the Moore TV series. I then re-read them during one re-pub period in the mid ’70s. The last time I re-read a couple of them was in the ’90s and I picked up copies at the local book store but at the moment I only have The Saint and Mr Teal, The Saint in New York, and The Knight Templar. A quick check of der Google for “Simon Templar The Saint” shows some of the books. Charteris’ page at Good Reads lists some of the books but I’m not sure there is any one central location where all the books can be found. Online, used book stores, maybe mystery book stores. The following quote from Charteris is on his Good Reads bio page:
“I am an absurd idealist. But I believe that all that must come true. For, unless it comes true, the world will be laid desolate. And I believe that it can come true. I believe that, by the grace of God, men will awake presently and be men again, and colour and laughter and splendid living will return to a grey civilisation. But that will only come true because a few men will believe in it, and fight for it, and fight in its name against everything that sneers and snarls at that ideal.”
― Leslie Charteris, The Last Hero
And for the record, I have not been able to sit through the Val Kilmer movie version.
If you are at the bookstore and see the little stick man on a book, you can probably have a fun read.
Photo from Helgi Halldorsson licensed under Creative Commons.