Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Wonderful Saint Templar, or: Can Anybody Spare a Halo?

Just when you think you have read everything and will no longer find anything interesting (which is fine, you can read The Maltese Falcon once a year and never get bored), you find a gem. In this case, that gem is Leslie Charteris and his terrific creation, Simon Templar, aka The Saint.

It took me a while to get to The Saint. My first exposure to the character was the Vincent Price radio show, where Templar is an American in New York City experiencing various adventures and getting hit over the head....a lot. I didn't like the show, so I had no interest in reading the books.

Then Max Allan Collins writes a coffee table book called The History of Mystery, and The Saint gets a few lines, where Collins says he's more hard-boiled than he's given credit for. Light bulb time! I found a couple of Templar adventures at a used book store, went out on my deck with the accompanying cigar and Coca-Cola, and found a whole new world of adventure that I had no idea existed.

With The Saint you get mystery, comedy, adventure; thrills, chills, cliff-hanger escapes. Great characters who are full of life and humor and great dialogue. Charteris knew how to use the English language better than anybody--he dedicated a book to P.G. Wodehouse, saying P.G. could have written The Saint better than him, and now I think I'll have to track me down some P.G. Wodehouse. The drawback to how Charteris made English talk is that you get lost in some really big words--who cares, a dictionary isn't hard to find and he carries you along so well that you let it go because if you stop to look up a word you won't see how The Saint gets out of trouble.

So far I've read The Saint's Getaway--a laugh-out-loud adventure with a great twist at the end. Right now I'm reading The Saint in New York--and Collins was right! Simon Templar is more hard-boiled than he's given credit for. There's less humor in "New York" so far, but a ton of slam-bang action and hold-your-breath moments, and I can't put it down.

Up next is a paperback collecting two Templar short stories, and I can't wait to get into that one. I bet Charteris is really good in short form.

If you haven't read Simon Templar, give him a try.


  1. I'm going to have to check one of these out. Thoughts pertaining to the Val Kilmer movie?

  2. Caine,
    I haven't seen the Kilmer movie, but I want to. So far, other than the books, I've watched a few episodes of the Roger Moore TV show. The TV version is good, and it's neat to see Moore in his pre-Bond role, but the show lacks a lot of the flavor of the books that I've read so far. Simon operating alone (as Moore does in this show) is fine, but the books give him a ton of other characters to interact with, and that's where a lot of the fun is.

    As for the Kilmer movie, the description of the plot sounds like a good Saint story, but how it was executed I have no idea. Yet. Have you seen it?

  3. I don't care for the films or the Moore TV show (though it does have its merits.) But Mr. Charteris's creation is one of the finest crafted characters around. There is a two set Saint short story collection that I would, as they say, highly recommend.

  4. I love these books, read them all many years ago, and reread one every now and then. Much of the stuff from the Forties on was ghosted, but Charteris kept a hand in, even with the ghosted work, and it all reads well. I like the TV series a lot, too. It's not exactly the same character, but it still has that British charm.

    I haven't seen the Kilmer film, but I've never heard anything good about it.

  5. I had no idea some of the books were ghosted. I'll have to see where the cut-off is.

    The story to the Kilmer film at least sounds like a Saint story; I guess the execution was poor?

  6. Burl Barer's novelization of THE SAINT movie was widely praised by fans and adored by the Charteris estate, who gave him the right to continue the series. You can find his CAPTURE THE SAINT on the Kindle and he's at work on a new adventure now.

    Barer also wrote the Edgar Award winning history of THE SAINT in all media -- print, radio, TV etc. You can find it on Amazon, too. I should admit a bias...he's my Uncle!


  7. Hi, Lee, thanks for visiting. I spotted The Saint movie novelization at a used bookshop recently so I'll go back and get it. That's great that your uncle is doing more stories--I'll check out his Kindle books, too!