I have just finished reading The Saint and Mr. Teal, three chronicles in the life of Simon Templar written by the amazing Leslie Charteris. Once again Charteris amazes me with his use of the English language. I have never been so delightedly entertained by a writer’s work—the humor, the adventure, the biting satire of the political “mother hens” of the day (in fact, despite this book having been written in the ‘30s, you could easily apply Charteris’s comments to today—in the United States, at least—where they would fit our own “mother hens” perfectly, those dreadful fellows who seem to think that they know how to live our lives better than we do and spend their days trying to protect us from ourselves because they really do know best and if the unwashed and the Godly would just accept their counsel life would be so much better). Ahem. Charteris really does get one going…
To the book! The three adventures featured in The Saint and Mr. Teal are rip-roaring yarns that make you laugh, smile, and, as I said, marvel at how Charteris uses words, like nobody has before or since (though, perhaps, P.G. Wodehouse could challenge the title—stiff upper lip, Jeeves!). I found myself unable to stop reading. In fact, I am glad that I have even more Saintly adventures to read as I recently discovered a gold mine of Charteris novels at a used bookshop in San Jose that I had never visited before. You can bet I will skip over whichever novel I had planned to read next and go straight to the next Saint book.
I do not possess the skill with language or satire that Charteris developed, though perhaps I could given enough time, but I will tell you that when I go back to my own manuscripts I bring a focus and discipline to the writing that seems stronger than before, because I now know how much better I can be.
The last time I wrote about Simon Templar, I was reading The Saint in New York, which has great sequences in it. I did not care for the book overall, because it had less comedy, and the action was more in line with what we American chaps tend to write. This is not to say it was bad, but I was expecting something different. The great revelation at the end, when the Major Villain comes to life, has been repeatedly used by writers of less skill than Charteris that I—and you—have read over the years, so when it finally happened I was not surprised. And that disappointed me. Such is life.
And then there is the character of Simon Templar himself. With Templar, Charteris created a character you want to read about over and over again. He does not get boring. Templar’s moral code and dedication to his cause is so strong that you cannot turn away. You want to be there with him, taking on the ungodly in pursuit of boodle or pure justice. He is such a finely drawn character and you want him to be real. You want him to be out there somewhere with gal pal Patricia Holm and you hope that one day you cross paths and get to take part in an adventure, even if only for a moment, so you can relive your Saintly association during your golden years and know that there is a man out there who will not compromise himself. There is far too much compromise today. There are no more Alpha Males, or good ones, anyway, and Templar is a good one.
Oh, well. It is a silly day dream, really. But there are far worse ways to spend one’s time, and I do not apologize for saying so.
The next question is, which Saint book do I read next? Perhaps I will set the books out on the floor, close my eyes, and pick the first one my hand touches. Regardless of which one I pick, I know I will be entertained.
There is talk about a new television series or a movie featuring The Saint, but I do not hold out much hope. Roger Moore, when he played the character, played it well, but nobody can capture the True Saint (I will not mention the radio show, despite the great Vincent Price who played the role, as it too falls far short of the books). I wish the production well and maybe I will be surprised. I sure hope so. The world needs Simon Templar now more than ever.