Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday’s Forgotten Books: The Saint in New York by Leslie Charteris

While most avid readers of crime fiction know The Saint is the work of author Leslie Charteris, a talk with some friends and coworkers who aren’t as keen on crime novels uncovered that The Saint is not well known beyond the 1997 movie with Val Kilmer. Only a few had heard of the 60’s TV show with Roger Moore. And so, I thought I’d review The Saint in New York.
“Pardon me. In the excitement of the moment, and all that sort of thing, I forgot to introduce myself. I’m afraid I’ve had you at a disadvantage. My name is Templar—Simon Templar”—he caught the flash of stark hypnotic fear that blanched the big man’s lips, and grinned even more gently. “You may have heard of me. I am the Saint.”
Simon Templar befriends wealthy American, William Valcross, whose son was murdered in the Big Apple. He’s given an offer he can't refuse: a million dollars to go to New York and bring the killer to justice. But it’s no easy task with the corruption that pervades the city’s judicial system. He cleans up the graft by eliminating men from the mafioso’s hierarchy, meticulously working his way to the top to find out the identity of the "The Big Fellow" who is controlling the city.

What struck me about reading this early entry in the series is Simon Templar’s hard-edge. Halfway through the story, he has already killed three gangsters and hijacked a taxi to escape from the police. In the short story adventures from the 1950s and early 60s that I’ve read, Templar is more mild-mannered, almost a gentlemanly Christie style sleuth. Comparatively, this younger version of the Saint kicked some major ass.

But Templar’s chutzpa seemed to be intact from the start. He dresses as a nun to elude the police and kidnaps a detective to convince him they are working toward the same goal. Templar brazenly sends his famous haloed stick figure logo to announce his arrival to the opposition. His employer Valcross asks him why he would do this, making his job even harder. The Saint replies:
“It goes back to some grand times—of which you’ve heard,” he said quietly. “The Saint was a law of his own in those days, and that little drawing stood for battle and sudden death and all manner of mayhem. Some of us live for it—worked for it—fought for it. One of us died for it….There was a time when any man who received a note like I sent to Irboll, with that signature, knew there was nothing more he could do. And since we’re out on this picnic, I’d like things to be the same—even if it’s only for a little while.”
This is the first full-length Saint novel that I’ve read, but I had no problem starting here because Charteris ingeniously updates readers in the first chapter with a letter from Scotland Yard warning the New York police chief of his suspicion that the Saint is in town. The letter conveniently rehashes all of the Saint’s adventures from the beginning.

If I had one complaint, it would be that Charteris seemed to pad the story a bit by repeating similar circumstances. In particular, he has to contend with too many villains on his way to the top kingpin. Also, we are reminded a bit too often that the handsome Simon Templar has sparkling blue eyes!

These small gripes aside, this novel is a lot of fun. Charteris had an ability to write with effortless charm similar to the later Ian Fleming. The Saint in New York is highly recommended.

Click here for more Friday's Forgotten Books on Patti Abbott's site...


Joshua said...

The Saint for the win! As a youngin, I know the the Saint mostly from the movie and the series with Roger Moore.. Need to give the book a read

Logan Lamech said...

wow, I liked the movie but didn't know about the series or the book. looks like I got some reading to do.

Logan Lamech

James Reasoner said...

I loved the Saint books when I was a kid and read every one I could get my hands on. The ones I've reread as an adult hold up very well.

David Cranmer said...

Josh, If you're already a fan of the tv/film version, I’m sure you will enjoy this book.

Logan, Thanks for stopping by and when I get a chance I will check out your site... I’m glad you found the review helpful.

James, I agree. The Saint in New York was not dated in the least and the story clipped right along at a nice pace. I am going to have to find a few more of these.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've never read a "Saint" book. There's so much out there I've missed.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

This was the first Saint I ever read, having previously only known the TV series and films, and I was amazed at how hard-boiled it was. The George Sanders movie of this one is very faithful and well worth watching. But back to the book - Templer is much more of an outlaw than any of the TV series versions and the level of violence also surprised me. I adore this book and think it's a ripping no nonsense adventure.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I know I read one or two of these. So suave.

David Cranmer said...

Charles, I know you like more action adventure as opposed to mystery and for that reason I know you'd like The Saint.

Archavist, I remember reading your post on The Saint and that in turn compelled me to search out some Charteris novels. I'm a fan of George Sanders and will in turn get to the movie at some point. I may even try season one of the Moore show.

Patti, Suave is the word. He may even have Bond beat in the charm department.

Terrie Farley Moran said...


Thanks for the reminder. I used to love the Saint when I was a kid and yes, he had Bond beat when it came to suave!


Ian Dickerson said...

Enjoyed your piece on the book. Can I just unsubtly plug the two Charteris anthologies I put together for Hodder & Stoughton which will be published on December 11th this year? The Best of the Saint vol. 1 has an introduction by Ken Follett and vol. 2 has an introduction by Sir Roger Moore.

David Cranmer said...

Terrie, it's always nice to be reunited with special memories from our childhood.

Hoppy, Feel free to plug away and thanks for stopping by! I found your anthologies on the publisher's website and I'll be looking forward to their release. Also, if you don't mind, I'll post the covers on my blog and give you just a little bit more of a plug.

G. B. Miller said...

Didn't realize that there was a book series on the Saint.

Like the first commenter, I was exposed to The Saint via the Mystery Channel, except more as an adult than as a youngin'.

Something to look for at my local library.

Ray said...

Ah yes Mr Templer was very much a rogue in his younger days and a bit violent as The Saint Meets The Tiger (or Meet The Tiger - the original title). The first three or four novels run consecutively.
But he was always 'the king of cool'.
The war against Scotland Yard and Mr Teal in particular are good fun. Teal wanted to put The Saint behind bars - although they are both working for the common good.
And, in my totally biased opinion, these are books that should be read just for the full enjoyment of them.

Barbara Martin said...

David, I love these trips down memory lane whenever I come to visit. My tender teenage heart beat so strongly whenever the TV series was on, and prompted me to read most of the Saint novels. I confess I have not read The Saint in New York. Looks like I'll have to have a read soon.

David Cranmer said...

Georgie b, I know you will enjoy them and congrats on getting your book published.

Ray, I agree. They are just a lot of fun to read. I never pass up a chance to read Simon T.

Barbara, If you and I had grown up together, I think we wouldn't have fought too much over which channel to watch. Our tastes seem to be simpatico.

Rachel Burton said...

Sounds intriguing - thanks for the great review! I'm one of those who liked the movie, but didn't realize there was a book series!

Ian Dickerson said...

I must say I'm delighted by all these comments. The number of folks who didn't know of the books but enjoyed the TV show or the movie(s) strengthens my belief that the Saint can and will return.

Just for the record aside from the two anthologies due next month, a 2 hour pilot film for a new TV series is in development and I have two books--one about the Saint's TV career and one about the life and times of Leslie Charteris--due for publication next year.

Watch for the sign of the Saint, for he will return...

Prof. Hex said...

The Saint is one of my childhood heroes and the character still delivers today. Those of you who only saw the Kilmer film may be in for a shock as the movie is quite different than the source material - and not in a good way.

The Sanders movies are good, the Roger Moore series is excellent, and the Ian Ogilvy relaunch in the 80s wasn't half bad either.

The Saint is ripe for a comeback though. I have TSINY on my shelf, maybe tonight I'll dust it off for a read.

David Cranmer said...

Rachel, I'm glad I could highlight this series for you and glad you stopped by. I really enjoyed scanning your blog and I know I will return.

Hoppy Uniatz, I also checked out your blog and what a wealth of knowledge on everything Simon Templar and some Bond. I will be ordering the two Charteris anthologies you have put together. These short stories are some of the building blocks of our writing community today... I'm sure you had fun writing the Leslie Charteris bio. A quick Wikipedia search showed an extraordinary life lived to the fullest.

Prof. Hex, The Kilmer film was so bad that, to this day, I've never finished watching it. I am definitely going to watch the Sanders films. I can imagine he was perfect in the role. I've always liked Roger Moore but the few episodes I've seen didn't really grab me though I never watched the first few years which are probably superior... time to give them another go around.