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by Bamber Gascoigne

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Leslie Charteris (1907-1993) - in full: Leslie Charles Bowyer Yin


American mystery-adventure writer, born in Singapore. Charteris is best-known for his highly popular " The Saint" stories, depicting the adventures of Simon Templar, a hero outside the law, who hunted down criminals, and con artists whom the law could not or would not touch. The first screen adaptation was made in 1938; the TV series started in 1963 with Roger Moore as the Saint. Simon Templar's return to the big screen was seen in 1997, this time with Val Klimer in the title role.

"It is truly said that adventures are to the adventurous. Simon had about him that indefinable atmosphere of romance and adventurousness which is given to some favored men in every age, and it attracted adventure as inevitably as a magnet attracts iron filings." (from Enter the Saint, 1930)

Leslie Charteris was born Leslie Charles Bowyer Yin, in Singapore (then a British colony). Yin. His father was Dr. Suat Chuan Yin, a wealthy Chinese surgeon, and mother Lydia Florence Bowyer, of English descent. Before he could speak English, Charteris learned Chinese and Malay from the family's native servants. When his parents separated, Charteris followed his mother to England. He was educated at private schools, where was keen to run the school magazines. At the age of seventeen Charteris sold his first fiction story. He attended Cambridge University, receiving a law degree in 1926. After the success of X Esquire (1927) and the Simon Templar adventure, Meet the Tiger (1927), the young author abandoned his studies, although his father refused to finance his new career. His early stories Charteris published under the name Leslie C. Bowyer. At the age of twenty, he changed his name to Leslie Charteris-Ian, the tag being on the insistence of his father. Later he was known only as Leslie Charteris; the pseydonym was legalized in 1946 as his entire name, in honor, as it is claimed to Colonel Francis Charteris (1675-1732), a professional gambler and a notorious rake.

Rejecting a respectable life and the routine office hours intolerably dull as the Saint in The Saint Closes the Case (1930), Charteris determined to support himself as a writer and find his own niche in the rapidly growing mystery market. "I was literally struggling for my life," he recalled, "that is, the only kind of life I could visualize worth living." When experiments with other detective-protagonists were not fruitful (such as Terry Mannering, educated in medicine, Peter LeStrange, a jujitsu champion, the Duck, Daredevil, and the Bandit), Charteris brought back his soldier of fortune in his sixth book, Enter the Saint (1930). "We Saints are normally souls of peace and goodwill towards men. But we don't like crooks, bloodsuckers, traders in vice and damnation..."

In 1931 Charteris married Pauline Schishkin, the daughter of a Russian diplomat; they divorced in 1937. Despite the Saint's growing popularity in Great Britain, Charteris' income was meager. He worked at odd jobs in England, France, and Malaya until 1935. Succeeding Dashiell Hammett, he wrote the syndicated comic strip Secret Agent X-9 in the mid-1930s.

Upon settling in the United States, Charteris was employed as a scriptwriter in Hollywood for some years. In 1938 he married Barbara Meyer, an American; they divorced in 1943 in Las Vegas. The Saint in New York (1935) which he actually wrote in England, made him an international celebrity. Charteris presented a more hard-edged side of Templar's personality: he is basically hired as an assassin to kill mobsters who killed a millionaire's son. The book was made into movie in Hollywood, starring Louis Hayward, a light, five-foot-nine South African actor, but after the success of this film, RKO hired the suave George Sanders to carry the lead. Hoping for bigger stars, such as Ronald Colman, Cary Grant or Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Charteris himself was never happy with the leads of these productions. In France, the famous actor Jean Marais played the Saint in Le Saint prend l'affût (1966), but this movie, hilariously off the wall, led to legal battles between Charteris and the producers. When Charteris recovered the Saint movie rights back from RKO in 1941, the studio continued with a similar character, "the Falcon", based on a forgotten mystery by Michael Arlen. However, one entry in the series, The Falcon Takes Over (1942), was a silly version from Raymond Chandler's novel Farewell, My Lovely.

"The Saint films tended to resemble one another too closely, but they were fairly well produced and had the advantage of the suavity of George Sanders, who said he disliked the role intensely. If choice were to be made, The Saint Takes Over (1940) is probably the best, or the closest to the original conception of the Robin Hood-like character. RKO discontinued the series in 1941, although their English counterpart produced two of their own under William Sistrom, with Hugh Sinclair in the role." (B Movies by Don Miller, 1973)

While spending the winter of 1935-36 in Teneriffe in the Canary Islands, and gathering material for Thieves Picnic (1937), Charteris met Francisco Franco, who was living there in exile and plotting. "Franco didn't let me in on his plans, but I thought he was not a very bright character, and I was really surprised when he started his civil war." (in The Saint: A Complete History in Print, Radio, Film and Television... by Burl Barer, 1998, p. 35) Through the eyes of the Saint, Charteris viewed a world gone mad in Prelude for War (1938): "He saw the streets swarming with arrogant, strangely uniformed militia, the applauding headlines of a disciplined press ... neighbor betraying neighbor, the midnight arrests, the third degree, the secret tribunals, the fantastic confessions, the farcical trials, the concentration camps..." World War II created a new Saint, sardonic, and more mature. From the 1940s an entire entertainment industry began to develop around Simon Templar – books, movies, comic books, newspaper strips, radio plays, and from the 1960s TV shows.

In 1943 Charteris married Elizabeth Bryant Borst, a singer; they divorced in 1951. After his marriage in 1952 to the movie beauty Audrey Long he focussed on short stories, tales that played upon the Saint's self-referential history. From 1945 to 1955 he wrote the script for the comic strip Saint. Harry Harrison contributed between 1955 and 1960 a number of scripts to the comic strip which ran in the New York Herald-Tribune, but Charteris himself claimed that he had written all of the stories. A new Simon Templar novel, Vendetta for the Saint, co-authored by Harry Harrison, appeared in 1964. The TV series, which started in 1963, did not at first impress Charteris. When the shows improved, the author changed his mind.

From 1947 to 1948 Charteris edited Suspense magazine; and The Saint Detective Magazine (later The Saint Mystery Magazine) from 1953 to 1967. He also wrote for Gourmet Magazine (1966-968), published a Spanish grammar book, and as a devoted fan of bull-fighting translated Juan Belmonte's Autobiography of a Matador. After his retirement in the 1970s Charteris lived in England and France. Leslie Charteris died on April 16, 1993, in Windsor, England.

Generally the Saint is carefree and full of humor, though he carries a knife concealed in his coat sleeve; he drives a white Volvo 1800, travels around the world, everybody knows him and he knows everybody. A calling card, with his signature stick figure, crowns his character. In the movie The Saint (1997), directed by Philip Noyce and starring Val Kilmer, he used the Nokia Communicator. As a world traveller in luxury surroundings always with a new hotel, a new heroine, and a new adventure, the Saint predated Ian Fleming's James Bond, but as an outlaw he was a relative of Robin Hood, Maurice Leblanc's gentleman thief Arsène Lupin, or Mickey Spillane's vigilant PI Mike Hammer.

The Saint's trademark was first a stick man with a halo, then came a distinctive whistle, devised for the films but also used on radio and television. The whistling theme was composed by Roy Webb. During the course of the first Saint novel, Templar meets Patricia Holm, the heroine of many subsequent stories. Other major supporting characters included Inspectors Claude Eustache Teal of Scotland Yard, who was introduced in a non-Saint story, 'The Story of a Dead Man (1929), and John Henry Fernack of the NYPD. His most memorable adversaries were the megalomaniac Crown Prince Rudolf, who first appeared in The Saint Closes the Case, and Dr Rayt Marius, who plots in Knight Templar (1930) to stir up a Second Great War.

Many critics consider The Saint's pre-war adventure books more stylish than the hero's later appearances in different media. The earlier books were also more violent. Charteris' first credited collaborator was Fleming Lee; others succeeding him were Peter Bloxsom, Graham Weaver, and Christopher Short. The "French only" Saint novels were for the most part written by Madeleine Michel-Tyl. Following Charteris's death his estate authorized Burl Barer to create new Saint adventures. Capture the Saint (1997) was well received by the critics.

Saint books from 1967, usually by Fleming Lee and Norman Worker: The Saint on TV (1967); The Saint Returns (1968); The Saint and the Fiction Makers (1968); The Saint Abroad (1969); The Saint and the People Importers (1970); Catch the Saint (1974); Send for the Saint (1977); The Saint and the Templar Treasure (1978). - The Saint in television: The Saint (1962-69), 118 episodes, starring Roger Moore; The Return of the Saint (1978-79), starring Ian Ogilvy, 24 episodes; The Saint in Manhattan, in CBS Summer Playhouse, starring Andrew Clarke; The Saint, six TV movies (1989), starring Simon Dutton; The Saint (2009), TV series in pre-production.

For further reading: The Saint and Leslie Charteris by W.O.G. Lofts and Derek Adley (1971); The Durable Desperadoes by William Vivian Butler (1973); The Saint: A Complete History in Print, Radio, and Television of Leslie Charteris' Robin Hood of Modern Crime, Simon Templar by Burl Barer (1992); World Authors 1900-1950 (vol. 1), ed. by Martin Seymour-Smith and Andrew C. Kimmens (1996); The Saint by Paul Simper (1997); The Saint: A Complete History in Print, Radio, Film and Television of Leslie Charteris' Robin Hood of Modern Crime, Simon Templar by Burl Barer (1998); Mystery Movie Series of 1940s Hollywood by Ron Backer (2010). Suom.: Suomeksi Pyhimys on seikkaillut parissakymmenessä teoksessa, joista Gummeruksen Pyhimys-sarjassa 1964-70 julkaistiin 16. For further information: The Saintly Bible Web Page

Selected novels:

  • X Esquire, 1927
  • Meet the Tiger, 1927 (first Simon Templar novel)
    - Pyhimys kohtaa tiikerin (suom. Lea Karvonen [salanimi useille eri suomentajille], 1960)
    - Film: 1943, prod. RKO Radio British Productions. dir. by Paul Stein, starring Hugh Sinclair (as Simon Templar/The Saint), Jean Gillie and Gordon McLeod
  • The White Rider, 1928
  • Daredevil, 1929
  • The Bandit, 1929
  • The Last Hero, 1930 (US title: The Saint Closes the Case, 1941)
    - Pyhimys pääsee asiaan (suom. Soini Talaskivi, 1968)
  • Enter the Saint, 1930 (3 novelets)
  • Knight Templar, 1930 (US title: The Avenging Saint, 1931)
    - Pyhimys pitää sanansa (suom. Risto Lehmusoksa, 1970)
  • Featuring the Saint, 1931 (3 novelets, includes The Man Who Could Not Die)
    - Pyhimys ei palvo kuvia (suom. Eija Palsbo, 1965)
  • Alias the Saint, 1931 (3 novelets)
  • Wanted for Murder, 1931 (combines Featuring the Saint and Alias the Saint)
  • She Was a Lady, 1931 (US titles: Angels of Doom, 1932; The Saint Meets His Match, 1941)
    - Pyhimys kohtaa kaunottaren (suom. Eija Palsbo, 1965)
  • Enter the Saint, 1931
  • The Saint Meets His Match, 1931
  •  Wanted for Murder, 1931
  • The Holy Terror, 1932 (3 novelets: The Inland Revenue, The Million Pound Day, The Melancholy Journey of Mr. Teal; U.S. title: The Saint Vs. Scotland Yard, 1932)
    - Pyhimys maksaa veronsa (suom. Eija Palsbo, 1965) & Pyhimys on kovaa valuuttaa (suom. Eija Palsbo, 1965) & Pyhimys näkee unia (suom. Eija Palsbo, 1965)
    - Film: The Saint in London, 1939, prod. RKO Radio Pictures, dir. John Paddy Carstairs, starring George Sanders (as Simon Templar/The Saint), Sally Gray and David Burns
  • Getaway, 1932
    - Film: The Saint's Vacation, 1941, prod. RKO Radio British Productions, dir. Leslie Fenton, starring Hugh Sinclair (as Simon Templar/The Saint), Sally Gray, Cecil Parker, Gordon McLeod
  • Once More the Saint, 1933 (3 novelets; US title: The Saint and Mr. Teal, 1933)
  • Midnight Club, 1933 (script, with Seton I Miller)
    - Film 1933, prod.
    Paramount Pictures, dir. Alexander Hall, George Somnes, starring Clive Brook, George Raft and Helen Vinson
  • The Brighter Buccaneer, 1933
  • Boodle, 1934 (US title: The Saint Intervenes, 1934)
  • The Misfortunes of Mr. Teal, 1934 (3 novelets: includes The Misfortunes of Mr, Teal; US title: he Saint in London, 1941)
    - Pyhimys naisen ritarina (suom. Ilmari Salomaa, 1949) & Pyhimys saa kilpailijan (suom. Ilmari Salomaa, 1949) & Pyhimys seuraa jälkiä (suom. Ilmari Pajunen, 1949)
  • The Saint Goes On, 1934 (3 novelets)
  • The Saint in New York, 1935
    - Pyhimys New Yorkissa (suom. Eija Palsbo, 1964)
    - Film 1938, prod. RKO Radio Pictures, dir. Ben Holmes, starring Louis Hayward (as Simon Templar, aka The Saint), Kay Sutton, Sig Ruman, Jonathan Hale
  • Saint Overboard, 1936 (US title: The Pirate Sain, 1941)
    - Pyhimys yli laidan (suom. Eija Palsbo, 1964)
  • The Ace of Knaves, 1937 (3 novelets; US title: The Saint in Action, 1938)
  • Thieves' Picnic, 1937 (US title: The Saint Bids Diamonds, 1942)
  • Juan Belmonte, Killer of Bulls: The Autobiography of a Matador / Manuel Chaves Nogales, 1937 (translator)
  • Prelude for War, 1938 (US title: The Saint Plays with Fire, 1942)
    - Pyhimys leikkii tulella (suom. Eija Palsbo, 1964)
  • She Was a Lady, 1938
    - Film 1939, prod. RKO Radio Pictures, dir. John Farrow, starring George Sanders (as Simon Templar, aka The Saint), Wendy Barrie and Jonathan Hale
  • Follow the Saint, 1938 (3 novelets, includes The Miracle Tea Party, The Invisible Millionaire)
    - Pyhimys kutsuu teelle (suom. Eija Palsbo, 1965) & Pyhimys on aina Pyhimys (suom. Eija Palsbo, 1965)
  • The Happy Highwayman, 1939
  • The First Saint Omnibus, 1939
  • The Saint in Miami, 1940 (The Saint and his friend move to the U.S.)
    - Pyhimys Miamissa (suom. Eija Palsbo, 1964)
  • The Saint's Double Trouble, 1940 (script, with Ben Holmes)
    - Film 1940, prod. RKO Radio Pictures, dir. Jack Hively, starring George Sanders (as Simon Templar aka The Saint), Helene Whitney and Jonathan Hale
  • The Saint in Palm Springs, 1941 (story, screenplay Jerry Cady)
    - Film 1941, prod.
    RKO Radio Pictures, dir. Jack Hively, starring George Sanders (as Simon Templar/The Saint), Wendy Barrie, Paul Guilfoyle, Jonathan Hale
  • The Saint's Vacation, 1941 (script, with Jeffrey Dell)
    - Film 1941, prod. RKO Radio British Productions, dir. Leslie Fenton, starring Hugh Sinclair (as Simon Templar, aka The Saint), Sally Gray and Cecil Parker
  • The Saint Goes West, 1942
  • TThe Saint Steps In, 1943
    - Pyhimys astuu näyttämölle (suom. Eija Palsbo, 1964)
    - TV film 1964, dir. John Gilling, teleplay John Kruse, with Roger Moore (as Simon Templar/The Saint), Annette Andre and Ed Bishop
  • The Saint on Guard, 1944 (2 novelets)
  • Lady on a Train, 1945 (novelization of a screenplay)
  • Lady on a Train, 1945 (story, screenplay Edmund Beloin and Robert O'Brien)
    - Film 1945, prod. Universal Pictures, dir. Charles David, starring Deanna Durbin, Ralph Bellamy and David Bruce
  • River Gang, 1945 (script, with others)
    - Film 1945, prod. Universal Pictures, dir. Charles David, starring Gloria Jean, John Qualen and Bill Goodwin
  • The Saint's Choise of Humorous Crime, 1945 (editor)
  • The Saint's Choice of Impossible Crime, 1945 (editor)
  • The Saint's Choice of Hollywod Crime, 1946 (editor)
  • TThe Saint Sees it Throug, 1946
    - Pyhimyksen kolme naista (suom. Risto Ahti, 1967)
  • Two Smart People, 1946 (script, with others)
    - Film 1946, prod. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, dir. Jules Dassin, starring Lucille Ball, John Hodiak and Lloyd Nolan
  • Tarzan and the Huntress, 1947 (uncredited; screenplay, with Jerry Grushkind and Rowland Leigh)
    - Film 1947, dir. Kurt Neumann, starring Johnny Weissmuller, Brenda Joyce and Johnny Sheffield
  • Saint Errant, 1948
  • Call for the Saint, 1948 (2 novelets: The King of the Beggars; Call for the Saint)
    - Kerjäläisten kuningas (suom. Kirsti Halmas, 1948) & Naamioitu enkeli (suom. Kirsti Halmas, 1948)
  • Arrest the Saint, 1951
  • The Saint in Europe, 1953
  • he Saint on the Spanish Main, 1955
  • Thanks to the Saint, 1957
  • The Saint Around the World, 1957
  • Concerning Saint, 1958
  • Señor Saint, 1958
  • The Saint to the Rescue, 1959
  • The Saint Cleans Up, 1959
  • The Saint's Mystery Library, 1959-60 (13 vols., editor)
  • Trust the Saint, 1962
  • The Saint in the Sun, 1963
  • Spanish for Fun, 1964
  • Vendetta for the Saint, 1964 (ghost written by Harry Harrison)
    - Pyhimys Sisiliassa (suom. Eija Palsbo, 1966)
    - TV film 1971, prod. Incorporated Television Company, dir. Jim O'Connor, starring Roger Moore (as Simon Templar/The Saint), Ian Hendry and Gábor Baraker
  • The Saint Magazine Reader, 1966 (editor, with Hans Santesson; UK title: The Saint's Choice, 1967)
  • The Saint on TV, 1968 (with Fleming Lee)
  • The Saint Returns, 1968
  • The Saint and the Fiction Makers, 1968 (ghost written by Fleming Lee)
    - TV film 1968, teleplay John Kruse, starring Roger Moore (as Simon Templar/The Saint), with Sylvia Syms, Kenneth J. Warren, Justine Lord, Philip Locke,
  • The Saint Abroad, 1969
  • The Saint in Pursuit, 1970 (last, novelization of comic strip)
  • The Saint and the People Importers, 1971
  • Paleneo: A Universal Sign Language, 1972
  • Saint's Alive, 1974
  • Catch the Saint, 1975
  • The Saint and the Hapsburg Necklace, 1976
  • Send for the Saint, 1976
  • The Saint in Trouble, 1978
  • The Saint: Good as Gold, 1979
  • The Saint and the Templar Treasure, 1979
  • Count on the Saint, 1980
  • The Fantastic Saint, 1982 (ed. Martin H. Greenberg and Charles G. Waugh)
  • The Saint: Five Complete Novels, 1983
  • Salvage for the Saint, 1983
  • Capture the Saint, 1997 (written by Burl Barer)

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