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Worth reading as the book that set off the phenomenon
on 15 April 2014
We've all heard of Simon Templar (if you're over 30, at least) through TV and film, but very few have read the books. And it's not surprising. Charteris wrote them starting in his early 20s - and there's a reason these remastered editions start at 02 not 01; Charteris himself considered the first volume "Meet - the Tiger!" too bad for words.
The style is florid and rotund. Very, very different from today's taut thrillers, where short sentences and chapters are almost a requirement. There's a lot of exposition and not much dialog: when the Saint speaks, to our ears it sounds dandyish, fey verbal meanderings from a foppish twist. Of course, in the 1930s "The gayest man in Europe!" didn't have quite the same undertones to it.
So here's the point - don't read these and expect a sophisticated modern thriller. They're old books, heritage fiction: read them as you would a history textbook, to get an idea of where thrillers were going as the genre first stirred. You won't regret it.