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Coming back with a vengance,
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This review is from: The Avenging Saint (Saint 04) (Paperback)
Looking at the full list of Saint books in this volume, it would appear I have now read approximately a third of the books Leslie Charteris penned featuring Simon Templar from all periods of his career. This excludes later books sometimes adapted from the Roger Moore series and "ghosted" by other authors under the author's supervision.
It was my impression that the books were fading into obscurity. Hopefully this series will stop that, as it contains the best of Charteris' writing. To judge from the introductions to each volume, it has inspired a range of contemporary authors and screenwriters: a sure sign of quality. The Saint really does deserve to take his rightful place alongside other greats of British crime fiction like Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown, and James Bond.
Coming initially to Charteris from the Roger Moore series, it was then a shock when I discovered the first Saint books came from the nineteen thirties. Yet, this period is where most of the best Saint stories come from. True, there are aspects of the writing that now seem dated. Charteris, himself noticed this, and comments on it in his own forward to this volume, citing as example details about aeroplanes which were correct for the time (incidentally Charteris, like the Saint, had a pilot's licence). There are certain social features and attitudes that reinforce this, though it has to be said these are less at odds with contemporary mores than in the writings of his contemporaries. But all this only anchors the action in that period, as do details in books.
At the same time, Charteris and his character perhaps resonate more with contemporary attitudes than others written at the same time. The women (like Sonia Delmar in this book) are strong characters in their own right. The writing is fast paced, and carries the reader on. Plus of course there is the humour as the Saint taunts his opponents whether they are criminals or policemen. In short the Saint defies the time he was created in. In the same way Sherlock Holmes has been modernised on television in recent years, so has the Saint. Enough that I would be interested to see the reverse done and a dramatisation of a Saint novel (or for that matter a Bond novel) set in the time it was originally written. I suspect this would work.
This novel, one of the earliest, Charteris wrote takes place thee months after the action in The Saint Closes the Case (Saint 02). Unusually for a Saint story, this is one that requires some prior knowledge of the previous book, though that may not be essential. It also discusses some aspects of the Simon Templar's personal philosophy of life, and hints of what gave him the nickname of the Saint. Some of these are not so explicitly explored in later books, but equally they don't bog the action down either.
This is classic early Saint with Simon in action against two of his most dangerous opponents, Price Rudolf and Rayt Marius. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. And, as I'm sure Simon Templar would agree, it's glorious fun.