the dodgy saint

Jesse Marinoff Reyes ( Jesse Marinoff Reyes Design, Maplewood, N.J.)

Leslie Charteris (1907-1993)!

JMR Design

Charteris, born Leslie Charles Bowyer-Yin in Singapore to a Chinese Father and English mother, wrote his first novel while in his first year at Cambridge and left university to pursue his career thereafter. His third novel, 1928′s Meet – The Tiger! introduced the character he would spend most of the rest of his writing life with, as writer and editor, Simon Templar—The Saint. For the next 35 years Charteris would write Simon Templar adventures in novels, novellas, and short stories—and for another 20 years after that acting as editor for novels ghost-written by other writers. Despite a short-lived movie series (1939-43) and a radio series (1944-51 starring Vincent Price), the novels didn’t explode in popularity until the 1962-69 television series, The Saint, starring Roger Moore as Simon Templar.

Known as “The Saint” not only because of his initials, Simon Templar was a gentleman-thief whose heroic exploits stood in contrast to his somewhat dodgy reputation—and left a calling card with a stick figure adorned with a halo (an image that would become the logo for both the books and the later television series). However, the character targeted corrupt politicians, gangsters, and “warmongers” (industrialists, war-profiteers, arms dealers), as well as drug runners and slavers, making Templar something of a contemporary Robin Hood figure. Because of the character’s fluency in criminal circles, Templar also took on the persona of a vigilante and an unofficial agent of law enforcement—rooting out Nazis during WWII for example. Following the events of WWII, the character would morph into less of a scoundrel and more of an adventurer, a detective-cambrioleur, which made him perfect as a hero for the murky Cold War era and the James Bond 1960s.

The Saint Overboard
Fiction Publishing, 1962 (TV-tie-in edition; original novel, 1936)
Photograph: ITC/ITV

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