Reviewed by Philip Nathaniel Poggiali
The crime-fighting gentleman thief Simon Templar, alias The Saint, was the creation of Chinese-English author Leslie Charteris and first appeared in the novel Meet the Tiger! (1928). Templar’s adventures would extend to nearly 40 books, as well as a series of feature films (with George Sanders and Louis Hayward assuming the role), a popular radio show (starring Vincent Price), and two ITC programs, the first of which made a star out of Roger Moore. The literary Saint was a vigilante who fought for justice, but his casual arrogance and impulsive violence gave the character an edge that his fictional contemporaries lacked.
The Saint had never been fond of things on grounds of rarity
alone. He had never been excited by eclipses of the moon nor
had his pulse quickened at the sight of a six-legged calf. But of
all the things which the Saint did not like because of their
rarity, he liked least the rare experience of being bashed with
some firm artifact on the back of his skull. (Charteris 28)
If Templar himself remains the witty but uncomplicated hero of later works in the series, the novel deepens and expands Warlock’s presence. First described as having a countenance that produces thoughts of both Father Christmas and “certain Roman emperors who were given to killing their friends and relatives in moments of pique” (59), Warlock is an intense and unsettling villain in the novelization, and his fanatical devotion to Amos Klein/Amity Little’s writing makes more sense. Charteris and Lee include a scene where Warlock relates his childhood experience of arranging two armies of lead soldiers for battle, only to burst into tears when reminded that the figures could not move. The love of escapism stems from Warlock’s belief that it will help the S.W.O.R.D. leader realize his potential, however corrupt: “… It is very difficult for heroism and grand action these days … in books like yours … [there is] a glimpse of a way of life in which men use themselves to the full” (85). Though Lee and Charteris have Templar deflate this reasoning with a sarcastic quip, they see Warlock as something more than a plot contrivance.
Everything is exactly as you described it in your books. Not one
detail is missing … though I must flatter myself in telling you
that in transforming an author’s fantasies into reality, however
thorough and brilliant the author may be … one nevertheless
discovers that some details have been overlooked in the books
and must be supplied by the practical man.(Charteris 60)
The Saint and the Fiction Makers had its first publication in the U.S. for The Crime Club, an imprint of Doubleday. The U.K. edition from Hodder & Stoughton appeared in 1969.
Barer, Burl. The Saint: A Complete History in Print, Radio, Film and
Television of Leslie Charteris’ Robin Hood of Modern Crime,
Simon Templar, 1928-1992. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co.,
Charteris, Leslie. The Saint and the Fiction Makers. Teleplay by John
Kruse and Harry W. Junkin. Adapt. Fleming Lee. Garden City,
N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1968. Print.