Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.
(1907-1993) US author born as Leslie Charles Bowyer Yin in Singapore, educated in the UK; he legally changed his name to Leslie Charteris in 1928, and became a US citizen in 1946. He remains known almost exclusively for the long picaresque crime/thriller sequence featuring Simon Templar alias The Saint. This saga began with the author's second novel Meet the Tiger! (1928; vt The Saint Meets the Tiger 1940), though Charteris experimented with and discarded other heroes in three further standalone thrillers including the borderline-sf Daredevil (1929), which features the Saint's regular adversary Chief Inspector Teal of Scotland Yard and a super-explosive (supposedly stabilized nitrogen trichloride) of which a tiny phial can blow a man to shreds. Of the Saint novels, only The Last Hero (13 July 1929 and 9 November 1929 Thriller as "The Creeping Death" and "The Sudden Death"; 1930; vt The Saint Closes the Case 1941; further vt The Saint and the Last Hero 1953) features any device or displacement of an sf nature, here an unpleasant "electron-cloud" Weapon created by a Mad Scientist. Several short stories featuring Templar are sf or fantasy, typically dealing with odd Inventions or Monsters (including the Loch Ness Monster and Caribbean Zombies), though one turns on the psychic talent of dowsing (see ESP); most of these are assembled as The Fantastic Saint (coll 1982) edited by Martin H Greenberg and Charles G Waugh. Among other mystery anthologies, Charteris edited The Saint's Choice of Impossible Crime (anth 1945) and, with Hans Stefan Santesson, The Saint Magazine Reader (anth 1966; vt The Saint's Choice 1967): both include sf.
A few sf authors contributed to the Saint franchise. The radio series of Saint adventures (at least 100 episodes between 1945 and 1951) starred Vincent Price and was written by various authors whose scripts – which Charteris owned outright – sometimes formed the basis of new Saint fiction. A 1945 episode scripted by Henry Kuttner became "The Masked Angel" (Winter 1947 Mystery Book Magazine) as by Charteris. The short fantastic story "The Darker Drink" (October 1947 Thrilling Wonder; vt "Dawn" in Saint Errant, coll 1948), once wrongly attributed to Theodore Sturgeon, is thought to have been ghosted by Cleve Cartmill; it is the most imaginatively interesting of the fantasies, with the Saint drawn into the Pulp-adventure action of another man's dream (see Dream Hacking). Speculations that Cartmill and/or Kuttner may have written entire Saint novels remain unsubstantiated. From 1964, though, all further Saint titles were ghosted or, rarely, collaborative; Charteris himself made it perfectly clear that this was the case, and that he did no more than polish the contributors' drafts. Of the late novels, Vendetta for the Saint (1964) was by Harry Harrison. Several post-1964 novella collections are by Fleming Lee, usually based on scripts for the first Saint television series (118 episodes from 1962 to 1969) starring Roger Moore. None of them is of sf interest.
Colin Charteris, ambivalent Serbian hero or Antihero of Brian Aldiss's Barefoot in the Head: A European Fantasia (fixup 1969), has adopted this surname in honour of the Saint stories and is frequently though misleadingly referred to as a saint. In similar homage, the eponym of Alexei Panshin's Anthony Villiers tales is also titled Viscount Charteris. [JC/DRL]
Leslie Charteris, born Leslie Charles Bowyer Yin
born Singapore: 12 May 1907
died Windsor, Berkshire: 15 April 1993
works (highly selected)
- The Last Hero (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1930) [first appeared 13 July 1929 and 9 November 1929 Thriller as "The Creeping Death" and "The Sudden Death": The Saint: hb/]
- Vendetta for the Saint (Garden City, New York: Doubleday Crime Club, 1964) [ghost-written by Harry Harrison: The Saint: hb/]
- Saint Errant (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1948) [coll: The Saint: hb/]
- The Fantastic Saint (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company/The Crime Club, 1982) [coll: edited by Martin H Greenberg and Charles G Waugh: The Saint: hb/One Plus One Studio]
- Daredevil (London: Ward, Lock, 1929) [hb/]
works as editor (selected)
- The Saint's Choice of Impossible Crime (Los Angeles, California: Bond-Charteris, 1945) [anth: hb/]
- The Saint Magazine Reader (New York: Doubleday, 1966) with Hans Stefan Santesson [anth: hb/]
- The Saint's Choice (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1967) [anth: vt of the above: hb/Studio Stead]
about the author
- W O G Lofts and Derek Adley. The Saint and Leslie Charteris (London: Howard Baker, 1970) [nonfiction: including bibliography: hb/Basil Reynolds]
- Colin Watson. Snobbery with Violence: English Crime Stories and their Audience (London: Eyre Methuen, 1979) [nonfiction: rev of 1971 first edition: pp221-232: hb/Norman Mansbridge]
- Burl Barer. The Saint: A Complete History in Print, Radio, Film and Television of Leslie Charteris' Robin Hood of Modern Crime, Simon Templar, 1928-1992 (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 1993) [nonfiction: hb/nonpictorial]
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