Reinvigorating The Saint
The Saint was first published in 1928. Simon Templar is part gentleman, part thief, part avenger – a brilliantly funny hero who champions the oppressed, beats up bad guys, and makes off with the loot – and he has captured the attention of Readers from the publication of the first story of his exploits.
Simon’s creator, Leslie Charteris, went on to write a huge number of short stories and novels starring Simon the Saint and the series has been much-celebrated in films, radio dramas, a TV series starring Roger Moore and Ian Ogilvy, and even comic strips.
Most recently, publisher Mulholland UK revived the series and reissued it – just in time for a new TV pilot to be launched in the UK.
Ruth Tross, the editor said, “A big part of my job is investigating our backlist, and finding classic authors to bring back into ‘print’ – a lot of these publications are digital only – and introducing them to a whole new audience.”
Kobo had the chance to speak with Tross about bringing Simon Templar back to life.
K: What intrigued you about The Saint and made it seem worthwhile to resurrect?
RT: Mulholland is part of Hodder & Stoughton, who are proud to have published Leslie Charteris since 1930. So from that point of view re-publishing the books is almost a duty; the Saint is a part of our heritage and we don’t want to let him go. But the books also deserve to be more widely known: they’re incredibly enjoyable reads with a complex and witty hero, who does have a moral code even if it’s not quite the usual one.
K: How did you go about editing and updating? What was your concept?
RT: We didn’t edit or update the text – it’s important to the estate that the books remain as Charteris wrote them, and actually there is very little of the racism and sexism that blights other books of the era, though of course some things are a bit dated.
Charteris himself was half-Chinese, and suffered prejudice in the UK as a young man, so the Saint is always a bit of an outsider and tends not to look down on people. His partner in crime in the early novels, Patricia Holm, is entirely capable of holding her own too!
What we did, though, is create new introductions. The series editor Ian Dickerson, who is an expert in all things Saint, pulled together new introductions from well-known fans, and made sure that the many forewords and notes Charteris wrote for the books over the years are included in these new editions. For the eBooks, we also have a longer author biography and some detail about the publication history. And one of the short stories in The Brighter Buccaneer is included for the first time ever – it’s about a vanity publisher, and back in the day Hodder didn’t want to publish something poking fun at publishers! We take ourselves a little less seriously now.
K: Why do you think The Saint is so enduring?
RT: I think it’s a combination of Charteris’s humour – he has a lovely way with words and a nice line in banter – and the idiosyncratic morality of the Saint. He stands against conmen and killers wherever they come from, and is just as likely to go after a banker as a gangster. He’s a modern-day Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to give to the poor, and even though he keeps some of the money as expenses, he makes sure to protect the innocent.
K: The Saint is often compared to James Bond. What makes The Saint right for our time, and will he reach Bond-like popularity?
RT: They are often compared, and there’s an argument that screen-Bond’s wisecracking owes quite a lot to the Saint – the book Bond is a bit more serious. I’d say the Saint already has reached Bond-like popularity, certainly when the Roger Moore series was running, and up till 2007 Charteris’s estate ranked second after Agatha Christie’s in terms of sales. (The new Bond books might have changed that!) I have no doubt his time will come again.
Check out the 85-year enduring title, The Saint here: http://www.kobobooks.com/search/search.html?q=leslie+charteris