The Saint Meets the Tiger

Charteris Leslie


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This reprint will probably bring great joy to a number of Saint fans who have been trying for some decades to get a glimpse of the very first volume of the Saga, a book which was never expected at the time to launch a series.

It has been out of print for more years than I can guess at, and with no complaints from me. Personally I would have been very happy to leave it quietly in limbo: I was still under 21 when I wrote it, more than fifty years ago, and I am no more anxious to parade it than any other youthful indiscretion. Looking at it now, with absolute objectivity, I can see so much wrong with it that I am humbly astonished that it got published at all. In extenuation, it was only the third book I'd written, and the best I would say for it is that the first two were even worse.

However, I can't deny writing it, its existence is a historical fact, and I suppose that anyone who is interested enough in backtracking into Simon Templar's and my own adolescent beginnings has a right to access to the awful truths.

"Adolescent", of course, is not literally accurate in Simon's case. Cleverly judging that no adult reader would accept a swashbuckling hero of my own age, I started the Saint out at 25, giving him a head start on myself which would forever haunt me. For it would be even harder today to put over in a contemporary setting a Simon Templar four years more ancient even than I.

Well, to clutch at a cliche, that is all water under the bridge. If there were to be any Saint books at all, obviously there had to be a first, and this is it. And I still think it was a good thing to have started. And that the fiction world today needs a Saint more than it ever did.

For too many years now that scene has been dominated by the "anti-heroes" — those grim gray operators in a sunless sub-culture where global issues are worked out with totally unemotional pragmatism, those hapless uninspired puppets manipulated and expended by ruthlessly dedicated little brothers of Big Brother. It made morbidly fascinating narrative, but it never gave anyone a lift until it climaxed in the hypergadgeted parodies of 007 extravaganzas.

I was always sure that there was a solid place in escape literature for a rambunctious adventurer such as I dreamed up in my own youth, who really believed in the oldfashioned romantic ideals and was prepared to lay everything on the line to bring them to life. A joyous exuberance that could not find its fulfilment in pinball machines and pot. I had what may now seem a mad desire to spread the belief that there were worse, and wickeder, nut cases than Don Quixote.

Even now, half a century later, when I should be old enough to know better, I still cling to that belief. That there will always be a public for the old-style hero, who had a clear idea of justice, and a more than technical approach to love, and the ability to have some fun with his crusades.

That is how and why the Saint was born, and why I hope he may eventually occupy a niche beside Robin Hood, d'Artagnan, and all theother-immortal true heroes of legend.

Anyway, on this date, I can say that I'll always be glad I tried.

Leslie Charteris

St Jean — Cap Ferrat

21 March 1980

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