Friday, May 12, 2006

A Saintly Birthday

Today would have been the 99th birthday of Leslie Charteris, creator of the Saint and one of my favorite authors for almost forty years now. That's Charteris on the left with Roger Moore, who starred in the best of the TV versions of the Saint.

In the mid-Sixties, I was working in the little fledgling public library in my hometown, which had gotten its start with book donations from the community and still continued to exist on the generosity of the public at that time. Someone donated hundreds of mysteries, mostly book club editions and those cheap hardback reprints from the Forties published as Triangle Books. Since I worked at the library I got to go through the books first and read the ones I wanted, and in the stack of books I took home was the Triangle edition of THE SAINT IN MIAMI. I had never heard of the character or the author at that time, but I read that book and loved it and immediately started hunting down and reading everything I could about the Saint. I continued that for many years until I'd read just about everything in the series. The Saint novel THE LAST HERO remains one of my favorite books of any kind.

Not long ago when I was in Half Price Books, browsing through the nostalgia section, I came across a couple of those Triangle editions: THE SAINT BIDS DIAMONDS (also published as THIEVE'S PICNIC) and -- wouldn't you know it -- THE SAINT IN MIAMI. I had to buy them, of course. I want to reread THE SAINT IN MIAMI in the same edition in which I originally read it. And I'm not sure if I ever read THE SAINT BIDS DIAMONDS. I sure don't remember it. Anyway, if you've forgotten a book, it might as well be new to you, right?


James Lincoln Warren said...

Leslie Charteris was the first President of the Southern Califonria Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, a position I now have the honor to hold.

Thanks for calling our attention to this imprtant date.

Burl Barer said...

I met Leslie Charteris two weeks to the day hefore he passed away. I was his guest for lunch -- a "thank you" event in appreciation of my book THE SAINT: A COMPLETE HISTORY. He said it made him feel like a moss-covered monument. A splendid time in Surrey is one of my treasured memories. Charteris initially refused to join the UK equivelent of MWA -- citing the potential displeasure of sharing time and space with other authors. The letter is in the Charteris Collection at Boston's Mugar Memorial Library. It is most amusing!