Leslie Charteris (born Leslie Charles Bowyer Yin; 1907–1993) was a British-American writer best known for his series on stories featuring Simon Templar, also known as The Saint. Born in Singapore to a Chinese father, Suat Yin Chwan, and his English wife, Lydia (née Bowyer), Charteris travelled extensively with his family until beginning his education in England in 1919. In 1925 he enrolled at King's College, Cambridge, but left after a year in order to become a writer; to support himself, he worked as a goldminer, bartender, professional bridge player and temporary policeman. In October 1926 he changed his name by deed poll to Leslie Charles Bowyer Charteris-Ian, and professionally used the shorter version, Leslie Charteris.
Charteris's first novel, X Esquire, which he later described as "an appallingly bad book", was published in 1927; his second novel—The White Rider, published in 1928—is "overwritten and poorly constructed", according to his biographer Joan DelFattore. In his third novel, Meet the Tiger (1928), he introduced the character of Simon Templar, a debonair gentleman crook who goes by the nom de guerre, The Saint.
Charteris continued writing Saint books and the series gained in popularity because of its "mix of light humour, sophisticated settings, and story-line emphasising the role of a crusader tackling the forces of evil", which had "special appeal in the depression". Charteris moved to the United States in 1932 and soon began writing screenplays, the first of which resulted in Midnight Club, released in 1933.
Charteris also worked on three books of non-fiction and an introduction to the 1980 re-issue of The Saint Meets the Tiger. The works consisted of a translation from Spanish to English of the autobiography of the bullfighter Juan Belmonte, a language guide to Spanish, and a guide to Paleneo, a wordless, pictorial sign language invented by Charteris. He died in Windsor, Berkshire, in April 1993.
Novels and story collections
"You might have seen something of the Indian, too, in the intent lines of his tanned reckless face; but that would have been an easy illusion. The same lines would have fitted as naturally into the picture of a conquistador ... or of d'Artagnan mocking the courts of France: they were only the heraldry of a character that would have been the same in any age or place, the timeless brand of the born buccaneer."
Notes and references
- ^Novelisation of the film of the same name, for which Charteris also wrote the script.
- ^by Harry Harrison, Leslie Charteris.
- ^by Fleming Lee, Leslie Charteris; novelisation of a comic strip.
- ^by Fleming Lee, Leslie Charteris; novelisation of a television script.
Leslie Charteris was born in Singapore on May 12th, 1907. With his mother and brother, he moved to England in 1919 and attended Rossall School in Lancashire before moving on to Cambridge University to study law. His studies there came to a halt when a publisher accepted his first novel. His third book, entitled Meet the Tiger!, was written when he was twenty years old and published in September 1928. It introduced the world to Simon Templar, aka the Saint.
He continued to write about the Saint until 1983 when the last book, Salvage for the Saint, was published. The books, which have been translated into over thirty languages, number nearly a hundred and have sold over 40 million copies around the world. They’ve inspired, to date, fifteen feature films, three TV series, ten radio series, and a comic strip that was written by Charteris and syndicated around the world for over a decade. He enjoyed travelling but settled for long periods in Hollywood, Florida, and finally in Surrey, England. He was awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger by the Crime Writers’ Association in 1992, in recognition of a lifetime of achievement. He died the following year.
To find out more about Leslie Charteris and his work, visit www.lesliecharteris.com.