Saturday, 10 February 2001

Leslie Charteris: The Happy Highwayman (1933)

Edition: Pan, 1958 (Buy from Amazon)
Review number: 751

In the yellow jacketed editions of the Saint stories, the full series to date of publication is listed, in what seems to be chronological order. However, The Happy Highwayman is not in its correct place. Instead of following the early Second World War stories, it is in fact from six years earlier and is one of the first collections of short stories.

The nine tales in The Happy Highwayman are typical of Charteris' writing in the mid thirties, a time when he was immensely prolific. Most of them are not especially memorable, and could stand as templates for Saint stories - in particular The Mug's Game, about card playing swindles. Two of the stories are more unusual, and have been anthologised in omnibuses of Saint stories so must have been considered among the best. The Star Producers is an amusing story of a swindle involving acting lessons which are used to persuade the mark to help finance a non-existent stage production, along similar lines to the film The Producers. The other story, The Wicked Cousin, has a politically incorrect depiction of a disabled man (to make an anachronistic judgement), but his inability to speak intelligibly is important in the plot.

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