Friday 29 March 2019

Leslie Charteris: The Saint and the Templar Treasure (1978)

Edition: Coronet, 1978
Review number: 1517

Another late Saint novel, written by Donne Avenell and Graham Weaver in the days when Leslie Charteris was editing new entries in the series rather than writing them himself.

It feels like a somewhat trite idea that Simon Templar should become involved with the Knights Templar, but in fact the way it is handled is competent, if a little clich├ęd for a thriller setup - Simon gives a lift to a couple of young men heading for a French vineyard to work in the summer, and gets there to discover that someone has set the barn on fire. The vineyard is at a house which was originally one of the last Templar castles to remain in the hands of the knights after the suppression of the order by the French king in 1307, and suspected by some to hold the hidden Templar "missing" treasure (while more sober individuals suspect that the treasure never existed in the first place, and that the riches of the order were exaggerated).

While the book is satisfying as a thriller, it doesn't really read like a Saint book. It could almost be any late 1970s British thriller writer. The early Saint stories were unique, standing out from the crowd (even if they had obvious debts to Dornford Yates and Sapper), and Leslie Charteris was an expert at maintaining this specialness. It was partly that he made Simon Templar a genuinely charming character, rather than the direct man of action favoured by many other writers. That is really what is missing here; Simon Templar just isn't Simon Templar by 1978.

My rating: 6/10.

Tuesday 19 March 2019

Leslie Charteris: The Saint in Trouble (1978)

Edition: Coronet Books, 1978
Review number: 1516

Another compilation of stories which originally were TV episodes of Return of the Saint, The Saint in Trouble comprises The Imprudent Professor (by Terence Feely) and The Red Sabbath (by John Kruse), both adapted from the TV scripts by Graham Weaver.

In the first story, Simon Templar is asked to look out for the safety of Professor Maclett by his daughter, in the glamorous setting of Cannes. Maclett is the centre of a lot of attention, being of interest to both British and Russian spies, and the story is a hectic series of encounters between the various parties involved and the Saint. Even if only ranked against the other TV adaptations, The Imprudent Professor is not a high quality story. It seems to be Saint-by-numbers - a location which would have been exotic in 1978, beautiful women, Saintly tricks, and Simon sorting everything out in the end.

The Red Sabbath is better. It follows on directly from The Imprudent Professor, as Simon disembarks in London from the plane he took in Cannes at the end of the first story, and is accosted by men who take him to talk to an Israeli intelligence officer. This leads to Simon hunting an Arab terrorist through London, a task he invests in personally. It is perhaps more typical of other thrillers of the second half of the seventies than of the Saint oeuvre, though the nature of the story reminds the reader that Arab terrorists are not new in fiction post 9/11.

Averaging out my ratings for the two stories, I would give The Saint in Trouble a solid 5/10.