Invisible Ink: No 106 - Leslie Charteris

The creator of the quintessentially English stiff-upper-lipped hero, The Saint, was half-Chinese, born in Singapore in 1907.

His experiences working on a rubber plantation, in a tin mine, as a gold prospector, fairground carnie, bus driver, pearl fisher, bartender and professional bridge player gave him experiences he later used.

Changing his name from Bowyer-Yin to Charteris (chosen from a phone book), he introduced The Saint in his third novel, Meet – the Tiger! when he was 20, and went on to write nearly a hundred Saint adventures.

The Saint was Simon Templar, an unknown entity with no family or home who uses the names of Catholic saints as his false identities. Handsome and debonair, he is the world's greatest thief, but uses his powers against despots and villains. Nevertheless, the police are forever trying to put him behind bars. He leaves a calling card at the scenes of his crimes, comprising a stick figure with a halo. In the early books he battled white slavers, arms dealers and Nazis. Charteris also wrote the scripts for the globally syndicated Saint comic strips. On radio, Vincent Price played the character between 1947 and 1951.

Driven to succeed and make a name for himself, Charteris became one of the earliest members of Mensa, and invented a pictorial sign language called Paleneo. Travelling to Hollywood, he turned his hand to screenwriting and produced scripts for films such as Deanna Durbin's Lady on a Train (1945) and George Raft's Midnight Club (1933). However, he was excluded from permanent residency in the US because the Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited immigration for people of "50 per cent or greater" Oriental blood.

Despite founding his own fan club for the Saint books, Charteris did grow tired of writing the stories and handed them over to the sci-fi writer Harry Harrison, editing a number of further volumes. If the Saint is remembered now, it's mainly for the TV series featuring frozen-faced Roger Moore (who occasionally broke the fourth wall to address viewers), and later The Return of the Saint starring Ian Ogilvy. The iconic theme music that was used on TV actually began in the 1930s in the RKO Saint films. Val Kilmer's portrayal in Phillip Noyce's 1997 film diverged from the books and was a flop.

It's a credit to the author's skills that a character who was little more than a cipher could become so frequently adapted. Perhaps, though, the time for adventurers has passed, as few of the books are now in print.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum