Meet the Tiger—Leslie Charteris-1928–used
I was first introduced to the character of The Saint, or Simon Templar as he was usually known, through another novel. I was a pre-teen reading a slew of Gothics, the—‘did I marry a murderer after only knowing him 3 weeks?’—type of plot. One book stood out, not as a Gothic, but for the descriptions of the female character’s love of The Saint novels. The Gothic was written in the mid-60s, when the show starring Roger Moore was playing. I hadn’t like the TV series, but was intrigued by the novel’s depiction of the Templar so I hunted down a used paperback of the first in the series–always start at the beginning, is my motto. I loved it. Everything about The Saint was romantic to me, his daring do, his dashing appearance, his love affair with Patricia Holm which was a major plot point in the book. The action was entertaining, fast paced, and thrilling. The plot, not so deep, but fun, nonetheless. The Tiger is a villain who stole a ton of gold, of whom Templar is trying to hunt down, return the gold and collect the substantial reward. The Saint isn’t completely ready for heaven, much of what he does is for personal monetary reasons. But he also has a vendetta against The Tiger although he’s never seen his enemy in the flesh. The Tiger could be any number of people in the north Devon seaside town of Baycombe, where Templar and his man-servant, yes, I said manservant, are residing. And this makes the book unusual as it isn’t a ‘whodunit’ but more of a —which person you know as someone else— did it.
Because this was the first book and Charteris hadn’t looked beyond it at the time, there is a finality and closure that doesn’t make sense when one realizes there are many many more stories later. And because of this, it was hard for me to continue the series, especially when main characters such as Patricia Holm were phased out . Although Charteris looked back upon Meet The Tiger and didn’t like what he wrote, it was well received at the time, and created one of the most durable characters in crime fiction, and the most flamboyant.
The Saint’s character changed through the long series, and the last group of titles weren’t written by Charteris, but various other authors who supposedly collaborated with him. The earlier books were a little lighter in tone, the period during WWII Templar changes from being a sort of Robin Hood bandit, to fighting Nazis for various countries. After WWII, the tone of all the books changed and became more cynical in nature, and that’s when he purged the manservant, Patricia, and a few others. Although The Saint never aged, times changed and some of the stories were outdated by the 60s when the TV series was running. Charteris apologized to his readers for that, something I don’t think any other author felt the need to do, even though their works were just as dated as his. Why he felt the need to revise some of them is beyond me. But although he tried, it was too difficult and he gave up and wrote intros to each of the books he felt needed an explanation as to his dated work.
In the 1930s and 40s, The Saint became a movie series starring at one time the dry acerbic wit known as George Sanders. Others also had a shot at the characters. Meet The Tiger was the most faithful to the book, and Patricia was included for the first and only time.
Radio, comic books, TV shows and film were all derived from The Saint books.
But my favorite will always remain the one that introduced us all to the shining character who left stick figures at the scenes of his exploits and was smitten with a fellow adventurer, Patricia Holm.