Literature: The Saint

Enter the Saint, the first novel in the series... that Leslie Charteris was willing to acknowledge.note 

The character of Simon Templar was created by Leslie Charteris in 1928 for a series of books which ran until 1983, published as The Saint. The novels' success led to many adaptations in other media.

Master thief Simon Templar, also known by his nickname "the Saint" due to his initials S.T., as well as the fact that his heroic exploits fly in the face of a nefarious reputation. While he uses many aliases, usually also incorporating the intitials S.T., his true name is unknown. Instead, he took his inspiration for the name Simon Templar from reading about the exploits of the Knights Templar.

Templar's usual targets are those he considers "Ungodly", such as corrupt politicians, warmongers, and other unsavory types, leading to comparisons, both favorable and otherwise, to Robin Hood. However, Templar is willing to ruin the lives of the Ungodly or even kill them, justifying these admitted murders as necessary to defend the lives of the innocent.

Charteris told Templar's story in different formats: novels, novella collections and short stories. Initially, Templar was usually depicted as working with a team that included girlfriend Patricia Holm. Later, this was slimmed down to just Hoppy, his right hand man. Finally, Templar was featured working solo in most stories published from the late 1940s onward. Beginning in the 1960s, Charteris occasionally updated stories for reprints, replacing outdated references to movie stars, etc. with more modern references. By the 1970s, he stopped doing that.

Charteris wrote all the stories and novels published between 1928 and 1963. From 1964 onwards other writers took over and continued writing stories (many of which adapted episodes of The Saint and Return Of The Saint from TV). These writers were usually credited inside the books, but Charteris received sole credit on the covers. The final Saint novel in the original run was published in 1983.

The Saint provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Ace Pilot: Simon's skill in the air is key to several adventures, notably The Newdick Helicopter and The Damsel in Distress, but it is put on full display in The Art of Alibi; in this story, Simon fights a dogfight and wins despite the fact that his plane is unarmed.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: In "The Newdick Helicopter", one of the Ungodly buys plans for a 'helicopter' (actually an autogyro) to use as bait for unwary small investors. When the Con Man assembles the helicopter, he discovers it cannot take off vertically as he expected it to. Assuming he had put it together wrong, he starts tinkering with it and ends up inventing a fully functioning helicopter. (Note that this story was published in 1933, several years before the first fully functioning helicopter was built.)
  • Allergic to Routine: The Saint. Pat also, but not quite as badly.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Charteris's own mixed English and Chinese ancestry may have implications for the frequent references to Simon's tanned complexion and thick, straight black hair.
  • Arch-Enemy: Rayt Marius for a couple of books and a short story; he has the distinction of being the only villain to kill one of the Saint's gang.
  • Badass Driver / Drives Like Crazy: His passengers disagree on which he is, but all who've seen him behind the wheel — especially of his beloved Hirondel — agree Simon Templar is either one or the other.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Simon, in virtually every adventure.
  • Banana Republic: The Wonderful War is the story of how The Saint (almost) singlehandedly liberates one of these.
  • Batman Gambit: The Saint loves these with a holy love.
  • Berserk Button: Do not hurt or threaten Pat; he will go into Unstoppable Rage even if he is badly wounded. In fact, do not hurt any woman in his presence. Period. He will undertake your systematic destruction and there will be absolutely nothing you can do about it, and you can expect no mercy.
  • Birds of a Feather: Pat and Simon Templar; Templar often comments that she's the only woman he's ever met who shares his lust for life and adventure.
  • Calling Card: The familiar haloed stick figure was Simon's trademark, often sent before an adventure as a warning, during as an ominous reminder, and after as a signature to a completed work. Even after his identity is made public, Simon continues to use it; as Inspector Teal observes glumly, Scotland Yard knows it's his trademark, but the fact that everyone in England knows it too allows Simon to claim that some cheap crook was just copying it.
    • In one of the stories in The Saint in London, one of the Ungodly finally tries a Frame-Up using the Sign of the Saint. Simon is only surprised that it's taken someone so long. He further muses that perhaps every other crook who thought of it was smart enough to realize that it would only attract his attention, and that it's far better to take their chances with Scotland Yard than with The Saint.
  • Card Sharp: The Man Who Was Clever establishes the Saint's skill at this; surrounded by a gang of experienced hoods and despite the fact that their own Sharp has stacked the deck, he still deals himself a winning hand. (Simon does, however, prefer to play honestly; although he's never shown to be a Professional Gambler, he usually wins anyway because he's so good at reading other people.)
  • Casual Danger Dialog: If there is any story in the Saint series that does not feature Templar doing this, it's not a Saint book.
  • Catch Phrase: "As the bishop said to the actress/as the actress said to the bishop," an Edwardian British predecessor to "that's what she said," was used by Simon in his very first adventure and for many years thereafter.
  • Cement Shoes: Narrowly averted in The High Fence. The Big Bad has gotten all he needs from Simon and has no reason to keep him alive. At that point, rather than act with the same efficiency he's shown throughout, he delegates the disposal to his Punch Clock Villain henchman. Said henchman doesn't take the time to make actual cement shoes; he just ties the Saint to an iron weight and drops him in the Thames. Of course the Saint always has a final trick up his sleeve....
  • The Charmer: The Saint. Women (almost always) find him irresistible. Further, he would never take advantage of a woman and is always courteous and (barring the occasional female villain) polite towards them.
  • Comic-Book Time: As Charteris himself notes in The First Saint Omnibus, Templar was aging at a practically normal rate in the first decade or so... but his aging process slowed to a crawl as The Saint dealt with Those Wacky Nazis, and from the time Charteris retired from primary authorship in 1963 through the end of the series 20 years later, his aging was confined to a much more world-weary attitude.
  • Condescending Compassion: Templar loves pretending this attitude around and in regards to the police.
  • Con Man: A high percentage of the Saint's targets, particularly in the short stories, are con artists who prey on the innocent, the unwary, and the desperate; it is their misfortune to attract the attention of the master of the craft, Simon himself.
  • Cool Car: Leslie Charteris didn't believe that any car in the real world was cool enough for Simon to drive, so he made up one called a Hirondel. In one later story (Vendetta for the Saint), an Italian mechanic who has devoted himself to preserving a Bugatti Type 41 is impressed that Simon drove a Hirondel. It's that cool.
  • Costume Porn: Particularly in the early adventures, Charteris goes into loving detail about the Saint's bespoke wardrobe.
  • Damsel out of Distress: A number of early novels and stories feature Templar's girlfriend, Patricia Holm, who becomes an active accomplice in a number of his exploits. She's also noted to be a very good shot and is the person he trusts to drive the getaway car when the chase is particularly hot. Villains have been known to be more afraid of the icy steel in her voice and eyes than they are of Templar at first meeting (of course, it probably helps that she's usually the one pointing a gun in those instances).
  • Decoy Damsel: Pat occasionally does a heroic version of this, allowing herself to get captured to further some plan of Simon's.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Pat eventually breaks up with Templar.
  • Dissonant Serenity: The more angry The Saint is, the calmer and more relaxed he seems and the more likely he will call villains by ironic endearments as he describes in calm and loving detail how he is going to destroy them. It's only worse if he drops the endearments.... The Unlicensed Victuallers learn this most horribly.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: In the early stories, Simon considers firearms noisy and barbarous, isn't particularly expert with them, and further admits as much on more than one occasion; around World War II, his attitude relaxes and his expertise rises, in both cases considerably.
  • Ethical Slut: Pat and Templar have an open relationship, but Templar usually avoids doing much more than flirting with other women because (while they might be more beautiful, and witty or charming) they can't match up to Pat for intelligence and thirst for adventure.
  • Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: Certainly all The Saint's marks would say this, especially when he pulls off his wide-eyed innocent look and his beatific smile that usually marks his being particularly mischievous.
  • Flaw Exploitation: Often used by The Saint; is often attempted against him, but it is the rare time that he doesn't have a contingency for someone trying to do this.
  • Flowery Insults: Occasionally, when Templar is in a poetic mood and you are starting to annoy him or piss him off or he wants to annoy and piss you off.
  • Gentleman Adventurer: Even invokes this trope by name when describing himself.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Templar and his original companions: Roger Conway, Dicky Tremayne, and Norman Kent. Peter Quentin and Monty Hayward were just as snarky, though not quite as upper-crust.
  • Gentleman Thief: The Saint, obviously.
  • Go-to Alias: Sebastian Tombs
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Simon regularly arranges this; he directly references (though not exact-quotes) the Shakespeare line in The Art Photographer and again in The Careful Terrorist .
  • I Call It "Vera": The Saint's twin throwing knives, Anna and Belle.
  • Icy Blue Eyes: Pat's are noted to be this, generally contrasting Simon's innocent baby blues. Also notable character-wise because it symbolizes her tendency to come across as more even keel and less manic than Templar.. She can, however, do the Innocent Blue Eyes too, just to freak Teal out.
    • Simon has these when he's angry.
  • Ironic Nickname: Lots, but Templar's nickname of "Angel Face" for the very ugly Rayt Marius is the foremost example of this trope.
  • I Shall Taunt You: Templar doesn't have an off button when he's around the police or villains. All of his insults are very snarky and both for his own (and his comrades) amusement and to keep villains and policemen off their balance. In one adventure (The Policeman With Wings), he defeats a villain using only his mocking wit.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: The Saint has these and is very, very aware of it. He loves giving beatifically innocent looks at his most infuriating.
  • Internal Deconstruction: The late short story "The Spanish Cow" deconstructs Simon's usual attitudes and behaviour. He comes close to seducing and stealing from an unattractive, middle-aged, nouveau riche woman, and only realises at the last minute that he is about to do something truly evil to another person just because she isn't sexy and cool.
  • Just Like Robin Hood: The Saint steals from criminals and gives all but 10% of it to charities (unless it can be determined where the stolen valuables or money was stolen or extorted from in the first place, in which case The Saint gives it all back to its rightful owners).
    • Several tales refer to the newspaper stories that explicitly dub him "the Robin Hood of Modern Crime."
  • Kansas City Shuffle: Another thing The Saint loves with a holy love.
  • Knife Nut: Templar prefers knives to guns, and is a masterful fighter with them.
  • Knight In Shining Armour: In "The Last Hero", one of the earlier Saint novels (1931), Simon Templar takes backstage to his gallant and tragic associate Norman Kent, who falls in love hopelessly with Templar's girlfriend Patricia Holm (who hardly notices him) and at the end of the book sacrifices his life to let Templar and his other comrades-in-arms escape the current villain and fight again another day.
    • A book called "Knights Errant of the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries" by Caroline Whitehead and George Mc Leod says it all: "Norman Kent is an archetypal knight-errant. Though formally a man of 20th Century England, he lives (and dies) by the Code of Chivalry. He loves totally his Lady, Patricia Holm - who, like Don Quixote's Dulcinea, is not aware of that love. He is totally loyal to his Liege Lord, Simon Templar. Like Sir Gawain in "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight", Norman Kent takes on the threats to his Lord. Not only physicial threats to life and limb, but also the sometimes inavoidable need to take dishourable acts which would have reflected badly on the reputation of King Arthur/Simon Templar is taken on, wholly and without reservation, by Sir Gawain/Norman Kent."
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Sometimes Templar talks about a situation or his life being rather like an adventure novel, and that if it stays true to form something will or won't happen.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: At the close of Knight Templar, Simon is writing down his latest adventure "for the benefit of an author bloke I know, who has sworn to make a blood-and-thunder classic of us one day." Charters plays with the notion again in his notes for The First Saint Omnibus.
  • Long-Running Book Series: 50 books published between 1928 and 1983, all overseen by Leslie Charteris.
  • Master Actor: The Saint.
  • Motor Mouth: The Saint will only stop talking when his Gentleman Thief activities absolutely demand it. When he's excited or has a Eureka Moment his mouth tries a desperate job of trying to keep up with his brain, resulting in fragments of the subject in particular, bits of plans on what he's going to do, and jokes all jumbled together coming out of his mouth at a mile a minute (think The Doctor at his most insensibly manic). Even the most brilliant of his associates, notably Pat, find it a strain to keep up with him at these moments.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Templar, even when he's wearing all his clothes.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Pat or whatever woman happens to be in the story is usually described in 'loving' detail.
  • Mysterious Past: We never find out much about The Saint's past apart from that "Templar" is a pseudonymous surname he chose as a young man or boy.
  • Never Gets Drunk: Hoppy Uniatz's ability to imbibe is a source of wonder and bemusement to all who know him, including and especially the Saint. In view of Hoppy's unusual personality, he is probably a type 2. On the other hand, Simon hypothesizes he simply does not drink enough, which given the descriptions of how much and what he drinks would make him Type 3.
  • The Nicknamer: Templar hands out these like he's handing out candy to children.
  • Nothing Up My Sleeve: Simon's favorite hiding place for Anna, though he also uses a calf sheath on occasion.
  • The Pardon: The one time the cops had him under arrest and dead to rights, he had just saved a train with members of the royal family on it from being blown up.
  • Percussive Pickpocket: Simon uses this to save a young man from a prison stretch in The Man Who Was Clever.
  • Psycho Sidekick: Hoppy Uniatz to the nth degree. Simon is no shrinking violet himself, yet several times the Saint gets the Ungodly to talk simply by threatening to leave them alone with good old Hoppy. It doesn't help that Hoppy will do anything the Saint asks, and interprets everything through his unorthodox upbringing and previous profession. In "The Case of the Frightened Innkeeper," Templar forgets this; meaning to tell Hoppy to escort some of the Ungodly from the Saint's presence, Simon carelessly says "Get rid of them." Hoppy does.
  • Real Men Cook: He usually prefers to eat out, but is quite capable of making a delicious meal entirely on his own.
  • Rebellious Spirit: The Saint. Teal lampshades this now and again by sarcastically suggesting to superiors that they should make it a law that you can't live a life without committing a crime at intervals just so The Saint would be contrary and they'd get a little peace from him.
  • Rich Idiot with No Day Job: Played with: The Saint's skill at pretending to be an Upper-Class Twit is one of his most effective tactics against the Ungodly. However, it's strongly implied that Simon was not born into wealth and privilege, and compared to some of the examples of this trope, he's practically impoverished.
  • Safe Cracking: Simon's larcenous expertise includes this too; "The Man From St. Louis" has him open and empty a gangster's safe "offscreen" — i.e. so easily that Charteris doesn't bother to write the scene.
  • Slumming It: In The Wonderful War, Simon pretends to be a Banana Republic peon — and even lets himself be arrested! — to bring about his master plan.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Prefers to dress like this whenever possible, however it is noted (several times over) that he simply looks phenomenal in whatever he happens to be wearing by virtue of good looks and sheer personality.
  • The Spymaster: Another legacy of World War II: during the war, Simon worked for an American intelligence officer known only as "Hamilton".
  • Sword Cane: In the early stories, particularly in "The Man Who Was Clever," Simon is shown to be a master with one; since in those days a cane was still appropriate for upper-class gentlemen, he was also "seldom without it."
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Chief Inspector Claude Eustace Teal; one of (perhaps) two policemen whom the Saint considers a truly Worthy Opponent, his ongoing entanglement with the Saint is a constant bright spot in the pre-WWII books. Simon loves very few things more than poking Teal both verbally and physically (in Teal's well-padded midsection). But when the chips are down, Simon speaks of him with both affection and respect. The Saint alternates helping Teal solve his almost-toughest cases, and leaving Teal grasping at thin air when he attempts to nail Simon for the Saint's crimes. Further, Teal is shown to be a more-than-competent detective (for example, in The Unusual Ending) in every respect; it's simply that, as the books put it, "Simon Templar was cut from no common clay; and Teal, who was of the good red earth earthy, recognized this without resentment." Finally, he and Simon have each saved the other's life at least once, in The Story of a Dead Man and The High Fence respectively.
  • Terms of Endangerment: Templar tends to use pet names or terms of endearment when talking to villains; the sweeter, the more inappropriate, and the more frequent the endearments get, the closer the villains are to death.
  • Themed Aliases: Simon's aliases often use the initials "S.T."
  • This Bear Was Framed: In "The Convenient Monster", a murderer kills his victim with a Polynesian club studded with shark teeth and attempts to place the blame on the Loch Ness Monster!
  • This Is My Name on Foreign: In Salvage For The Saint, Charles Tatenor's real name is revealed to be Schwarzkopf. As literally translating his surname into English would have sounded ridiculous ('blackhead'), he went for something that sounded like blackhead in French (tÍte noire).
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Teal is extremely fond of gum, especially Wrigley's. Simon thoughtfully provides a fresh pack when Teal lets him know in advance that he's on his way to the Saint's current domicile for another friendly chat.
  • The Trickster: The Saint. Oh hallowed heavens, The Saint!
  • Vigilante Execution: Templar, especially in the earlier books, would often force a baddie he considered too dangerous (and too likely to get off) to fight him in a duel to the death (he generally preferred not to kill in cold blood because it didn't seem quite sporting).
  • Warrior Poet: Templar writes poetry (in comic and satirical vein to entertain and amuse his compatriots and to annoy his enemies, then sometimes more serious stuff about justice and chivalry). Is also prone to, amidst jokes, philosophize on battle, honor, chivalry, love, how modern man has lost his thirst for adventure, and any numbers of those combined.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The only time Patricia calls Simon out on anything in real anger occurs in The Melancholy Journey of Mr. Teal. The good Chief Inspector has almost nailed the Saint, when Simon informs him that without Teal's knowledge, Simon has been depositing money into Teal's account, making it appear that the detective is a Dirty Cop — which the world, and Teal's superiors at Scotland Yard in particular, will all too readily accept as the real reason Teal's never caught the Saint. Teal proceeds with the case anyway, knowing it will lead to his own ruin. This in turn causes Simon one of his extremely few attacks of conscience. The Saint reverses himself and not only does not proceed with the plot, he makes amends by giving Teal the Great Big Book of Everything of London crime that Simon has taken years to compile. Of course, Simon arranges for he, Patricia, and the boodle to escape anyway.
  • Worthy Opponent: The Prince and The Saint view each other as one; as noted above, so do Templar & Teal.