The following article from The Telegraph had me all excited.
Nostalgia, nostalgia, there’s nothing like nostalgia. This, or something like it, will be the reaction of many elderly , or indeed middle-aged, folk to the news that Hodder is bringing Simon Templar, alias “The Saint”, back to life, or at least back into print. Admittedly, the Saint was himself middle-aged, even if also ageless, when we first read him as schoolboys, or when Roger Moore played him with effortless charm on television.
He belongs to the Twenties, to the gentlemen-adventurers who went about biffing baddies and righting wrongs in light-hearted but also ruthless manner. There is a touch of Wodehouse’s Psmith in his persiflage, a touch too of Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion (at least as Campion appeared in Allingham’s early novels). But it is in the company of Sapper’s Bulldog Drummond and Dornford Yates’s Jonathan Mansel and Richard Chandos that he really belongs.
Ken Follet, in his introduction to the first volume of the new Hodder edition (The Best of The Saint, a snip at £9.99), says he dislikes Drummond “for his Fascism and his leaden banter”. Fair enough, though some of the Saint’s banter reads a touch leadenly now too. Yet there’s no doubt that the Saint, as an amateur avenger, owes much to the Bulldog.
Follett also suggests that the original of these Clubland Heroes is John Buchan’s Richard Hannay, a statement that requires qualification. Hannay rarely took the law into his own hands, as the Saint, Drummond and Mansel frequently did. The Saint is really a Robin Hood figure, an outlaw, a criminal himself who wars against criminals. He engages repeatedly in a trial of wits with Scotland Yard and the much put-upon Chief Inspector Claud Eustace Teal. He is as ready to beat up villains as Drummond was, and takes some pleasure in doing so.
Like all the Clubland Heroes he is chivalrously protective of women: white-slavers beware! He will kill without a qualm – so long as the victim deserves it. In one of the Dornford Yates novels – Perishable Goods – Mansel has his servants hang a wretch who has defiled pure womanhood, and Chandos, the narrator, informs us that “the contented mien of the servants showed that the world was a better and cleaner place”. The Saint would surely have agreed. He will tease and torment a villain until his “barbed taunts… have snapped the last, withered shreds of reason in his brain”.