Leslie Charteris was born Leslie Charles Bowyer Yin on May 12, 1907, in Singapore, the son of Dr. S. C. Yin, a Chinese surgeon and Englishwoman Florence Bowyer. A slight air of mystery attaches to Charteris’s origins. His father was reputed to be a direct descendant of the Yin family who ruled China during the Shang Dynasty (c. 1700-1027 b.c.e.). Charteris recalls that he learned Chinese and Malay from native servants before he could speak English and that his parents took him around the world three times before he was twelve. He valued the education afforded by this cosmopolitan experience far more than his formal education, which he received in England—at Falconbury School, Purley, Surrey (1919-1922) and at Rossall School, Fleetwood, Lancashire (1922-1924). However, he worked eagerly on school magazines, and sold his first short story at the age of seventeen.
After leaving school for a brief stay in Paris in 1924, Charteris was persuaded to enter King’s College, Cambridge, in 1925. He stayed for little more than a year, spending his time reading voraciously in the fields of criminology and crime fiction. He left the university to pursue a career as a writer when his first full-length crime novel was accepted. Around this same time, he changed his name by deed poll to Leslie Charteris, though sources differ as to the year. At first, despite the popularity of the Saint, Charteris struggled to support himself, taking odd...
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