Contribution

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

In Simon Templar, Leslie Charteris fashioned the perfect hero of popular fiction for the twentieth century. Templar, known by his sobriquet, the Saint, possesses all the modern virtues: He is bright and clever, but not intellectual; he is charming and sensitive, but not effete; he is a materialist who relishes good food, good drink, luxurious surroundings, and the company of beautiful women, but he lives by a strict moral code of his own devising.

Templar is “good,” as his nickname indicates, but his view of good and evil does not derive from any spiritual or ethical system and has nothing whatever to do with Anglo-Saxon legalisms. Rather, his morality is innate and naturalistic. He is one of the very fittest in an incredibly dangerous world, and he survives with aplomb and élan. Even when he becomes more political (serving as an American agent during World War II), he supports only the causes that square with his own notions of personal freedom. He is always the secular hero of a secular age. As such, he has lived the life of the suave adventurer for more than sixty years, in novels, short stories, comic strips, motion pictures, and television series. Moreover, because Simon Templar is not a family man, James Bond and every Bond manqué may properly be viewed as the illegitimate literary progeny of the Saint.