February 2022 Books Monthly Review of books and stories magazine - on the web 24 years...
  books monthly 2022
The back page... this month: The Saint


Previous Back Page features:
DECEMBER 2021 - Enid Blyton's Little Noddy
JANUARY 2022 - The Whiteoaks of Jalna

The year is 1958, and I'm just shy of twelve years old... I've read everything, regretting having returned a book to the twins next door, a favourite Enid Blyton... but I've recently discovered - The Saint!


...I don't remember which Saint book I discovered first, and it probably wouldn't have been one from the little public library outpost of two bookcases that were in the Primary School at the end of the road, where me and my Mum went every Tuesday and Thursday evening to get new books to read. I don't recall them ever having anything so racy, so enjoyable, so... humorous; although it's possible. I think my first Saint book featured the long-suffering Chief Inspector Claude Eustace Teal, but again I can't be sure. All I know is that by 1963, when we were all packed up and reasdy to move away from Brockworth and the leisurely, cosseted life I knew, I had in my suitcase, every single Saint book that was available as a Pan Giant. My suitcase was a smallm affair, and in it I also had my collection of Dennis Wheatleys, and my Tarzan books. I took the suitcase to school with me on my last day at the Crypt Grammar School, Tuffley, Gloucester. My friends asked to see what was inside but I was too upset to show them. I asked my form teacher to let me stow the suitcase in the classroom cupboard until going home time, and then I collected it and made my way down the school drive to the bus stop. I was stopping off in town, and going to the little secondhand bookshop, intending to sell my treasured collection. It's something I remember vividly, although for the life me I don't remember why I had been asked by my parents to get rid of all my worldly goods, which consisted almost entirely of books. After all, most of our furniture, including my beloved radio gramophone and my collection of Acker Bilk records was going into storage. We would be staying with Uncle Stan and Aunt Florrie, but only until Mum and Dad had bought a hardware store.
        That was  the plan, and I was mystified, but nevertheless did as I was asked. It's not as if my little suitcase would take up a lot of room in storage... Every single one of my Saint books was published by Pan. They meant a great deal to me, and I was sad to part with them and the rest of my books. When we eventually settled in Stevenage New Town in  November of 1963, my first task was to start collecting again. I no longer have a complete collection of Saint books, but I do have a number of Pan Giants and I do have a number of newer paperbacks that were released ten or maybe fifteen years ago to coincide with a new TV series starring Simon Dutton that  never ever got shown - I don't know why. I was never that fond of the Roger Moore TV series - I didn't think he was entirely the right person to play Simon Templar; the series made for good TV but it simply wasn't the Saint. His successor, Ian Ogilvy, was far better in my opinion, although public opinion still favoured Roger Moore.
       It was not until the Internet was properly up and running in the 1990s that I became aware that Leslie Charteris was of oriental descent, having been born Leslie Charles Bowyer-Yin, the son of Lydia Florence Bowyer and Dr S C Yin, a Chinese physician. This "fact" never cropped up until one was able to look up such things on Wikipedia etc., when the internet gave us all access to all of the accumulated knowledge that ever existed...
       My Saint books gave me unparalleled joy and made me smile, sometimes even laugh. Simon Templar was a man who never gave up - often he was faced with certain death but he always found a way to survive and turn the tables on his captors, thanks to the skilfull writing of Leslie Charteris. There were many rival heroes, for instance the Toff, but they were never ever as good as the Saint, and I revelled in reading his adventures over and over again as I progressed through my teenage years. I know I rave nowadays about my triptych of favourite authors, Stephen King, Stuart MacBride and Bernard Cornwell, but they haven't been around forever, and Enid Blyton and Leslie Charteris have, in comparison. They formed my reading habits, they informed my choices of favourite literature, and in Stuart MacBride at least, there is the unique combination of serious and humorous crime adventures. The Saint books were about organised crime and evil men, men whose lives the Saint often terminated. It was a branch of detective fiction that Leslie Charteris created and dominated, stories with real, believable villains, laced with the unique humour and suaveté of the Saint. I know of only two other authors who wrote funny crime fiction in those days: Delano Ames, who wrote about Dagobert and Jane Brown, who also made it to TV; and Joan Butler, which was the pseudonym and writing alias of one Robert William Alexander - none of whose books are still in print. I had representative novels by both Ames and Butler in my collection, but I was never tempted to search out all of their works, as I had Leslie Charteris's. I still enjoy reading the Saint books, and have managed to get hold of a half dozen of the original 1960s Pan Giants. The set published for the Simon Dutton TV series are uniform but in no way inspiring, like the Pan Giants. I shall never find out why I wasn't allowed to take that little suitcase - the ways of one's parents are often mystifying and unsatisfactory, but then in those days, although a teenager, I was simply a child, and children had no rights, no say in what was going on. I received a small amount of money for the contents of my suitcase, but I would far rather have kept my book collection which would have been in tip top, pristine condition; all of my books were brand new in those days, and I kept them so, as long as they were in my possession.

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its 24th year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me
here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email at paulenorman1@gmail.com and I'll let you know where to send it.

   c o n t e n t s:

   The Front Page

   Children's Books

   Fiction books

   Fantasy & Science Fiction

   Nonfiction Books


   The Silent Three

   The Four Marys

   Growing up in the 1950s

   Living with Skipper

   Pen and Sword Books

   Sundays with Tarzan

   The Back Page

   Email me

This is the reading order of the Whiteoaks books:

  • The Building of Jalna 
  • Morning at Jalna
  • Mary Wakefield
  • Young Renny
  • Whiteoak Heritage
  • The Whiteoak Brothers
  • Jalna
  • Whiteoaks
  • Finch's Fortune
  • The Master of Jalna
  • Whiteoak Harvest
  • Wakefield's Course
  • Return to Jalna
  • Renny's Daughter
  • Variable Winds at Jalna
  • Centenary at Jalna