Leslie Charteris

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Leslie Charteris
Leslie Charteris.jpg
BornLeslie Charles Bowyer-Yin
(1907-05-12)12 May 1907
British Singapore
Died15 April 1993(1993-04-15) (aged 85)
Windsor, Berkshire, England
OccupationThriller writer, screenwriter
Period20th century
(m. 19521993)

Leslie Charteris (born Leslie Charles Bowyer-Yin; 12 May 1907 – 15 April 1993), was a British-Chinese author of adventure fiction, as well as a screenwriter. [1] He was best known for his many books chronicling the adventures of his hero Simon Templar, alias "The Saint".


Early life

Charteris was born Leslie Charles Bowyer-Yin, in Singapore. His mother, Lydia Florence Bowyer, was English. His father, Dr S. C. Yin (Yin Suat Chuan, 1877–1958), [2] was a Chinese physician who claimed to be able to trace his lineage back to the emperors of the Shang dynasty. [1]

Leslie became interested in writing at an early age. At one point, he created his own magazine with articles, short stories, poems, editorials, serials, and even a comic strip. He attended Saint Andrew's School, Singapore, and after moving to England, Rossall School in Fleetwood, Lancashire.

In 1926, Leslie legally changed his surname to "Charteris". In the BBC Radio 4 documentary Leslie Charteris – A Saintly Centennial, his daughter stated that he had selected the name from a telephone directory.


Charteris wrote his first book during his first year at King's College, Cambridge. Once it was accepted, he left the university and embarked on a new career, motivated by a desire to be unconventional and to become financially well off by doing what he liked to do. He continued to write British thriller stories while working at various jobs, from shipping out on a freighter to working as a barman in a country inn. He prospected for gold, dived for pearls, worked in a tin mine and on a rubber plantation, toured Britain with a carnival, and drove a bus.

Origin of Simon Templar

Charteris's third novel, Meet the Tiger (1928), introduced his most famous creation, Simon Templar. [3] However, in his 1980 introduction to a reprint by Charter Books, Charteris indicated he was dissatisfied with the work, suggesting its only value was as the start of the long-running Saint series. Occasionally, he chose to ignore the existence of Meet the Tiger altogether and claimed that the Saint series actually began with the second volume, Enter the Saint (1930); an example of this can be found in the introduction Charteris wrote to an early 1960s edition of Enter the Saint published by Fiction Publishing Company (an imprint of Doubleday).

Charteris wrote a few other books, including a novelization of his screenplay for the Deanna Durbin mystery-comedy Lady on a Train , and the English translation of Juan Belmonte: Killer of Bulls by Manuel Chaves Nogales. However, his lifework – at least in the literary world — consisted primarily of Simon Templar Saint adventures, which were presented in novel, novella, and short-story formats over the next 35 years. From 1963 onward, other authors ghost-wrote the stories, while Charteris acted as an editor, approving stories and making revisions when needed.

Move to the United States

Charteris relocated to the United States in 1932, where he continued to publish short stories and also became a writer for Paramount Pictures, working on the George Raft film, Midnight Club . [4] [ page needed ]. Charteris also wrote scripts for Alex Raymond's newspaper comic Secret Agent X-9 . [5]

However, Charteris was excluded from permanent residency in the United States because of the Chinese Exclusion Act, a law which prohibited immigration for persons of "50% or greater" Oriental blood. As a result, Charteris was continually forced to renew his six-month temporary visitor's visa. Eventually, an act of Congress personally granted his daughter and him the right of permanent residence in the United States, with eligibility for naturalization, which he later completed. [6] [ better source needed ]

Other activities

In 1936, Charteris was a passenger on the maiden voyage of the Hindenburg . [7] In America, The Saint became a radio series starring Vincent Price. In the 1940s, Charteris, besides continuing to write The Saint stories, scripted the Sherlock Holmes radio series featuring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. [8] [ page needed ] In 1941, Charteris appeared in a Life photographic adaptation of a short story of The Saint, with himself playing the Saint. [9] [10] [ page needed ]

The Saint on film

Long-term success eluded Charteris' creation outside the literary arena until RKO produced an eight-film series between 1938 and 1943: The Saint in New York (1938) with Louis Hayward as The Saint; The Saint Strikes Back (1939), The Saint in London (1939, filmed on location), The Saint's Double Trouble (1940), The Saint Takes Over (1940), and The Saint in Palm Springs (1941) all with George Sanders as The Saint. Another Briton, Hugh Sinclair, took over the role in The Saint's Vacation (filmed by RKO's British studio in 1941) and The Saint Meets the Tiger (again produced by RKO in 1941 but shelved until Republic Pictures released it in 1943).

A ninth film, The Saint's Return (known as The Saint's Girl Friday in the US) from 1953, with Louis Hayward returning as The Saint, is sometimes regarded as part of the RKO series. However, it was produced by British Hammer Film Productions, based on a special agreement between Hammer Films and Leslie Charteris, which gave Charteris a percentage in the film. RKO acted only as the film's US distributor, six months after the UK release.

Both George Sanders and Leslie Charteris had complaints about the Saint pictures; Sanders because he disliked playing the same role again and again, and Charteris because of the liberties taken by the screenwriters. RKO dropped the Saint series and replaced it with The Falcon, another debonair amateur sleuth played by Sanders. Charteris saw this as a ploy to deprive him of his royalties, and sued RKO. Sanders bailed out of the Falcon series after three films, and was replaced by his brother, Tom Conway.

A film loosely based on the character simply titled "The Saint" was released in 1997 with Val Kilmer in the title role.

The Saint on TV

In 1962–1969 the British-produced television series The Saint went into production with Roger Moore in the Simon Templar role.

Many episodes of the TV series were based upon Charteris' short stories. Later, as original scripts were commissioned, Charteris permitted some of these scripts to be novelized and published as further adventures of the Saint in printed form (these later books, with titles such as The Saint on TV and The Saint and the Fiction Makers , carried Charteris' name as author, but were in fact written by others). Charteris lived to see a second British TV series, Return of the Saint starring Ian Ogilvy as Simon Templar, enjoy a well-received, if brief, run in the late 1970s (with Charteris himself making a cameo appearance in one episode) and, in the 1980s, a series of TV movies produced by an international co-production and starring Simon Dutton kept interest in The Saint alive. Also, an ill-fated attempt at a 1980s TV series was made in the United States, which resulted in only a pilot episode being produced and broadcast. He also produced the original theme tune to the series, as can be seen on the end credits.

Later life

The adventures of The Saint were chronicled in nearly 100 books (about 50 published in the UK and US, with others published in France). Charteris himself stepped away from writing the books after The Saint in the Sun (1963). The next year, Vendetta for the Saint was published and while it was credited to Charteris, it was actually written by science fiction writer Harry Harrison. Following Vendetta came a number of books adapting televised episodes, credited to Charteris, but written by others, although Charteris did collaborate on several Saint books in the 1970s. Charteris appears to have served in an editorial capacity for these later volumes. He also edited and contributed to The Saint Mystery Magazine, a digest-sized publication. The final book in the Saint series was Salvage for the Saint , published in 1983. Two additional books were published in 1997, a novelization of the film loosely based on the character, and an original novel published by "The Saint Club", a fan club that Charteris himself founded in the 1930s. Both books were written by Burl Barer, who also wrote the definitive history on Charteris and The Saint.

Charteris spent 55 years – 1928 to 1983 – as either writer of or custodian of Simon Templar's literary adventures, one of the longest uninterrupted spans of a single author in the history of mystery fiction, equalling that of Agatha Christie, who wrote her novels and stories featuring detective Hercule Poirot.

Personal life and death

Charteris also wrote a column on cuisine for an American magazine, and invented a wordless, pictorial sign language called Paleneo, which he wrote a book about. Charteris was one of the earliest members of Mensa. [11] [12]

In 1952, Charteris married Hollywood actress Audrey Long (1922–2014); the couple eventually returned to England, where he spent his last years living in Surrey. He died at Princess Margaret's Hospital Windsor, Berkshire, on 15 April 1993, survived by his wife and daughter, Patricia.


He was married four times:

  1. (in 1931) to Pauline Schishkin (1911–1975), daughter of a Russian diplomat
  2. (in 1938) to Barbara Meyer (1907–1950), editor at The American Magazine
  3. (in 1943) to Elizabeth Bryant Borst (1909–2003), Boston society woman and night club singer
  4. (in 1952) to Audrey Long (1922–2014), film actress

Charteris was the brother of Rev Roy Bowyer-Yin. [13]


For a list of all Charteris's works, see List of works by Leslie Charteris; for a breakdown of Simon Templar novels, novellas and short story collections by Charteris, see the list at Simon Templar.

In addition, Charteris authored numerous uncollected short stories and essays. [14]

Related Research Articles

The Saint is the nickname of the fictional character Simon Templar, featured in a series of novels and short stories by Leslie Charteris published between 1928 and 1963. After that date, other authors collaborated with Charteris on books until 1983; two additional works produced without Charteris's participation were published in 1997. The character has also been portrayed in motion pictures, radio dramas, comic strips, comic books and three television series.

The Falcon is the nickname for two fictional detectives. Drexel Drake created Michael Waring, alias the Falcon, a freelance investigator and troubleshooter, in his 1936 novel, The Falcon's Prey. It was followed by two more novels – The Falcon Cuts In, 1937, and The Falcon Meets a Lady, 1938 – and a 1938 short story. Michael Arlen created Gay Stanhope Falcon in 1940. This Falcon made his first appearance in Arlen's short story "Gay Falcon", which was originally published in 1940 in Town & Country magazine. The story opens with the words "Now of this man who called himself Gay Falcon many tales are told, and this is one of them." Arlen's Falcon is characterized as a freelance adventurer and troubleshooter – a man who makes his living "keeping his mouth shut and engaging in dangerous enterprises."

<i>The Saint in New York</i>

The Saint in New York is a mystery novel by Leslie Charteris, first published in the United Kingdom by Hodder and Stoughton in 1935. It was published in the United States by Doubleday in January 1935. A shorter version of the novel had previously been published in the September 1934 issue of The American Magazine.

<i>Saint Overboard</i>

Saint Overboard is the title of a 1936 mystery novel by Leslie Charteris, one of a long series of novels featuring Charteris' creation Simon Templar, alias "The Saint". An edited version was previously published in November 1935 in The American Magazine as The Pirate Saint. Some paperback editions append the article The to the title.

<i>The Saint Meets the Tiger</i> 1943 film by Paul L. Stein

The Saint Meets the Tiger is the title of a crime thriller produced by the British unit of RKO Pictures, produced in 1941, but not released until 1943. This was to be the last of the eight films in RKO's film series about the crimefighter the Saint.

<i>Enter the Saint</i>

Enter the Saint is a collection of three interconnected adventure novellas by Leslie Charteris first published in the United Kingdom by Hodder and Stoughton in October 1930, followed by an American edition by The Crime Club in April 1931.

<i>She Was a Lady</i>

She Was a Lady is the title of a mystery novel by Leslie Charteris featuring his creation, Simon Templar, alias The Saint. The novel was first published in serialized form in the magazine Thriller in February and March 1930, and after being rewritten by Charteris, was first published in complete form in the United Kingdom by Hodder and Stoughton in November 1931. This was the seventh book chronicling Templar's adventures, and the fourth full novel.

<i>The Holy Terror</i> (short story collection) 1932 collection of novellas by Leslie Charteris

The Holy Terror is a collection of three mystery novellas by Leslie Charteris, first published in the United Kingdom in May 1932 by Hodder and Stoughton. This was the eighth book to feature the adventures of Simon Templar, alias "The Saint". When published in the United States for the first time, in September 1932, the title was changed to The Saint vs. Scotland Yard.

<i>Getaway</i> (The Saint)

Getaway is a mystery novel by Leslie Charteris first published in the United Kingdom in September 1932 by Hodder and Stoughton. This was the fifth full-length novel featuring the adventures of the modern day Robin Hood-inspired crimebuster Simon Templar, and the ninth Saint book published overall since 1928. When first published in the United States by The Crime Club in February 1933, the title was modified to The Saint's Getaway which was later adopted by future UK editions.

<i>The Misfortunes of Mr. Teal</i>

The Misfortunes of Mr. Teal is a collection of three mystery novellas by Leslie Charteris, first published in the United Kingdom in May 1934 by Hodder and Stoughton and the United States by The Crime Club. The book was republished under two additional titles: The Saint in England and, as of 1952, The Saint in London.

<i>The Saint Goes West</i>

The Saint Goes West is a collection of three mystery novellas by Leslie Charteris, first published in the United States in 1942 by The Crime Club, and in the United Kingdom the same year by Hodder and Stoughton.

<i>The Saint in the Sun</i>

The Saint in the Sun is a collection of short stories by Leslie Charteris, featuring the Robin Hood-inspired crimefighter, Simon Templar, whom Charteris introduced in 1928. The book was first published in 1963 by The Crime Club in the United States and by Hodder and Stoughton in the United Kingdom in 1964. This was the 36th book of Simon Templar adventures, and was the first published after the start of the TV series The Saint starring Roger Moore as Templar.

<i>Catch the Saint</i>

Catch the Saint is a collection of two mystery novellas by Fleming Lee, based upon stories by Norman Worker continuing the adventures of the sleuth Simon Templar a.k.a. "The Saint", created by Leslie Charteris. Following usual practice at this point in the series, the front cover credits Charteris, although Lee and Worker receive interior title page credit; Charteris served in an editorial capacity. Some editions misspell the author's name "Flemming Lee."

<i>Salvage for the Saint</i>

Salvage for the Saint is the title of a 1983 mystery novel featuring the character of Simon Templar, alias "The Saint". The novel was written by Peter Bloxsom, based on the two-part Return of the Saint episode "Collision Course" by John Kruse, but as was the custom at this time, the author credit on the cover went to Leslie Charteris, who created the Saint in 1928, and who served in an editorial capacity.

<i>Capture the Saint</i>

Capture the Saint is the title of a 1997 mystery novel by Burl Barer, featuring the character of Simon Templar, alias "The Saint" who was created by Leslie Charteris in 1928.

<i>The Saints Vacation</i> 1941 British film

The Saint's Vacation is a 1941 adventure film produced by the British arm of RKO Pictures. The film stars Hugh Sinclair as Simon Templar, also known as "The Saint", a world-roving crimefighter who walks the fine edge of the law. This was the seventh of eight films in RKO's film series about the character created by Leslie Charteris. It was Sinclair's first appearance as Templar, having taken over the role from George Sanders, who then stepped into RKO's "Falcon" series. The film is the seventh of nine features produced by RKO Pictures featuring suave detective Simon Templar and it marks a major change in the series, shifting production to England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Patricia Holm</span> Fictional character

Patricia Holm is the name of a fictional character who appeared in the novels and short stories of Leslie Charteris between 1928 and 1948. She was the on-again, off-again girlfriend and partner of Simon Templar, alias "The Saint", and shared a number of his adventures. In addition, by the mid-1930s, Holm and Templar shared the same flat in London, although they were unmarried. Although such co-habitation between unmarried partners is commonplace today, it was rare, shocking in the 1930s. The two also appeared to have a somewhat "open" relationship, with Holm accepting Templar's occasional dalliances with other women.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Claud Eustace Teal</span> Fictional character

Claud Eustace Teal is a fictional character who made many appearances in a series of novels, novellas and short stories by Leslie Charteris featuring The Saint, starting in 1929. A common spelling variation of his first name in reference works and websites is Claude, however in his works Charteris uses the spelling without the 'e'.

The Saint refers to eight B movies made by RKO Pictures between 1938 and 1941, based on some of the books in British author Leslie Charteris' long-running series about the fictional character Simon Templar, better known as The Saint.



  1. 1 2 "Biography of Leslie Charteris." saint.org. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  2. "Dr S.C. Yin (Son Created The Saint) Dies at Age 82"." The Singapore Free Press, 3 April 1958. Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  3. "Leslie Charteris Dies; Mystery Writer Was 85." The New York Times 18 April 1993.
  4. DelFattore 1989
  5. "Alex Raymond". lambiek.net. Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  6. United States Congressional Serial Set, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1943
  7. Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine : Author Leslie Charteris, a Passenger on Zeppelin Hindenburg's Maiden Voyage...,. CriticalPast. 16 June 2014 [1936] via YouTube.
  8. Marks 2008
  9. Charteris, Leslie. "The Saint Goes West: The Mystery of the Palm Springs Playboy." Life Magazine, 19 May 1941 pp99-105;120.
  10. Barer 2003
  11. Cos'è il Mensa? Mensa Italy
  12. Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, Volume 58, Page 80
  13. "Roy Henry Bowyer-Yin (1910–2010)". blog.saint.org. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
  14. Saint.org. "Bibliography of Leslie Charteris".


  • Barer, Burl. The Saint: A Complete History in Print, Radio, Film and Television 1928–1992. Jefferson, North Carolina: MacFarland & Company, 2003 (originally published in 1992). ISBN   978-0-7864-1680-6.
  • DelFattore, Joan. "Leslie Charteris". In Benstock, Bernard and Thomas Staley. British Mystery Writers, 1920–39. Detroit: Gale Research, 1989. ISBN   978-0-8103-4555-3.
  • Marks, Jeffrey Alan. Anthony Boucher: a biobibliography. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2008. ISBN   978-0-7864-3320-9.
  • Tuska, Jon. The Detective in HollywoodThe Movie Careers of the Great Fictional Private Eyes and Their Creators. New York: Doubleday, 1978. ISBN   978-0-3851-2093-7.