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Here there be monsters - The Fantastic Saint [Jul. 28th, 2009|10:25 pm]
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Hello, fellow Saint fans!

I've been busily reading new-to-me Saint books, and thought I'd share a review. The latest two on my list were The Saint in Europe and The Fantastic Saint. I know someone's reviewed The Saint in Europe already, so I won't bother. But I haven't seen any mention of The Fantastic Saint, a collection of 6 short stories featuring Simon Templar in out-of-the-ordinary situations. I should say, even more out of the ordinary, even for the Saint. :)

"The Gold Standard" (1932): More a novella than a very short story; I think it's the longest in the book. It's certainly the most adventuresome of the lot: murder, gunplay, and plot twists that keep Simon guessing. It's my favorite, and also the only one that includes both Inspector Teal and Patricia Holm. (Well, Pat's in the next story too, but only briefly.)

This is also included in The Saint and Mr. Teal (AKA Once More the Saint), which is where I read it first. I don't consider it extremely fantastical, but it's a great adventure nonetheless. :)

"The Newdick Helicopter" (1933): The Saint gets conned! Or does he? (Of course we all know he doesn't, but getting there is half the fun.) It's a very short story, but entertaining, with a few particularly entertaining turns of phrase. I admire Charteris' ability to find a metaphor - in this case, manna - and then milk it for whole paragraphs in a most amusing fashion. I love the man's writing!

This is another of those light-hearted, early Saint adventures that, at first read, didn't really belong in this collection. I realized, though, that helicopters such as the one in this story were practically science fiction at the time. Perhaps in 1933, the effect was something like us modern folk reading a tale with private spacecraft, a la Virgin Galactic.

Also in Boodle/The Saint Intervenes.

"The Man Who Liked Ants" (1937): Delicious tingles will go up and down your spine. Simon discovers yet another mad scientist, this time in Florida. The title is self-explanatory. It's not too difficult to figure out where this one is going, but it's nicely horrifying just the same.
Also in The Happy Highwayman.

"The Questing Tycoon" (1954): Sorry, haven't read this one so far, but I think someone else reviewed it. I believe it involves genuine voodoo zombies.
Also in The Saint on the Spanish Main.

"The Darker Drink" (1948): Up in the Sierras, Simon is relaxing in a little vacation cabin when a strange thread of circumstances unwinds "like one of those stories that fellow Charteris might write". Only it's not - because everything that happens isn't quite like anything that's happened to him before. I refuse to spoil it further, except to say that the plot and the characters are perfect for the concept behind it. This was one of the more eerie stories in the book (as opposed to suspenseful). If you've ever dreamed a nightmare and woken up only to find that you weren't dreaming, that the dream has become reality, or perhaps the dream was always reality...well, reading this story evokes the feeling you get during the split second between the end of your dreams and the moment when you really wake up.

Also in Saint Errant, under the title "Dawn".

"The Convenient Monster" (1959): The Saint tackles the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster! Speaking from the POV of my inner child, who heard/read/watched far too many stories of mysterious legendary beasties, the subject matter made me quite happy. :) The writing isn't quite on par with the earlier ones; it has a different tone, to be sure. The light-hearted banter and devil-may-care spirit isn't there. The somber atmosphere actually fit the plot itself all right, but was slightly disappointing.

To be honest, I was surprised that Charteris allowed Simon to age as far as he has in this story. A Simon Templar who doesn't instantly jump at a mystery, who acts more like a private detective than a knight errant, who even mentions the fact that he's getting older, and - most shockingly - doesn't immediately head in the direction of a pretty girl...well, it made me a little sad, is all. I never could stand the end of the Robin Hood stories.

Without giving too much away about the ending, I'll just say that I didn't like one aspect of it. I suspected somebody early on, but sincerely hoped they wouldn't have been involved in the way they turned out to be. Bleh. :P And yes, jordannamorgan , this partially refers to that paragraph you didn't like. Which I glossed over, BTW - thank you for mentioning it!

And I believe this one is also in Trust the Saint.

Anyone else read The Fantastic Saint, or any of the stories by themselves?

[User Picture]From: jordannamorgan
2009-07-30 02:49 am (UTC)
Ah, it's wonderful to see someone else posting a review! (Which I really need to do more often...) At the moment, though, I'm afraid an awful headcold is going to dampen the intelligence of my reply. :Þ

"The Convenient Monster" really is different in tone. Personally, I could speculate that it may have been ghostwritten.

And yes, "The Darker Drink" is quite trippy. *g*

You've got to read "The Questing Tycoon", though! It's probably my favorite of the lot. (If only, perhaps, for personal reasons; that story has a direct relation to my writing "The Beast of Matanzas Bay".)
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[User Picture]From: suededsilk
2009-07-30 05:21 am (UTC)
Yes, reviews are fun! To read, anyway. I've read several Saint books this summer, but reviews take a while to write, and I end up feeling that I don't address them intelligently. Ergo, few reviews. :)

Hope your cold gets better soon. :(

I wondered about that. Wasn't sure any ghostwriter would dare to make the Saint *age*, though it could've been a collaboration. Do you know if any of the stories in "Trust the Saint" were ghostwritten? I think it appeared there first.

"Trippy", yes. I've seen the concept used before, but putting a character like the Saint in it was a new twist.

I skimmed that one, but put it aside for now. (I read everything in this book totally out of order.) I admit to preferring the happy-go-lucky (or somber, but more reality-based) Saintly adventures, at least in bulk. :)

Speaking of beasts and bays, I did print out your story, and gave it a more thorough read. *Great* job! It's the perfect location for the Saint, truly. I like the way you tied the Important Character's backstory/the mystery explanation (sorry, I don't want to be spoilery for anyone who hasn't read it!) into the history and adventure inherent to the area. I for one am now willing to believe that Simon took an unmentioned-by-Charteris trip to St. Augustine. :)
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[User Picture]From: jordannamorgan
2009-07-31 03:13 am (UTC)
Aww, thank you very much! :D

I've seen claims that *everything* published after "The Saint in Miami" was actually ghostwritten, but I'm not inclined to really believe that. And sometimes I've bumped into a single story that I *do* think was ghostwritten, out of a book that otherwise does seem to be entirely Charteris' work (i.e. the story "The Effete Angler"--I don't recall offhand which book it's in). I'd have to glance over "Trust the Saint" again to give an opinion on it.
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From: hoppyuniatz
2009-08-01 10:48 pm (UTC)
The last Saint book solely by Leslie was the 1963 volume "The Saint in the Sun". Everything published after that was in collaboration with other writers (note, not ghosted as Leslie would always give anything that went out under his name an editorial polish and with one exception was always happy to name his partners in writing).

One or two Saint stories from the 1940s have their origins in other people's work, but were genuine Charteris.
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[User Picture]From: suededsilk
2009-08-06 06:48 am (UTC)
That would make "Trust the Saint" canon, then - it came right before "The Saint in the Sun". You're right - to the best of my knowledge, he did give his fellow authors credit. I still consider it to have been ghostwriting, since everything went under Charteris' name (understandably so!), but it obviously wasn't total ghostwriting. :)

Rats. I liked the ghostwriting explanation better! :D
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[User Picture]From: suededsilk
2009-08-06 06:49 am (UTC)
I don't have "Trust the Saint", unfortunately, but per the explanation below and my look at the bibliography on saint.org, it would have been canon. I'll just pretend that Simon didn't actually age and Charteris was mistaken, thank you very much... ;)
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