|Here there be monsters - The Fantastic Saint
||[Jul. 28th, 2009|10:25 pm]
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!
**/END SPOILER ALERT**
And I believe this one is also in Trust the Saint.
Anyone else read The Fantastic Saint, or any of the stories by themselves?