I hope you’ll forgive my absence, but I’ve spent the last few days visiting 1948 and hanging with my other BFF, one Leslie Charteris and his irrepressible creation, Mr. Simon Templar, alias the Saint. Unfortunately, in spite of my being a card-carrying member of the fan club, I’m not as overrun with Charteris’ books as I would like; they’re in rather short supply on the Canadian prairies. So when I visited Hay on Wye this past May I took the opportunity to stock up, and this wonderful first edition was the best purchase of the trip. You can chalk it up to the engrossing nature of your books that I hadn’t read it already, but its siren song was finally too strong to resist.
What the two novellas included in Call for the Saint might lack in deep plot and characterization or your subtle humour, they more than make up for in action, daring, and pure, exuberant joie de vivre. I mean, really, how can you not fall in love with a series that open with paragraphs like this, from “The Masked Angel”?
Relaxed as much as the immediate carpentry would permit in his ringside seat between Hoppy Uniatz and Patricia Holm, he blended the smoke of his own cigarette with the cigar-and-sweat aroma of the Manhattan Arena, and contemplated the dying moments of the semi-final bout with his sapphire eyes musing under lazily drooping lids. Never addicted to obtaining his thrills vicariously, the man who was better known as “the Saint” would have found small cause for excitement even if he had been addicted to such sedentary pursuits. Being there anyhow, he slouched in easy grace, the clean-cut lines of his face etched in a bronze mask of sardonic detachment as he watched the two gladiators move about the ring with all the slashing speed of ballet dancers in leg-irons performing under water, and dedicated himself uncomplainingly to whatever entertainment the soiree of sock might provide.
See? Good stuff, right? In spite of the vast differences in your writing styles and subject matter, I think a large part of why I so enjoy both of your works is that you both genuinely love language and love your characters, and that love comes across so clearly that it’s hard for your readers not to fall in love with them as we read. Your readers might have as been frantic over the fate of Little Nell as Charteris’ readers were to find out how the Saint could possibly escape the gun-toting goon who attacks without warning. Sure, the Saint’s adventures might be the slice of cake after your own four-course meals, but everyone needs a great piece of cake now and again.
And now, Charlie, with my literary vacation complete, I will join you on your own travels to America and Italy. Bon voyage!
P.S. Also, this is extremely exciting.