When The Saint Came Marching In To Bermuda

September 28, 2019 | 0 Comments

The Saint, Simon Templar’s celebrated nom de guerre in his never-ending war against crime, derived from his initials, ST.

And he underscored this self-image as a saintly man in a sinful world by leaving behind a calling card emblazoned with a haloed stick figure at the lairs of the villains he ran to ground.

The creation of Singapore-born Chinese-British writer Leslie Charteris, gentleman-adventurer The Saint appeared in a seemingly endless series of novels. novellas and short stories between the late 1920s and the early 1980s [the character only seemed to age about one year per decade over the course of his long literary career].

The type of “travel-folder picture” The Saint [or at least author Charteris] had in mind when the character stares out over the Great Sound, this photo appeared in the official mid-1950s Bermuda tourism brochure.

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Once described by Mr. Charteris as “a buccaneer in the suits of Savile Row, amused, cool, debonair, with hell-for-leather blue eyes and a saintly smile,” the Saint was a contemporary of such quintessentially British “clubland” heroes as John Buchan’s Richard Hannay and Sapper’s Bulldog Drummond.

Those early thriller characters, stoic, steadfast and with upper-lips properly stiffened, would set out from their exclusive private clubs in London’s West End to join battle with baddies intent on hastening the sunset of the British Empire.

But unlike his literary peers, robustly Establishment figures to a man, the devil-may-care Simon Templar was far more a latter-day Robin Hood than he was a King & Country type.

The Saint defended victims of crooked lawyers, financiers and industrialists, particularly vile examples of the West’s homegrown enemies within.

He tended to leave defending the realm from beastly enemies without to the other chaps and their successors like James Bond.

The Patient Playboy, the case which brings gentleman-adventurer Simon Templar to Bermuda, appeared in this 1956 collection of Saint stories.

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It was perhaps inevitable this globe-trotting soldier of fortune would eventually end up in Bermuda.

And this indeed happened in the 1956 short story The Patient Playboy, when the siren-song of mystery lures him to the island — the siren in question being a statuesque blonde “with a pretty face and approximately 35-23-35 vital statistics”.

It’s the abrupt disappearance of this woman’s husband in Bermuda which lies at the heart of the case The Saint investigates.

Simultaneously suspenseful and light-hearted in typical Leslie Charteris fashion, The Patient Playboy captures the flavour and mood of a mid-1950s Bermuda during its tourism heyday.

Presumably because Mr. Charteris had visited the island shortly before writing the story, it contains lyrical descriptive passages like this one: “In front of Simon was only the blue Sound, embraced by the main chain of islands and dotted with smaller satellite islands.

The Saint’s adventures were adapted for radio, films and TV many times but Roger Moore’s 1960s television turn as Simon Templar remains the best known

“Local folklore claims that the Bermudas are made up of 365 islands, one for every day in the year, but the actual number is much less than half that, and a large number of those have a somewhat slender claim to be counted, being mere outcroppings of coral which have barely managed to raise their heads above high water.

Mr. Charteris continued in a manner worthy of a full-time travel writer: “Small sailboats, launches, and a couple of the busy ferries that bustle endlessly to and fro to link a dozen landings spaced around the harbor and the Sound, made the view look absurdly like an animated travel-folder picture: no one is ever quite prepared for the fact that Bermuda, more than almost any other highly advertised place, looks so instantly and exactly like its postcards.”

The 15,000-word story takes readers on a whirlwind tour of the island, including stops at the film and TV studio then in operation on Darrell’s Island, “the white-sugar roofs and pink-icing walls of fairytale candy houses studding their green slopes” of Pembroke and Paget and the bad guy’s Crystal Cave-type hideout.

At the conclusion of the fast-paced story the bad end badly, the good end well and Simon Templar is preparing to head off in search of new adventures.

The Patient Playboy originally appeared in the March, 1956 edition of The Saint Detective Magazine. It was later included in the short story collection The Saint Around The World, published later that same year.

The book is still in print and can be ordered online here.

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