The Reading Room

Leslie Charteris and The Saint Stickman

The famous ‘The Saint’ logo…..

There can be few images in twentieth century fiction more iconic than the stickman logo of Simon ‘The Saint’ Templar. Created by the books author Leslie Charteris (1907-1993) it was Templar’s calling card as well as an integral part of virtually every book cover published. The books enjoyed an epic run, Charteris equalled Agatha Christie and her fifty five year run from the first Saint book, Meet The Tiger published in 1928 until Salvage For The Saint in 1983. By the early 1960s however, Charteris had relinquished full-time writing and became something more akin to a custodian of the character which by then was enjoying a seven year series run on television with Roger Moore playing Templar.

Many of you will remember Moore looking upwards as an animated white halo appeared above his head whenever his ‘real’ name of Simon Templar was mentioned. This halo was of course, part of the stickman logo invented by Charteris who came up with the idea whilst sketching scenes using stickmen, such was his artistic limitations. The logo proper was developed by Charteris’ friend, the illustrator Eugene Hastain, examples of his work can be found here at the wonderful Detective-Fiction.Com website.

The jacket illustrations for The Saint books pre 1970s were more often than not, a thing of beauty. Most captured the character of Templar perfectly and the logo often played more than a bit part in the overall design. Many of the UK first editions featured the stickman as the main focus of the dustwrapper, dressing it up in various guises such as a cowboy for The Saint Goes West (1942) a home guard volunteer on the cover of The Saint On Guard (1944) or, perhaps my favourite in mask and cloak for The Happy Highwayman (1939) Later releases would see the logo used less obviously, in the Pan paperbacks it would often be involved in the scene, lending a helping kick as Templar grapples with some hoodlum in 1950s America.

Those of us of a certain age who will be reading this will, I am sure, at some point, have drawn the figure in their school book. I often did, yet didn’t come to The Saint in written format until long after my school days were over. My generation grew up with the later television incarnation featuring Ian Ogilvy in a one season, twenty four episode series called Return of The Saint (1978-1979) which copied the 1960s format with the animated halo appearing as Templar’s name was mentioned during the pre-credit sequence. So thinking back I suppose it was one of those images that was always there, lurking in the background.

Interestingly, it would seem that schoolboys weren’t the only ones drawing the figure, I am fortunate to own a signed copy of The Saint Steps In from 1973 which Charteris treats the known recipient to a copy of his creation. It is a wonderful piece of Saint memorabilia and a reminder of the role the books played in twentieth century crime fiction. The writing may not have been up there alongside the greats but Charteris managed to create a globally recognisable character whose wit and charm lasted decades. For anyone with an affection for vintage dustwrapper artwork you could do a lot worse than check out The Saint.

Click on the image to view in larger format…

Watch for the sign of The Saint. He will be back”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s