Before I begin, be sure to check my Twitter page to find out when my review of Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Chessmen of Mars will be posted. Meanwhile, this current blog entry is the first in a series of reviews of books that are currently out-of-print and not available from Greenwich Library other than through our Interlibrary Loan service. (Click here to access the ILL page.)
Today's selection is 1942's The Saint Goes West by Leslie Charteris, a collection of three novellas featuring the "Robin Hood of Crime" himself, The Famous Simon Templar.
The first novella, "Arizona" has Templar going after a Nazi scientist who may be involved with a sinister rancher trying to force a neighbor and his daughter to sell their land in the title state. There's a nice romantic subplot between Templar and the daughter, Jean Morland as well as some exciting action sequences. Fans of the TV and movie versions of The Saint might be stunned to note that Templar isn't planning on just capturing the Nazi scientist but instead has already made up his mind to kill the man. Period. Since the earliest books (1928's Meet The Tiger; 1929's The Last Hero and others), Templar always went after crooks, spies and terrorists the law couldn't touch and if killing them was the solution, well, that was that. "Arizona" is a lot of fun, with the warm romantic scenes between Templar and Jean and Templar's witty exchanges mixed well with some grim and suspensful moments.
"Palm Springs" has Templar hired as a bodyguard by an alcoholic millionaire (with three mistresses) Freddie Pellman, who's convinced that associates of a gangster he ratted out are after him for revenge. Subsequently, attempts are made on the rich guy. Templar has to sort out who's trying to kill Freddie and whether one of the mistresses might be involved? More lighthearted than the first story, "Palm Springs" is played mostly for laughs and has some great witty dialogue (Templar has a great closing line!). BTW Charteris had originally written this tale as a screen treatment for RKO's 1941 film The Saint in Palm Springs, but the studio used very little of the author's plot.
"Hollywood", the third and last tale, has Templar hired by a less-than-honest movie producer, Byron Ufferlitz, to star in a film based on The Saint's actual adventures. Although Templar runs into such types working for Ufferlitz like the film's slightly wacky screenwriters, the original (now fired) drunken star Orlando Flane and the sexy ingenue actress April Quest, all having axes to grind, he accepts it all nonchalantly. Until Ufferlitz is found murderedand The Saint discovers he may have been set up to take the blame. A very clever and well-paced whodunit, "Hollywood" leads the reader to a surprising and poignant climax.
If you're interested in checking out The Saint Goes West, please note that several paperback editions omit "Arizona" (probably because of the WWII references). The copy I have is a 1992 reprint by Amereon House and contains all three novellas.