In a serious nod to the amazingly prolific and successful Leslie Charteris, creator of The Saint back in 1928 (which was almost before my parents were a glimmer, let alone me), Mulholland Books/Hodder have been re-issuing the books in very attractive covers, so that new readers (and those not-so-new) may enjoy the stories.
I was delighted to be invited by Ian Dickerson, the series editor, to write a foreword to one of the books - 'Follow the Saint' - which I remember well, even though I was about 8 or 9 when I first stumbled on it. Like the others, it got thumbed to bits with re-reading.
At that age, I have to admit most of the longer words, along with a few of the concepts in the storylines, like war, honour, politics and the beastly activities of the criminal element so ruthlessly roughed up by Simon Templar - aka 'the Saint' - went right over my head or flew by my ears without settling, and disappeared into the ether. But the idea of this modern-ish Robin Hood fighting criminals (or the ungodly, as he used to refer to them), with a band of like-minded souls, caught my imagination, and I hoovered the books up as rapidly as my parents could get them.
They were only trying to get me to read, while no doubt hoping I'd become too absorbed to get into trouble outside. Well, it worked after a fashion, but perhaps not as they intended; I soon began to fantasise about what a brilliant job it must be to write books for a living, and make up stuff involving guns and crooks and mayhem.
It took me many years to get my own first book into print, although I wrote a great deal over the years in between (mostly short fiction and features), and the dream never died.
And that was all thanks to my parents... and Leslie Charteris.
The story styles have changed a little, as have the times. But they were so brilliantly written then and are still great reads, chock full of characters who jump right off the page.
Available in paperback and ebook formats. (I wonder what Leslie Charteris would have thought about ebooks?)
There are two great sites devoted to the books and Leslie Charteris here and here.
There are far worse characters to follow than the Saint...