A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Art Scott

LESLIE CHARTERIS – The Saint in New York. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1935. First published in the UK:Hodder & Stoughton, hardcover, 1935. Reprinted many times since, in both hardcover and paperback. Film: RKO, 1938 (with Louis Hayward as Simon Templar, and Jonathan Hale as Inspector Fernack).

LESLIE CHARTERIS The Saint in New York

   This novel is perhaps the best of the tales in which Simon Templar adopts the role of Nemesis, dispensing summary justice to criminals. It is one of the grimmest tales in the Saint saga; it is a furiously paced, tightly crafted, wholly satisfactory blood-and-thunder thriller.

   Wealthy William Valcross offers the Saint $1 million to avenge the death of his son, who was murdered by a kidnap mob terrorizing New York. The Saint accepts the job, makes up a list of six big-time mobsters to be killed, and announces his intention to clean up the city to the newspapers.

   In three days of furious action, he makes good on his promise. Along the way he adds another name to his list, the mysterious “Big Fellow,” a Moriartyesque mastermind who pulls the strings behind the scenes; and encounters a woman of mystery, Fay Edwards, who saves his life when he’s taken for a ride.

   He also forms an uneasy alliance with John Henry Fernack, chief of New York detectives, who thereafter became a continuing character, reappearing whenever Templar’s travels take him to the States.

LESLIE CHARTERIS The Saint in New York

   The episode in which Templar, armed with only a knife and his wits, takes on a houseful of mobsters in order to save a kidnapped girl is as neatly choreographed and exciting an action sequence as is to be found anywhere in Charteris’s work. The book concludes with a dramatic surprise ending, in which the Saint learns the identity of the Big Fellow.

   The Saint in New York predates by some forty years a paperback landslide of similar one-man-against-the-mob novels written by Don Pendleton and his many imitators. It is unlikely that any have yet equaled this book for excitement; certainly none has come close in style.

   Other Saint books of note: Getaway (1932), The Misfortunes of Mr. Teal (1934) (ss), Saint Overboard (1936), The Happy Highwayman (1939) (ss), and The Saint in Miami (1940).

   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.