LESLIE CHARTERIS – The White Rider. Bill Kennedy #2. Ward Lock, UK. hardcover, 1928. Doubleday Doran, US, hardcover, 1930. No paperback editions known.

   Leslie Charteris broke into print in 1927, .with the publication of a non-Saint book, X Esquire [the first Bill Kennedy novel]. QUIRE. The following year saw two more books published; one was the first “Saint,” Meet the Tiger, the other a non-Saint novel, The White Rider.

   Today this book is a collector’s item as an associational piece, rather than a book many would enjoy reading. There are some Saint-like qualities in the story: a young lady in distress, some young men who are either doing amateur detection or who are in league to steal a large sum of money, a masked rider, an upper-class British atmosphere with an American or two thrown in.

   The story goes on, and on, and on. Length is a major defect. Not yet has Charteris learned to write concise short stories. There is a great deal of action,  with men falling dead hither and yon, sometimes by quite normal knifing and shooting, sometimes by exotic and not very believable means. It’s as if Charteris had been trying to put everything into one novel.

   Briefly the plot is this: Seldon, a bank robber, dies without divulging the hiding-place of his loot; apparently it is somewhere  about the house at Sancreed where his wife (who is not seen) and his daughter (a major character) live. A masked “White Rider” has been  seen by people living in the vicinity, riding at night and acting mysteriously. Assistant Commissioner Bill Kennedy and Jimmy Haddon, an American policeman, go down, to Sancreed to head off criminals also anxious to get their hands  on the. loot.

   Eventually the money is saved, young love has its way, and the head criminal is captured, though only after many thoroughly confusing events and murders. This may be what used to be called “a rattlin’ good yarn.” I consider it interesting historically, but little in any other way.

– Reprinted from The Poison Pen, Volume 3, Number 4 (July-August 1980).