Thursday, December 29, 2011

Will there be a new Simon Templar in 2012?

When I was 18, my father gave me a copy of The Saint In New York - which might well have been a move he's subsequently regretted. That book - and the myriad Saint books that I thereafter collected from second hand book shops, jumble sales and thrift stores - had more of an influence on my life than anything other than my parents themselves.

Simon Templar - the brighter buccaneer - helped define my attitude towards right and wrong, my cheery attitude, my taste in beer and cocktails and even the ridiculous cars I drive. He even inspired me on my quest to seek fortune, fame and love in The Big Apple. He is, perhaps, the single most important reason why I set my sights on New York and have subsequently made my life here.

There's a great irony to that. During my sabbatical in England, back in the city in which I was born, I was lucky enough to make acquittance with the man closest to Simon Templar himself - chairman of The Saint Club, acclaimed author and consummate gentleman (complete with furled umbrella and secret, buccaneering dreams) Ian Dickerson.

The irony was the he lived not twenty miles from where I was born, in the beautiful town of Romsey. I'd traveled half way around the globe to seek my Saintly destiny, and the key to it was a half hour's drive from my front door (in Ian's defense, Romsey is a lot more pituresque than the Bronx.)

Ian recently published the definitive record of Simon Templar's television career, in The Saint on TV. With a stunning retro cover (inspired by some of Leslie Charteris' most classic books - I own several, including She Was A Lady) it recounts Simon Templar's career on the small screen all the way from the 1940s to the recent, contemporary attempts to relaunch the series.

This book is the definitive resource for information on The Saint on TV. It contains not just interviews with the leading cast and crew behind the various Saint series - from Roger Moore's tenure, Ian Ogilvy's return and Simon Dutton's short-lived reign beneath the halo - but also correspondence with Leslie Charteris himself, and two previously unpublished scripts.

Ian was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book, which I'm honored to published here:

What inspired you to write this book? 

Over the years I’ve acquired so much information and so many stories about attempts to get the Saint on TV that I wanted to put them all together in one volume.

Plus I wanted to take the Saint on TV that everyone knows—Messrs Moore, Ogilvy and Dutton—and try and shine a light on how it was made and some of the people who made it. I also wanted to bring people up to date as what’s been going on with the Saint over the last few years, with the false starts and strange rumors.

What was your first memory of The Saint on TV? 

The first episode of Return of the Saint, which I watched only because my older brothers were watching it. And then not long after I remember my eldest brother reading out pieces from an early Saint novel and all of us laughing at Leslie’s wonderful storytelling. Which has been your favorite incarnation so far? I am a child of the 70s so it has to be Ian Ogilvy. If it wasn’t for him I might not have found Leslie’s books. And if I hadn’t found Leslie’s books I certainly would be writing books like this.

What is the future of The Saint on the small screen? 

We’ve taken our time over getting the Saint back on TV because we want to get it right, we all firmly believe that there is a place for a Charterisian adventurer in the 21st century and we don’t want to let a network or broadcaster divert us from our creative vision. It’s been a tough course, the last chapter of my book illustrates some of the weirder ideas that have been thrown at us (Liz Hurley as Simone Templar anyone?) but we’ve stayed the journey and we seem to be converting financiers and network executives one by one as to the magic of the Saint (all it’s taken is some of Roger’s episodes and several of Leslie’s books). As it stands I’m optimistic we might finally see something in production next year.

Do you think Simon Templar and his exploits are more or less relevant in this day and age? 

I think they’re still extremely relevant in today’s world. Whether it’s more or less I don’t know. But if you look at many of the early stories it doesn’t take a great vision to bring them up to date; after all war financiers, crooked politicians and the Ungodly are still as busy as they’ve ever been.

Who would be your ideal small-screen Saint? 

Pierce Brosnan around the time he was doing Remington Steele. 
Ian's book, The Saint on TV, is available from Hirst Publishing and I certainly recommend picking up a copy. Also, keep your ear to the ground regarding a revival of The Saint's career.

For a number of years Ian and other Saintly aficionados have been working hard to bring Simon Templar back to the small screen - and almost succeeded recently, with a project that had the inspired choice of leading man James Purefoy in the Saintly shoes.

Currently, things are on hold - but eventually they will get moving again; and one thing is clear. Simon Templar's destiny could not be in better hands.

Thanks, Ian - not just for maintaining The Saint's legacy with a clarity of purpose Leslie Charteris would be proud of, but for being kind, patient and understanding with dolts like me. The Saint on TV is inspired - and any future revival of Simon Templar's career promises to be likewise (as long as you're involved.)

1 comment:

Burl Barer said...

Thanks for this excellent spotlight on Ian Dickerson and his The Saint on TV. His insights and guidance regarding the Saint were invaluable to me when writing The Saint: A Complete History, and continue to be of equal value on the forthcoming updated edition.