kathmandu: Close-up of pussywillow catkins. (Default)
I didn't see any of Leverage last year, not even any commercials for it; but the fan reviews I read motivated me to try this season's episodes. I started with S2 E1, the Beantown Bailout Job. You know the scene in the bar after the play, when they're all saying What I Did on My Summer Vacation? ("...we are doing some very hinky things in Pakistan." "And what did you do, Elliot?" "I was in Pakistan." ) And they're all saying how bored they are, committing regular old crime, how it was so much more fun being good guys and having daring adventures? That's when I realized: These are the heirs of the Saint.

You may have seen the movie starring Val Kilmer. Ignore that. It didn't convey the mood of the Saint canon at all. The movie was violent and grim and desperate. The book Saint tended to smile, even in straits that seemed grim to the lay eye, because he saw it all as a game; he was having fun.

The Saint was a con man's con man. He would fall into conversation with a clever man who had this nifty device to extract gold from the air, or some such, and who just needed a little capital for the patent fees...and the encounter would end with the clever man completely cleaned out of money and the Saint strolling away whistling.

He didn't identify exactly as a con man. He described himself as a buccaneer: pirate, or maybe closer to privateer. He was comfortable and competent at fighting, picking locks, shadowing people... oh, just read the author's own description (from Catch the Saint)

In the course of his good works, of which he himself was not the smallest beneficiary, the man so paradoxically called the Saint had assumed many roles and placed himself in such a fantastic variety of settings that the adventures of a Sinbad or a Ulysses had by comparison all the excitement of a housewife's trip to the market. His range was the world. His identities had encompassed cowboy and playboy, poet and revolutionary, hobo and millionaire. The booty he had gathered in his years of buccaneering had certainly made the last category genuine: The assets he had salted away would have made headlines if they had been exposed to counting. He could have comfortably retired at an age when most men are still angling for their second promotion. But strong as the profit motive was as a factor in his exploits, there were other drives which would never allow him to put the gears of his mind permanently in neutral and hang up his heels on the stern rail of a yacht. He had an insatiable lust for action, in a world that squandered its energies on speeches and account books. He craved the individual expression of his own personal ideals, and his rules were not those of parliaments and judges but those of a man impatient to accomplish his purposes, according to his own lights, by the most effective means available at the moment.

He pulled some capers for himself, some to help out other individuals, and a few against major villains who were a threat to the general welfare. He was mainly UK-based, although when the author, Leslie Charteris, started traveling to the U.S. and dealing with Hollywood, the Saint did too.

The canon runs from 1928 through most of the rest of the 20th century, the exact end date depending on whether you count collaborations or licensed works. I can particularly recommend the short stories collected in The Saint Intervenes (1934) as giving a good view of his cheerful style and varied activities.

(Crossposted to [community profile] what_ho_chaps.)


kathmandu: Close-up of pussywillow catkins. (Default)

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