My original Saint novel, CAPTURE THE SAINT, is the only Saint novel in which the copyright rests with someone other than Leslie Charteris. That honor belongs to me. For that reason, television and movie producers often contact me about acquiring the rights to this singular adventure — and then send a contract proposal that, in the fine print, give them all sorts of rights to which they are not entitled. This has happened more than three times in the past four years. The TV rights to the Saint character are currently in the hands of my buddy Bill Macdonald; Robert Evans has sequel rights to his Val Kilmer film, and RKO's latest owners have remake rights to the old George Sanders movies.
Capture the Saint, of course, is a wonderful book, written by a true genius and approved by the Estate of Leslie Charteris. The literary concept and execution of the novel (although the execution was not fatal) is that it replicates, chapter by chapter, the progression of styles used by Charteris between the 1930's and the 1950's. Actually, it begins in the style of the 1950's, then works backwards to the 30's and forward again –not in time, but in writing style. Of course, it's not a copy of Charteris' style exactly, but rather a combination of affectionate homage and occasional outright satire of Charteris' intentionally overwritten prose. He once said that this is what his readers paid for, much as Cadillac owners pay for the big fins and all that chrome. Striped of his verbosity and prolixity, he said, he was left with his skinny "fundaments" exposed.
Before I wrote THE SAINT: A NOVEL (the movie tie-in) the publisher read CAPTURE THE SAINT, and said "today's readers are not sophisticated enough to get the humor. In the new novel for us, can you be less literary?" I replied, "You mean, dumb it down?" "Yeah, that's what we mean." Well, I don't think today's readers are dumb or not sophisticated enough to get my humor. However, I did alter the writing style for the novelization, making the prose more streamlined.
I wanted to keep Charteris' in-joke approach, but I needed a different way of pulling it off. Hence, I crammed the book with all manner of references to old Saint stories, characters, actors, titles, and even worked in the Bishop and the Actress in the first chapter.
If you want a copy of CAPTURE THE SAINT, be prepared to pay between $100 and $300 as the book is a "collectors' item." The first edition was limited to 600 signed and numbered copies, and the second edition (from Volvo) was only 200 copies distributed at the international test drive of their new vehicles in, I believe, 1998 or 1999.
CAPTURE THE SAINT may also be available soon in a new paperback edition, and yes, movie and TV producers still call me about the rights. As Mr. Macdonald has the TV rights to the Saint character, it only makes sense to allow his company the opportunity to make a television adaptation. We will discuss this further in the near future…stay tuned and watch for the sign of the Saint…he will be back in a NEW full length novel, THE RETURN OF THE SAINT, in 2011.