The Canongate Strangler
“There was something strange in my sensations, something indescribably new, and, from its very novelty, incredibly sweet. I felt younger, lighter, happier in body; within I was conscious of a heady recklessness, a current of disordered sensual images running like a mill-race in my fancy, a solution of the bonds of obligation, an unknown but not an innocent freedom of the soul. I knew myself, at the first breath of this new life, to be more wicked, tenfold more wicked, sold a slave to my original evil; and the thought, in that moment, braced and delighted me like wine.”
Robert Louis Stevenson
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
The Canongate Strangler is a psychological thriller with supernatural overtones set in Edinburgh: the wynds and closes of the Old town, the Georgian facades of the new; the pubs; the Castle; Arthur’s Seat… Edward Middleton, a respectable lawyer, finds himself strangely involved in a series of murders. Horrified, he at first tries to explain, then to prevent, their headlong progress – but who is the man the press are calling ‘The Canongate Strangler’?
Published by Dog & Bone in 1990. Copies are available from Amazon.
When I wrote The Canongate Strangler I believed it to be science fiction, upon the basis that the plot rests upon a very common theme in SF literature, the speculative possibility that telepathy, or extra-sensory perception, may exist. However, I appear to be almost alone in this view, and it is more commonly regarded as a psychological thriller, an example of the crime or horror genre. I have no objection to this, as my interests have now moved away from science fiction in the direction of crime and general fiction.
After the indifferent treatment of The Krugg Syndrome within the Murdoch organisation, I was delighted when my book was accepted by Dog & Bone, a brave new publishing venture undertaken by a small group of Glasgow residents, including the lawyer Angela Mullane, the science fiction writer Chris Boyce and the writer and artist Alasdair Gray, who was responsible for the book design and cover art. Alasdair got me to sit for the front cover illustration, the removal of my glasses and the resulting myopic stare giving me a fiendish look appropriate for a psychopathic killer. The result was an enormous improvement upon the cover of my previous novel.
Unfortunately, Dog & Bone got into financial difficulties and went out of business not long after the publication of my book, which limited the number of sales. Nevertheless, the novel received a number of excellent reviews and I even heard from a work colleague that it had been a set text for her son’s English class at school, prompting a friend of mine to make an observation about corruption of the young.
“A gripping and highly original psychological thriller.” Glasgow Evening Times
“McAllister generates a vivid sense of one consciousness battling to stop itself splitting in two and uses his Edinburgh – old alleys, steep stairs, modern discos and pubs – to great effect … Give the book half an hour in a shadowy room on a winter’s night and the hair will soon start to prickle at the back of your neck.” The Guardian
“… an enjoyable, compelling thriller. An added distinction is McAllister’s handling of the setting – and what better setting for such a story than schizophrenic Edinburgh?” Brian McCabe The Scotsman
“… a very fine first novel of acute originality … the superb, laconic, comic and grotesque closing sequences live up to the novel’s great models.” Professor Douglas Gifford Books in Scotland
“The unveiling of this mystery is gripping, and the city itself and its layers of society is well captured as Middleton – or is it he? – sinks into a morass of supernatural terror.” Edinburgh Evening News
“Angus McAllister … goes right to the heart of the Scottish doppelganger tradition with The Canongate Strangler, a tale of murder in Auld Reekie which invokes comparisons with Stevenson and, in that it shares with The Justified Sinner a climactic scene on Arthur’s Seat, James Hogg. Unreservedly recommended.” The Journal of the Law Society of Scotland
“The heightened evocation of Edinburgh’s gothic atmosphere lends an eerie sense of otherness, and the resolution manages a final unsettling twist that’s pleasing in its intelligent manipulation of narrative frames.” Paul J. Macauley Interzone