The question that haunts Ian Alexander MacDuffy is why the playwright Campbell McCluskie was murdered at 10.30 p.m. on Wednesday 16 June 1954, for that was the very moment that Ian’s mother died giving birth to him. The coincidence suggests that some universal meaning may lie behind that gratuitous and painful event. Ian tries to uncover every detail of Campbell’s short but colourful life: the guilt-ridden hypocrisy of his grandfather; his father’s success as a shoe manufacturer; his childhood in Clydebank; the death of his favourite aunt; his bewildering role in the D-Day landings; his post-war success as a playwright; his passionate and eventful love life; his ambiguous relations with the criminal underworld; his violent death – because as Campbell himself wrote, in his inimitable style, ‘It’s all down tae patterns and figures; if you can decipher them, then Auld Nickie-Ben’ll dance tae your tune.’
Cover art by Andy Kinnear
The Tragicall History of Campbell McCluskie
‘Alistair McNaught’s ingenious fictional biography brings to life not only slain playwright McCluskie but also the mid-twentieth-century Glasgow he inhabited. McCluskie’s literary career, social life and erotic escapades are vividly evoked against a backdrop of smoke-filled bars, sombre tenements, and back streets haunted by prostitutes and razor gangs.’
'Alistair McNaught explores his world with a forensic eye, and the minute descriptions of rooms, streets, clothes, objects, made for a really immersive read. It felt as if all the inanimate objects had their own mysterious existence, that was just as important as the human characters'. This atmospheric, humorous and endlessly inventive book takes as one of its central preoccupations the unattainability of women - through death, separation, incompatibility, estrangement - and examines the effects on the men around them.'
'Replete with a delicious humour and an unerring eye for the extraordinary in the detail ... this is a magical jewel of a book wrought with intricacy, many smiles and at heart an awareness of the human condition and all of life's peculiar little twists and turns.'