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Aspects of a Psychopath

by Alistair Langston

(Telos Publishing, £8.00, 103 pages, paperback, published December 2003.)

Review by Christopher Teague

Or, it could be possibly subtitled: The Secret Diary of a Twentysomething Serial Killer.

With, I presume, lashings of inspiration from Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho) and John McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer), Langston's cover scan debut novella offers no psychological insight into the mind of such a person; it is merely highlighting the ordinary and hum-drum existence of a young man whose waking days are punctuated with the occasional bout of ultra-violence and murder.

Personally, the diary format of the book did not work for me--the events described therein held too much detail for the reader to believe that what happened had happened in the past; dialogue was remembered verbatim, murders recalled in perfect detail. For me, such an approach should be consigned to a more typical prose novella.

But did the book work as a horror tale? There was certainly no subtlety--the reader was told in all its gore and glory; guts and blood were described in unflinching detail. It was splatterifically splatterpunk--in your face, without any hint of the quaintness of, say, MR James.

Despite the fact that this is entirely fiction, there were occasionally lapses of incredulous behaviour--even for a psychopath. He revelled in his evasion of the police, and yet you ask yourself how he evaded for so long? Even when he murdered a young child whilst on a foreign holiday, surely the Spanish police aren't that inept? The protagonist waltzed out of the country without a care--great for the story, but realistic?

Characterisation was kept to the bare minimum, with your typical central casting and one-dimensional stereotypes, except--as you would expect--for the protagonist, into whom Langston did manage to inject a personality.

With all this in mind, and considering it was a first book, I expect to hear more of Alistair Langston. It was an enjoyable (if enjoyable is the right word) read, in a pulp 80s horror novel way (think Shaun Hutson), but if--as the title may suggest--you're after a more cerebral experience, then look elsewhere.

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