In 1826, a merchant called David Landale shot his bank manager dead in a duel. Two centuries later, one of his descendants, James Landale, explains why two rational, educated men might choose to resolve a dispute by shooting at one another. Using newly discovered archives, Duel reconstructs in vivid detail both the encounter and the circumstances surrounding it. Landale also tells the story of dueling itself, explaining where this extraordinary phenomenon came from, and why, in the middle of the nineteenth century, it suddenly lost its social legitimacy. Duel is an utterly engrossing narrative that explains to a modern reader why this curious thing called honour drive so many young men to an early death.


What could have been a somewhat dry book turns out instead to be an informative, fast-paced, entertaining read, full of fascinating facts and figures, including some truly bizarre duelling episodes throughout history.This is due to Landale's decision to interweave his ancestor's story - a gripping yarn dished out in suspense-filled measures - with the history of duelling itself.


...this rich territory is mined by Landale with great brio, and shrewd selection.

The Times (London)

Not only a compelling, colourful and entertaining take of death, honour and dueling but also a fascinating history of the rise and fall of the duel itself.

Simon Sebag Montefiore

Lively and illuminating. What lifts this book from intriguing anecdote to illuminating social history is the skilful way that the author interviews the particular details of this duel with reflections on the changing nature of duelling in general.

Financial Times (Scotland)

This absorbing book looks at not just the case, but the culture and history surrounding the utterly bizarre concept of the duel.

The Daily Mirror (London)

Duel is a gem, one of those books so delightful to read that you whizz through it in no time before recommending it to all your friends.

Mail on Sunday (London)

With the compellingly told narrative of his ancestor's lethal quarrel, James Landale has skilfully interwoven an account of the origins and development of duelling. He pays close attention to the early 19th century and narrates lively accounts of various duels, particularly that in which Pushkin met his death.

Scotland on Sunday

...a remarkable achievement.

The Sunday Telegraph

An intelligent, gripping read...

Time Out

... reading this book I had to abandon my normal practice of turning back the corners of pages where I came across a particularly fine or interesting passage-- I was turning back the corner of almost every page.

Toronto Star

About the Author

James Landale

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014
James Landale photo

James Landale

James Landale is Chief Political Correspondent for BBC News 24. Before joining the BBC in 2003, he spent ten years at The Times both as a political correspondent and a foreign news editor. He lives in London with his wife and family.