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Sanctuary from the dragon

Novel (288 pages, 82,980 words)

This book was the third of the six that Canning wrote as "Alan Gould". It was published by Collins in 1938. A new edition has just been published by The first edition is now extremely hard to find.

The action takes place in a fictional village called Hartsden in Kent, exact location not specified other than it is several days walk from Maidstone and not on the coast. Three men, an out-of-work electrician, a depressed shop-walker escaping from his family and a disillusioned upper-class gent, converge on an old manor house to ask the caretaker for shelter during a storm. They stay on to help the old man with his chores and to collaborate with the vicar who is trying to re-establish an ancient local ceremony commemorating St George and the Dragon.

The electrician falls for the teacher in the village school and she for him. Meanwhile the villagers increasingly resent the three men, whom they see as intruders and freeloaders. There is a tense climax when a village girl falsely accuses one of the men of rape and a lynch mob sets off for the house.

There is some social commentary on the evil of unemployment, and we know that Canning's father had lost his job at the car plant in Cowley in 1930, so Canning had some direct experience of this. Most of the book's message, however, is about village communities and their suspicions of outsiders.


Sanctuary first
First edition
Sanctuary at Lulu
New edition
available from
Index of characters,
locations and themes
in preparation

My thanks to Sara Williams of Yesteryear Books in Dunstable for help with locating a first edition dust jacket.