• Highlander book
    Garry Kilworth


"There Can Be Only One"

The battle rages across the centuries, from the wind-scoured Sahara to the wild Russian steppes to the rocky crags of Scotland. And only one Immortal can survive.

MacLeod is the Highlander. A Scottish clan warrior from the 16th century, he was taught the deadly arts by an ancient mentor, who then suffered the only wound that can end an Immortal's life: decapitation.

Now, seven lifetimes later, MacLeod faces the final test. The Kurgan, his ancient adversary, has tracked him all the way to the streets of New York City.

The fight will be the same: blade to blade. Only the outcome is in doubt. Will the Highlander win? Or will the Kurgan's scimitar stop him with a blow that will plunge the earth itself into an era of darkness and chaos?

Based on the cult film classic.

The book follows the plot of the original film, although it was possibly based on the original script rather than the final theatrical version. It includes a few additional scenes, including the story of how Connor met Kastagir and a scene depicting how Connor met and came to marry Heather after he was driven from his clan. There are also additions to other scenes, such as a brief scene of the aftermath of Ramirez's death where Connor returns to the croft to find the aftermath. It also elaborates on the backstory of The Kurgan. Several of the ideas contradict later information from the series, probably due to the novel being written before the series began.

  • The immortals are said to grow to a certain point and then stop aging, rather than the violent death triggering of immortality.
  • The Kurgan is described as having been attacked by his father with a blow to the head that, had series canon been followed, might have left him a child immortal.
  • The Kurgan is said to be the oldest and strongest immortal, although we can retcon this quite easily given the fact that Methos was long believed a myth by the immortals.
  • Connor is surprised to learn of the possibility of two immortals from the same tribe, which could conflict with the existence of Duncan, although this is uncertain, given that no one is certain whether or not Connor was a foundling, and Duncan was definitely a foundling.
  • The novel includes the deleted WW2 scene of Connor rescuing Rachel from the Nazis, as well as the full version of the church scene, as opposed to the edited US version of that scene.

The novelization of the original Highlander film was published back in London in 1986 and written by Garry Douglas (Garry Kilworth). It was mainly based on the film’s final screenplay but also contained a few different scenes and tidbits of information that weren’t in the film or any draft of the screenplay.

The Book opens with a prologue set sometime before the battle between the Frasers and MacLeod’s where The Kurgan and another immortal known as the Mongol have just fought in a battle leaving only the two of them the only survivors. The two charge at each other on horseback ending with the Kurgan beheading both the Mongol and his horse in one powerful stroke with his sword. After receiving the quickening, the Kurgan proceeds to travel north to find Connor Macleod.

Before the Fraser and Macleod battle, Connor, Dugal and Angus visit the Frasers to try and make peace. Later as they ride back to their village, they are ambushed by five Frasers in the forest. The MacLeod’s manage to kill some of them while the rest flee into the woods. The MacLeod’s gathered their enemy’s fallen weapons and continues onwards to their village.

The fight between Connor and Fasil shows that Fasil’s fighting technique was learned from the Saracens during the crusades. Also in the fight, Fasil strikes a fuse box with his sword and is electrocuted temporarily.

Until recently, Brenda had lived with her father Peter Wyatt who owned a watch repair business. He is now retired in Florida and follows his interest in ancient weaponry. Peter is also attempting to trace his ancestry back to the 16th century poet whose name he shares. She also has a relationship with Detective Walter Bedsoe a while back.

The kurgan arrives in New York the following night rather than at the same time as Connor and Fasil’s fight. He is unsatisfied with the sex he had with Candy recalling a time during the time of the Borgia’s reign in Florence Italy when he got true satisfaction from a prostitute at that time.

Before the scene where Connor meets Brenda in the bar, the kurgan goes to Connor’s apartment and waits for him to show up. Eventually he gives up waiting and leaves. Brenda hides and waits outside the bar and follows Connor after he leaves (Like in the film). Connor doesn’t have his sword with him. He left it at home earlier. After Connor and Kurgan’s confrontation in the alley, Brenda asks Connor to walk her back home. But he instead gets her a taxi.

The banishment scene is expanded on in chapter 12. After reviving the next day and sees that his wound has healed, he calls out to Kate who runs from him. Getting dressed, he follows her to the local tavern where Kate accuses him of being in league with Lucifer. The other clansmen agree including Father Rainey and Connor finds himself yoked, beaten and forced towards a bonfire about to be burned at the stake. Angus intervenes and walks him out of the village as in the film. He travels the countryside and eventually breaks the ox yoke against a tree and travels south after staying inside a cave. After an arduous journey, he reaches a croft where he meets Heather MacDonald milking a cow and begs her for some milk. He father is suspicious of Conner but lets him work for him. Sometime between 1539 and 1541, Conner marries Heather and starts to work as a blacksmith following Heather’s father’s death.

The chapter delves into Kate’s fear of Connor which is partly due to her fear that she has slept with the devil and might be carrying his child (Devil’s seed). Father Rainey seems confused… unable to explain how a man with a mortal wound can be healed. We learn that Connor saved Dugal’s life once and that Angus is the chieftain and that’s why he can save Connor from the bonfire. It is a complete portrait of these people and the time they lived in. We also get Connor’s initial thoughts about Heather and why he remains at her father’s croft.

After Ramirez introduces himself to Conner, he takes him up a hill and introduces him to the quickening. NOTE: This scene was filmed but cut and re-edited. This is noticeable when Conner hunches over in-front of Ramirez when he feels the quickening. It then cuts to a wide-angle scene of him up on a hill receiving bolts of quickening energy in his hand as Ramirez stands nearby in the rain. The novel mentions that Ramirez waited for the storm (seen in the film) to develop and introduce himself. The concept of immortals and why they exist is mentioned by Ramirez who says that some are just born different. Not many (like in the series) but a few.

In the Book, Heather who has been weary of Ramirez and Conner’s talk about fighting and killing one another learns about his and Conner’s immortality and that staying with her would mean. he then plays his last card by telling her that there will be NO children. She however accepts this. She wanted children…but she had wanted them to be Conner’s. “If he canna have them… then that is the way of it” she tells Ramirez

The scene then shifts to Heather and Ramirez sitting and having wine while he tells her about his life and adventures like in the film. He speaks of trying to rescue a woman from another immortal and finishes the story in the film about swinging into the window… not finding the lady he sought and thus introducing himself to the lady he found there.

When Conner returns after the Kurgan kills Ramirez, he finds Heather crouched beside Ramirez’s body, she had placed the severed head back against the neck but Conner could see that he was decapitated. Heather doesn’t tell Conner about being raped and lies about running and hiding in the woods. They bury Ramirez within the keep where the ground has not frozen. In the chapter, Conner lives with Heather over the years like in the film till she dies of old age in 1587. Conner buries her next to Ramirez. Conner stays at the croft for two years before burning it down(Like in the film) and travelled to Edinburgh  where he learned to read and write and gather general knowledge. 1599 he travels to London where he lives for ten years. In the three and a half centuries, he fights in many wars. During the 18th century, he travels to the Far East and through the years he meets two other immortals whom he kills(The novel implies that these two were among his first with Fasil being his third though in later Comic book prequels to follow, he killed a few more). Conner often wishes he were normal. He didn’t want to die. But neither did he want to live forever.

In chapter 22 of the novel, a new scene is introduced and is set immediately after Conner leaves Brenda’s apartment after the failed stake out. After having a drink at a nearby bar, Conner boards a subway. He glances up at a stop and sees a “Black man in traditional African dress” who turns out to be Sunda Kastagir board the train and takes a seat at the end of the carriage. Two stops later, Several members of a street gang board the train and complain about some of the graffiti of a rival gang which Conner voices approval of while staring down that leader. As they discuss if Conner has a gun, Kastagir approaches and sits across from Conner. Conner at first didn’t recognize him at first but then did when he sat closer to him.

The street gang that pull out knives and close in for an attack. Kastagir and Conner swiftly draw their swords and stand back to back. The gang back off and leave the train at the next stop. Kastagir rises to leave and Conner suggest they meet tomorrow at the Bridge in Central Park at 2:30 to talk. Kastagir is wearer of Conner and declines at first saying it won’t do any good… ‘There can be only one.”. Conner asks again and Kastagir finally agrees. 

A flashback is then shown in the chapter set in South Africa, 1879 during the Zulu Wars where Macleod was serving in the 17th Lancers as a private soldier and Cetawayo’s superior numbers had decimated the group up until only fifty men remained. At dawn on the third day, The Zulu’s attacked the remnants near the river Singasi till only Conner was that only survivor. They put him in a cage and took him back to their village. After several days of feeding him to fatten him up, Conner soon realized that he was being fattened up for a fight with their best warrior. Kastagir shows up dressed in tribal garb and speaks to Conner and warns him that the warrior is also an immortal who will use a broad axe while he will have to use a spear. Conner expresses doubt that two immortals of the same tribe would be immortal as there are only a handful of them on earth. In the chapter, we learn that Kastagir is Ethiopian. Macleod tries to escape but is re-captured. On the day of the battle, Conner is led before Cetewayo and into the ring to face the tall Zulu champion. In the fight, Conner avoids the broad axe swings of the warrior. In a disparate move, He thrusts the spear into the champion’s chest in hopes that he can get a breather and manage to get the Axe away from him but only to notice that the champion was mortal. Cetawayo praises Conner and is led back to the cage. Later that night, Kastagir helps him escape and leads him to a British Camp.

The flashback is especially interesting in that it fleshes out Kastagir’s character and illustrates that Ramirez was not the only immortal who didn’t kill all others and that friendships were possible. It also showed that in the original concept that there was no Buzz… no way to know if a man was immortal unless he failed to die when he was killed. Death was not something immortals experienced at all.

In the next chapter, The two meet at the bridge like in the film followed by the flashback in Boston 1783 where Kastagir posed as an Eastern prince when he went with Conner to a party hosted by a Bostonian judge. Conner gets drunk and found himself chased by the ugly wife of a wealthy ship-owner named Basset. Attempting to escape her by hiding in a bedroom, Connor is found and the woman began to undress while she had him trapped. He finally called her a bloated warthog which upset her leading her to run to her husband and told him of the insult. He came to the bedroom and challenged Connor to a duel on Boston Commons. The rest we see in the film.

The two men realize they have nothing more to say. The hundreds of years since they met meant they had no real frame of reference to discuss. They have mentioned two meetings…talked of love lost…the lack of children…and the Kurgan. There is nothing more to say and they shake hands and part ways. The deleted scene of the two going to a nightclub and party along with Bedsoe who has been following Connor is not in the book or alluded to. They are portrayed as passive friends who could have a conversation without fighting.

After the Kurgan kills Kastagir and steals the old man’s car with his wife still in it, he zooms around the city for a couple of miles and then stops throwing the screaming woman off the hood. he later abandons the car and returns to the hotel where he dismantles the sword and puts the pieces into several pockets concealed inside a leather jacket. He goes to the bar where he and the bartender both listening to the news report of the new beheading and the reporter giving a description of the killer. The bartender recognizes him but is too intimidated and decides not say or does anything and then serves him another drink.

During the chicken race, the Kurgan slows down to turn a corner and at that moment, Brenda jumps out of the car and runs across the street to some guys and begs for help. Kurgan runs after her and when the guys get in his way, he easily knocks them out cold. Brenda continues running down the street as he chases after her. She screams for help but nobody helps her. Seeing a policeman, she runs to him. He is in the process of drawing his gun when the Kurgan flattens him literally with a tossed garbage can. picking Brenda up once again, the Kurgan continues the chicken race till he arrives at the silver cup building like in the film. The chapter sets up Brenda’s abduction slightly differently than in the film as the Kurgan is already inside of her apartment. It also gives a more complicated wild ride than the final version in the film.

The Kurgan’s background is given in the novel which includes the following; He was born the son of a peasant farmer on the shores of the Caspian Sea over 3000 years ago. He is among one of the oldest of the immortals. He had fought with the Tartars, Cossacks, Huns, Vandals, Goths and Visigoths. According to him, he preferred fighting on the side of the barbarian hordes over civilized armies.

The Kurgan reveals his earliest memories from when he was five years old and his father bashed his head in against a stone because he no longer wanted to feed the boy. The kurgan recovered within hours and secretly followed his father’s tracks back to the camp. When his father was asleep that night, he took a hot stone from the fire and put it in his father’s mouth, choking the man to death. He then went back to his family farm and told his mother that his father was killed by a bear. At 12, he left home and joined a group of bandits who attacked caravans that travelled across the steppes between India and the Mediterranean. he became skilled in using a slingshot. At the age of 25, he stopped aging and realized he was not growing older or be killed by mortal wounds. He finally learned of his potential when he met another Immortal, a Bedouin Arab magician who taught him the same thing that Ramirez taught Connor. The Arab foretold the gathering and prophesized that the kurgan would be one of the final immortals present. When the Kurgan had learned what he needed, he beheaded him and took the Arab’s sword, a Scimitar.

After the final battle and the prize,(which are pretty much the same as the film), Conner returns to his apartment and Rachel, giving her instructions and saying goodbye(Similar to the film when he left to fight the Kurgan) and tells her that he is leaving the country with Brenda. She is fearful of being alone. But he tells her she needs never be alone or afraid… that she has much to offer. He hates saying good-bye.

Good-bye my dearest Rachel. My daughter… my friend he tells her and leaves to start a new life.

They tour Scotland for two months and then open an antique shop in Camden Alley. on one occasion, he returns to the Scottish highlands alone and stares at the remnants of his home with Heather. There is no croft there but he finds a few stones from the fallen tor and locates Heather and Ramirez’s burial place and he fashions a crude cross out of two timbers. He then tells heather that she would like Brenda, she is much like you.

The novel ends with Conner staying until night fall confortable in the company of loved ones and the ghosts of his distant past.

Interesting, the prize is still not explained in the novel. But Conner feels complete for the first time in his life. If you recall... Ramirez had told him that immortals were tied to the life-force of all living things. Therefore, having won the prize… Conner feels strongly feels this connections. The film suggests that he is telepathic and now mortal (He can now grow old and die) and can have children. The book doesn’t say this. It does not suggest that he is now mortal. Only that he changed and that together Connor and Brenda will explore the changes. The novel seems to hint that while Connor might not have to fight another battle. There are still adventures out there waiting for him and things for him to discover.

“At long last he finds that he is not alone. That he has never been alone and that he is at rest with the thoughts of his immortality. He has come to finally see it not as a curse that causes him to endure but a gift that will allow him to experience a wonderful future” – Books epilogue.


  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: HarperEntertainment
  • Publish Date: (November 4, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061058408
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061058400