UK True Crime With A Spin
Review by Kim Cantrell
In 1924, a serial killer was born in Glasgow, Scotland. His name was Archibald Thomson Hall.
Hall, who later would rename himself Roy Fontaine, would begin traveling a path to life imprisonment at the age of sixteen; his story beginning with a seduction by his mother’s friend and a raid of the family’s military based home in search of the Nazi memorabilia he collected, despite a world at war against the Germans.
From there Hall/Fontaine would engage in petty thievery and homosexual prostitution, all the while maintaining heterosexual affairs with naive women willing to open their wallets to him; these affairs just a mild inconvenience to his legitimate romances with a string of men.
Taking employment as a butler in various estates, he would use position to plot his next heist. Yet Hall/Fontaine would eventually make the leap from burglarizing butler to serial killer. His victims included his lover and cohort, David Wright, former British Parliament member Walter Scott-Elliott and wife, Dorothy Scott-Elliott, and his brother Donald McMillan Thomson Hall.
If not the keen eye and high suspicions of a hotel clerk, it can only be imagined how many more people would have died at the hands of Hall/Fontaine.
In his 2011 true crime book The Monster Butler, author A.M. Nichol puts a new spin on a genre without a lot of room for flair.
In the first of three parts, Nichols takes excerpts from Hall/Fontaine’s 1999 autobiography To Kill and Kill Again: The Chilling True Confessions of a Serial Killer, creating essentially a recounting of crimes in first person. The second portion of the book, details the crimes based on news reports, interviews, police reports, and forensics with a sprinkling of author commentary on his personal observations. And in the third and final section of The Moster Butler, Nichol explores the heredity versus environment debate of serial killers – was Hall/Fontaine simply insane, or could it have been factors of an unhappy childhood and lack of identity that created a killer?
Scottish attorney A.M. Nichol has a truly deep understand of the criminal mind as is evidenced by his ability to see through the fantasies of a killer and reconstruct the events based on indisputable forensics to get to the truth. And the final section is an intense, thought-provoking dialogue about what makes a murderer.
Prior to reading The Monster Butler, I was unaware that Nichol was a solicitor – which, as regular readers, I often times avoid due to their writing styles. However, I am happy to report that, while Nichol waxes eloquently about Hall/Fontaine, he does not do so arrogantly – simplistic yet thorough but doesn’t require a legal degree to get read.
I really enjoy venturing outside the U.S. true crime market; there’s so much fresh material that most often I know nothing about because it hasn’t broadcast repeatedly on every channel in the 24-hour cable news channel line-up.
Last, but not least, I give a kudos and applause to U.K. publishers for their use of color photographs. I realize that it increases printing costs but it’s so nice to see such a clear image to assist in my reading. The higher price is not a deterrent to me as I see that I am paying for quality over quantity. (Hint! Hint! to American publishers!)