The Monster Butler by A. M. Nicol (March 2011)

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!)

The Monster Butler released in the U.K. in March 2011 and is now available to U.S. readers by way of Amazon.