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The Monster Butler. Allen Nicol Paperback – April 18, 2011
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About the Author
Allan Nicol studied history and law before qualifying as a solicitor in Scotland in 1980. He worked in private practice in Glasgow before joining the Procurator Fiscal service as a prosecutor in the west of Scotland for twelve years. He called at the Scottish Bar in 1993, where he continues to practice.
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Archibald Hall went by the more exotic sounding name of Roy Fontaine. Fontaine/Hall was born in Glasgow in 1924 and by the age of fifteen, he was a thief and burglar. In prison, he studied etiquette and the aristocracy and on his release, found work as a butler; and ended up returning to prison numerous times for further thefts.
Hall/ Fontaine progressed from stealing jewellery to murder; and shot, suffocated, strangled, drowned and poisoned his five victims. The tabloid press dubbed him "The Monster Butler" and he was one of the last remaining offenders in England serving a whole life tariff until his death in 2002.
Author Allan Nicol's book The Monster Butler turns the spotlight on Hall's life and tests the veracity of his claims in his own books.
Many may never have heard of Hall. Perhaps unsurprisingly so since at the time of his crimes, the country was still reeling from the murders attributed to the Yorkshire Ripper; and in Scotland in particular, the brutal rape and murder of two teenage girls in Edinburgh, dubbed the "World's End Murders", a case which is still very much an ongoing matter for the Scots legal system more than 30 years later. These crimes undoubtedly eclipsed Hall's own horrific acts.
Nicol has clearly done his homework and researched thoroughly the crimes and claims of Hall. Subsequently, the first quarter of the book succinctly outlines Hall's exploits as detailed in A Perfect Gentleman and To Kill and Kill Again by none other than Hall himself. The lion's share of The Monster Butler is taken up with Nicol's dissection of Hall's assertions and analysis of his crimes, using proven facts and empirical evidence, revealing the truth of the matter and showing Hall not as the self-styled gentleman thief he would have the media and public believe, but as a narcissistic cold-blooded killer who let nothing and no one stand in his way. Hall's victims included a former Member of Parliament and his own brother: the first known "chloroform murder" in British history.
The closing stanza of the book is in effect, a whistle-stop tour of Hall's potential inspirations for his delusions from the silver screen and a brief analysis of his background, attempting to reveal possible reasons for his psychopathic behaviour in later life.
There are those who will not enjoy this book and would prefer the glossier version provided by the killer himself in his own tomes where he paints himself as a victim of circumstance and some sort of Raffles-type criminal. Nicol exposes the truth and dashes many of Hall's claims as exaggerations, boasts or downright lies.
As with Manuel- Scotland's First Serial Killer, Nicol's previous book, the author brings to bear his 30 years experience as a legal practitioner but does not utilise a writing style that is impenetrable or full of so-called "legalese" and at a little over 200 pages long, The Monster Butler is a thorough yet concise study of the life of a man who exemplifies the real horror that exists in society; and the subject matter of which is currently providing the basis of a film starring Dominic Monaghan (Lost, Lord of the Rings, The Day), Gary Oldman (Dracula, Leon, The Fifth Element, Batman Begins) and Malcolm McDowell (Clockwork Orange, Doomsday, Rob Zombie's Halloween) will star as Hall/ Fontaine.
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 understanding 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!)