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Luna Lovegood and the Monster Butler


I don't know if any of my fellow Luna fans are still lj friends, but this may be of interest. As it's about Hollywood-inspired crime and we're in the wake of the Aurora shooting, it may be of interest to many people:

Monster Butler: Inside the Mind of a Serial KillerMonster Butler: Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer by A.M. Nicol

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s a testament to my love of Luna Lovegood that I bought and read this book. What does a study on a serial killer have to do with Luna Lovegood? Well, as any fan can tell you, the actress who played Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter films is co-starring in a film called “The Monster Butler,” which is based on the life of this serial killer. She will be playing Fiona Carrick-Smith, the daughter of an aristocrat whose family hires “the monster butler.”

I bought the book because I wanted to learn about this Fiona, but as she’s not mentioned in the book at all, I have to conclude that she didn’t exist. The film claims to be “based on the life” of Archibald Hall, which means parts will be pure fiction. Actually, after reading this book, I wouldn’t be surprised if the film was entirely fiction. It all depends on whose version of the story you believe.

First, the facts. “The Monster Butler” was born in Scotland in 1924 as Archibald Hall. As a teenager, he showed violent tendencies and kept a shrine of Nazi paraphernalia in his home. (It would be incorrect to call it memorabilia. The Nazis were actually in power when Hall was a teenager.) He committed series of thefts that landed him in jail, where he began having homosexual sex. After his release, he decided to upgrade his thievery by landing butler posts in posh homes and robbing his employers. To do this, he developed a more suave persona and renamed himself Roy Fontaine, the surname taken from actress Joan Fontaine. Eventually, he killed five people and was caught shortly afterward. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and died in 2002.

While in prison, Hall/Fontaine wrote two books about his life, A Perfect Gentleman and To Kill and Kill Again. The first part of this book summarizes his account. He describes discovering at a young age that he exuded powerful personal magnetism, resulting in his having many lovers of both sexes. He portrays himself as a clever, sophisticated jewel thief who was able to outwit his victims and the law at every turn. He was even involved in some political intrigue with the Soviets! He paints his first murder as self-defense and then blames the cruel treatment he’d received in jail for turning him into a murderer.

The second part of the book pokes holes in the story. A.M. Nicol, the author of the book, is a criminal defense attorney in Scotland, and he does a creditable job of it by comparing police reports to Hall/Fontaine’s various accounts of himself, which are, of course, contradictory in themselves. You don’t have to get too far in this section of the book before you’re convinced that Archibald Hall is a megalomaniac and a liar. He was not anywhere near as suave or as clever as he believed himself to be. After all, he was caught numerous times. This section also includes some of Hall/Fontaine’s own written confessions, and judging by them, he was so illiterate that he had to have worked with a ghost writer on his books. So probably the only one who believed in “Roy Fontaine, master jewel thief” was Archibald Hall himself.

And then we get to the third part, the “Why Did He Do It?” section. And here is where the book went from 3 to 4 for me. The first chapter of this section, which is all about Hollywood, deserves a 5. Aside from renaming himself after a movie star, Hall/Fontaine copied many plot elements from popular movies of the day in the stories of his escapades, the intrigue with the Soviets being one of them. The book names quite a few of them: “To Catch A Thief” in which a debonair jewel thief played by Cary Grant ends up with the high society girl, Grace Kelly; “Raffles” the beloved butler turned thief. Naturally, all this affected me especially strongly because of the massacre in Aurora, CO. Let me quote from the book:

Studies show that a link exists between a reliance on film media for information and the propensity for criminal behavior. The greater the reliance, the greater the possibility. . . It goes without saying that the effect is greatly magnified if there is already some mental imbalance. While that certainly seems to have applied to Fontaine, there are other known examples. John Hinckley was convinced that his attempt to murder President Reagan would impress Jodie Foster and would lead him to having a relationship with the female star of “Taxi Driver.” American serial killer Joel Rifkin, who murdered seventeen women between 1989 and 1993, was said to be infatuated by Hitchcock’s 1972 film “Frenzy,” from which he gleaned some practical hints about the mechanics of murder. When eventually arrested, he was found to have Noxzema cream smeared on his moustache to combat the stench of the decaying corpse found in the back of his pick-up truck, an idea imported from the 1991 film “The Silence of the Lambs.” Undoubtedly, then, Fontaine was neither the first nor the last case of such media-inspired delusions.

Anyone still with me? Does that not shake you up? I went so far as to write a letter to Dark House Productions today, the name of the film company producing “Monster Butler,” urging them not to show the film. I fear they’ll be portraying Roy Fontaine, not Archibald Hall. Roy Fontaine, after all, was a Hollywood creation. His story is much more glamorous and dramatic than the sordid truth of Archibald Hall.

Then there are the actors to consider. The actor playing Fontaine is Malcolm McDowell, whose most famous role was Alex in “A Clockwork Orange.” Among the copycat crimes that film inspired was a gang rape so sick and violent that the director himself had the movie removed from the theatres! It wouldn’t surprise me if the guilt stemming from that incident was a major cause of Malcolm McDowell’s own bout with alcoholism. And the victim will be “Luna Lovegood,” a character probably best loved by female fans who identify with her because we were weird, teased, and lonely. . . easy prey for creepy guys who identify with the sociopathic Alex. I hate to say something to hurt Evanna Lynch’s career, but I hope they cancel the film. I’m afraid it will give Roy Fontaine all the posthumous glory Archibald Hall dreamed of.

View all my reviews


Jul. 30th, 2012 03:00 pm (UTC)
I nearly brought up Asperger's, which is probably how she would be diagnosed if a therapist really wanted to label her with something.

I have a theory that Asperger's and psychopathy are closely related...this has to do with MRI/brain function things I read when I was in the mode to study this more hardcore. Unfortunately that was several months ago, and I don't remember all the specifics.

I don't believe the psychopaths/sociopaths understanding is intuitive, so much as learned. (I believe partly as a defense mechanism.) I was skimming back through Dr. Hare's website, and found one article that suggested they might be blind to (or have more difficulty recognizing) certain facial signals like fear and sadness but understand angry, happy, and some others like that.

Psychopaths/sociopaths are often considered good manipulators, but that could just as easily be explained by the detachment aspect. Sometimes it's much easier to observe people when you can figuratively watch them from a distance. You may miss subtle nuiances, but you get a better understanding of over all patterns of behavior. (Which seems to fit Luna's more insightful moments into others.) The violent bursts associated with psychopathy are probably born of frustration as much as anything, because they run up against some wall that doesn't fit the logic pattern they rely on.

Now, Luna's not violent. She's about as nonviolent as they come, which is why she would get the Asperger's label instead. But I think this has to do with; first, she was trained by her parents to approach problems in a peaceful and open minded way and think of them as puzzles rather than walls; two, she intellectually understands the power of love and importance of other people, so she doesn't need to rely on emotional understanding; three, she's female and society does not encourage and reward violent behavior in females the way it does in males. (The last goes towards explaining why there seems to be a predominance of male psychopaths, simply because women are less likely to be encouraged to be violent or unemotional, so it's harder to mark them through behavior.)

I'm using the word empathy/empathic to describe someone who can easily share the emotions of others. An empathic person easily picks up on the feelings of others in the room. Luna is caring and loving, but I don't think she's empathic. Once she understands, she'll act in a way to be as helpful and kind as possible, but it's because she cares and understands certain deeper truths, not necessarily because she shares the emotion.

Agreed Autistic people don't necessarily have trouble feeling emotion. Many of them just have trouble with the cues.

People with Asperger's seem to have a little more difficulty with emotions themselves, finding it more natural to think through a situation than feel through it.

Psychopaths are also logical processors. Not in the sense that they're necessarily smarter, but they approach life like a Vulcan, thinking rather than feeling their way through things. While they have some emotions, they don't have them on the same scale or frequency that a "normal" person might, and when suddenly they feel a strong surge of emotion, they're less equipped to deal with it.

(My comment got too long.)

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