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Wednesday, 3 May 2017

The Fictional Psychopath

The Fictional Psychopath

an analysis of the serial killer Clive Philip Matteson

featured in West Quarry Farm

 While being interviewed about my latest novel, West Quarry Farm, the interviewer asked if my antagonist Clive Philip Matteson (Phil) would rate high on the psychopathic scale.
While I was aware of the criteria used to class someone as having an Antisocial Personality Disorder, I hadn't actually considered putting Phil Matterson's character to the test until now. 
(Disclaimer: I am an author of fiction. I don't profess to be an expert on psychological disorders - James Sillwood) 

Without giving away any spoilers, Phil, the antagonist of the story, is a serial killer on the loose in the southern counties of the UK. He meets Rebecca, an unsuspecting young wife and mother who is taken in by his charms. Meanwhile, Melanie Williams, a woman who has been tracking Phil for years, has located him in her home town of Brighton.
The story focuses on the points of view of these three characters.

To discover how Phil would score on the psychopathic scale I have taken the twenty personality traits which the psychologist Robert Hare outlines in his Psychopathy Checklist and compared them to Phil's thoughts and actions in the story.

From the moment Phil first meets Rebecca we see how he lays on the charm to get her on his side:

He gave her a knowing smile; pale blue eyes locked on to her gaze. With the slightest effort, his shoulder floated from its resting position [against the porch] and he extended his hand. “Hi, I’m Phil.”

There are many instances where Phil gives us an insight into his superior knowledge of all subjects. Here is one example:

The man, Phil, was standing next to the bookcase reading the cover of La Dolce Vita. He looked up. The lines at the corners of his eyes creased as he smiled. “This yours?” He held up the DVD.
Yes. My favourite. But it's scratched, so I haven’t been able to watch it for a . . . ”
You ever seen Fellini’s version of Casanova?”
Yes, I used to have a copy but I think it must have got lost in the move.”
Cool. Great direction, but don’t you think the scenes were a bit fragmented? Kind of distracted you away from the plot?”
His words flowed like a gentle river.

Phil is a drug dealer and takes risks with this activity. There are a number of occasions when Phil is shown to be driving recklessly and takes satisfaction from the knowledge that his passenger is scared by his action.

Apart from his car scam, Phil's ability to tell lies is second nature.
In need of a favour, he phones an ex girlfriend, Cassandra, after ignoring her for several weeks:

"You promised you'd call me after seven days," she continued.
"But didn't you get my letter?"
"What bloody letter?"
"From New York."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
Phil explained that only two days after they last met he had to fly over to the States to do a promotional tour and had only just returned today. "I only just got in at Heathrow this morning. You're the first person I've contacted since I got here."
He explained that the letter he wrote was asking if she would come over and join him in New York.
"I don't believe you. If that's true you would have written again. Or phoned me?"
After that, Cassandra hung up.
Phil came to the conclusion that he must have caught her at a bad time.

And here Phil tries to suggest he has gone out of his way to buy Rebecca a special gift to make amends:

He turned and gave her a big smile. In his hand was a DVD of La Dolce Vita, "Searched everywhere for it. I managed to find it in a little second-hand bookshop in Maidstone." He reached out to pass it over.
Rebecca refused to take it. "You didn't listen to a word I said on the phone this morning, did you?"
She picked up the DVD which he'd left on the table, opened the case only to find there was no disc inside. On the cover was written "Property of Susan Matteson" [Phil's mother]

Phil is conning potential buyers out of a deposit for his father's car which is not his to sell.
Of course, he also has a way of manipulating his victims. Not wishing to give away any spoilers, I will not relate them here. 

Apart from demonstrating a lack of remorse in torturing his victims, Phil, when recalling an earlier abduction, goes a stage further by finding the whole episode amusing:

He drained the last of his coffee and tried to remember the girl's name. That's it! Anouk.
An idea came into his head: Anouk on the hook. Why hadn't he thought of that before? The picture of her suspended from the gambrel in the curing room set him off. He doubled up with laughter.
The remaining customers turned away as Phil headed towards the door.
Anouk on the hook!” he bellowed as he stepped out into the street.

Phil appears to be helping a young and distressed girl at a coach stop on the M25, but he has another plan on his mind: 

He had been parked right at the back, near the coach area (no CCTV there). He'd been watching her for about five minutes; the same girl he'd seen at the drinks machine in the cafeteria. She was distraught, pacing up and down as if she was lost. He got out, walked around the lot and strolled back towards his car. For a moment, he didn't think she'd noticed him. He was passing by when she stopped him and asked if this was the right place for the National Express. The rest was easy. It seemed the coach had gone off without her (thoughtless bastards!) They had her suitcase on board. Her friend was meeting her in Brighton. "Did you call her to let her know you'll be late?" (He had to be sure). "No. She's at work and her mobile's switched off " (What a stroke of luck!). "Where is the next scheduled stop?" He pretended to share her concern. She checked her ticket "Somewhere called Crawley". "Tell you what, I'm going to Horsham," he lied. "I could give you a lift as far as Crawley, if you like?" (Big gallant smile). “But I'm picking my Mum up on the way.” For a moment, the girl hesitated. "We'll have to get a move on if we're going to catch up with your coach." (Good thinking Phil – she fell for it). The rest was easy. A race down the M23 (she gripping her seat all the way). He made up a story of having to dress the burn on his leg which was becoming painful and said he'd have to pull over into a lay-by (She seemed relieved). He opened the glove compartment, took out the bottle and cotton wad (she even watched him do it – what a laugh!) She struggled for a bit, but not for too long.

Here are Phil and Rebecca studying a column in a newspaper

Phil picked up a newspaper from the next table and read the headline on the front page, Pile-up on the A 30 – kills 5.
Who was responsible for that?” Phil pointed to the photograph which showed a hysterical mother watching her two children being carried away on stretchers.
That’s awful isn’t it.” Becky was leaning over his shoulder. (Becky, that’s it; stupid name for anyone over the age of twelve).
Yeah, they could have asked her to stand more to the left,” Phil said. “Then they would get a much better shot of the bodies – people love to see that kind of thing.”

At the age of twenty-seven Phil is unemployed and lives rent-free in the comfortable modernised extension of his parent's home. Here he is in his spacious loft conversion:

He'd been working on the video for less than ten minutes when a voice called from below the stairwell. “Can I come up for a minute?”
Shit! What’s she after? He paused the film and closed the viewing screen. “Yeah, sure.”
A letter for you.” His mother didn’t venture any further than the top tread of the stairs. She held out a white A4 envelope. “I just wanted to ask you," she hesitated. "You’re not in any trouble are you?”
No." Phil gave her a convincing smile. "Not at all. Why?”
It’s just that a couple of men called yesterday afternoon asking for you.”
Phil took the envelope and sauntered over to the bed. “Did they say who they were, or what they wanted?”
No. They were smartly dressed – you haven’t been up to anything?”
Anything?” He gave his mother a puzzled look.
Mrs Matteson looked down and picked at the hem of her sweater. “You know what I mean.”
Phil cocked his head to one side. “No, I can’t say I know what you mean."
His mother shook her head. She took a couple of steps down and turned to face her son. “Never mind what your father says, if you do leave home again, you will let me know before you go next time?”
Phil was now laying back on the bed, his eyes fixed on the ceiling beams. “Don’t worry, Mum. I’m not planning on going anywhere.”
She glanced towards the dining room below. “Your father says he’ll need the car on Saturday, so could you please clean it before then?”
Phil didn’t take his eyes away from the ceiling. He just smiled. “Okay, sure.”
With that, Mrs Matteson left The Stables and returned to the main house.

Although controlled, Phil shows unpredictable outbursts of aggression:

No sooner was the camcorder attached to the tripod, one leg began to retract. Phil leapt forward and stopped it crashing to the floor. He detached the camera, placed it carefully on the table and inspected the tripod. A screw was missing – impossible to replace. Holding the contraption between his finger and thumb, he, like the Kung-Fu hero of his childhood, kicked out with the sole of his bare foot sending it skidding across the floor to crash against the far wall of the room. “Bitch!”

Here is another situation. An unruly customer in a bar has been making abusive remarks to Phil and Rebecca. Unfortunately for the customer, he has chosen the wrong target:

Phil marched into the men's toilet and checked both cubicles were vacant. The man in Lycra was propping himself up with one hand against the wall as he relieved himself onto the urinal. With bleary eyes, he turned and watched Phil take the mop and jam the pole against the door handle.
What the fuck’s going –”
But the man wasn’t allowed to finish. In one swift movement, he was pulled away from the wall; the stream of urine soaking the front of his trousers as he desperately tried to regain his balance. But it was no use. With flaying arms, his head was thrown forward with such force that his nose made an audible crack as it came to meet the wall. Blood sprayed across the plain white tiles and into the metal trough below.
The man groaned and sank to his knees.
The first boot-fall landed into the soft area just below his ribcage. He began to howl; a sound which was abruptly blocked with a violent thrust of the knee to his throat. Before the poor man could right himself he was dragged into the nearest cubicle.
You know, I already told you. You really should learn some manners.” Phil lifted the man from the floor and pushed his head into the bowl. “Time to wash that foul mouth out!”

This is a difficult one. Phil enlists the aid of women to help entice his victims. He doesn't have sexual relationships in the "normal" sense but, like many serial killers, gets satisfaction from torturing his victims.

Melanie Williams has managed to discover a few occasions when Matteson had come to the attention of the police: a incident at his school when he and two other boys had stolen a car. and another at university when he was accused of sexual assault. There may have been occasions in his childhood when Matteson had been displaying signs of antisocial behaviour but these have not been reported.

Phil did not complete his degree at university. He had a short spell in the French Foreign Legion and has since held a position as technical assistant at a college. Mostly he has been gaining money through criminal activities. Phil Matteson has no long-term goals.

Most of his abductions are opportunistic. Here is an example where, at the risk of being caught, Phil attempts to pick up a potential victim in plain daylight from a busy train station:

It only took Phil three minutes from there to reach the top of Queens Road. Main line stations were always a possibility, but never easy. A girl was standing just outside the entrance – and she was alone. There were two other people across from her, a man with a laptop bag over his shoulder and a woman in a West Cornwall Pastry uniform. Both were smoking. Phil moved to the side where the girl stood. She couldn’t be more than sixteen, heavy make-up, skinny jeans. Phil met her nervous glance with a smile. It worked.
Can you give me a couple of quid for a coffee?” She had an accent – Northern maybe.
Yeah, sure,” Phil said. “Hey listen, I’m just going to buy a paper then something to eat in that café over there in a few minutes.” He pointed to the right of the station exit. “Fancy joining me?”
The girl eyed him suspiciously.
They do a wicked all day breakfast,” he said.
Her eyes brightened. “Okay then.”
Right, you wait here. I’ll be back in a minute.

This is shown throughout the story. Phil even makes a habit of intentionally turning up late for appointments, if he shows up at all.

Even after Rebecca has made it plain that she doesn't want to see him again, Phil turns up at her home and makes out that she is the one who wants them to continue with "the relationship":

Armed with a pair of pruning shears and a bin liner Rebecca, on her hands and knees, set to work clearing the deadwood. She had just started in the far corner when she was aware of someone behind. She turned in time to see Phil making his way up the path. Just before he reached the front door he turned to her and smiled. "Coming in Becky?"
What the hell does he think he's doing! Rebecca sprang to her feet. But too late: he was already inside. He was half way into the hall before she caught up with him.
"Did I say you could come in?" she demanded.
He turned to face her. "Well, not exactly. But your front door was open."
Rebecca's jaw dropped. She was so taken aback, she couldn't think what to say. She wondered if Amy was still asleep in the next room.
"Anyway," Phil continued as he stepped into the lounge. "You were complaining that you couldn't wait to see me. So, here I am."
"What I said was," she paused, feeling the blood rush to her cheeks. "I did not want to see you again . . . "
He turned and gave her a big smile. In his hand was a DVD of La Dolce Vita, "Searched everywhere for it. I managed to find it in a little second-hand bookshop in Maidstone." He reached out to pass it over.
Rebecca refused to take it. "You didn't listen to a word I said on the phone this morning, did you?"

Phil has never been married. His longest relationship with a woman only lasted a few months.

As already stated in 12. EARLY BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS

This doesn't apply as Phil has never been detained in prison.

As mentioned before, in addition to sexual assault, Phil is involved in fraud (extracting deposits for his father's car) and drug dealing.

For further description of these 20 items see: Robert Hare Checklist 

It is no surprise that, after completing a few of the self-assement Antisocial Personality Disorder tests online, Clive Philip Matteson rated very high on the psychopath scale.
Of course, these self-assesment tests are not to be taken as an accurate method of determining psychopathy and, if I had the opportunity, I would suggest Phil seek professional advice. (On second thoughts, I would just stay well clear of him!)

WestQuarry Farm is availlable in paperback and as an ebook from most online booksellers.