|Commentary on James Allan Matte’s latest work, The CAUL, A Trilogy
By Daniel Mangan, M.A., Nashua, NH
Jim Matte, one of the most distinguished polygraph innovators of our time, is already known world wide as the author of several definitive texts and numerous scholarly articles on polygraphy. His triad of textbooks, The Art and Science of the Polygraph Technique, Forensic Psychophysiology Using The Polygraph, and Examination and Cross-Examination of Experts in Forensic Psychophysiology Using The Polygraph comprises an unequaled body of reference material that has earned him tremendous respect within the polygraph and legal communities.
But now Jim is earning literary respect of a very different sort – this time for his prowess in the realm of fiction, which is brilliantly showcased in his newest work, The CAUL, A Trilogy. The CAUL – thusly named for a rare and storied protective membrane that envelopes one newborn infant in about a million – is a Herculean work of tremendous literary power and range. At over 1100 pages, it is a robust action-adventure odyssey of life, love and that never-ending battle for justice. And it’s beautifully interwoven with a touching fabric of faith that is sure to resonate warmly with anyone who has pondered “the right thing to do.”
The CAUL, A Trilogy consists of three separate books: Part I, Born With a Mission, Part II, Truth and Deception, and Part III, Good Vs. Evil. Make no mistake, there are undeniable autobiographical parallels between the trilogy’s hero, James Markham, and our own Jim Matte. This is hardly surprising, as Matte’s real-life background – including his years as a globe-trotting OSI and CID agent – is appropriately fertile ground for this epic work.
In the interest of convenience, I urge all of you to go to www.amazon.com where a comprehensive and appetite-whetting synopsis of Matte’s trilogy, along with a complimentary review by New York Times best-selling author Ellen Tanner Marsh, awaits. When you get on the Amazon home page, simply search on the terms Matte and Caul (simultaneously) and the proper page will be instantly available. I invoke this short-cut to allow me more time within my own commentary to better describe the compelling polygraph-centric “story within a story” that so artfully unfolds within The Caul, A Trilogy. About halfway through Part II, Truth and Deception, and continuing throughout Part III, Good Vs. Evil, the polygraph plays a critical role. Again, I emphasize that much of the trilogy’s subtext is highly reflective of Jim’s actual experience, including the inspired development and countless successful implementations of his Quadri-Track Zone Comparison Technique. For those of you unfamiliar with this superior variant to the time-honored Backster system, The CAUL provides a solidly educational – yet highly entertaining – tutorial on the Quadri-Track technique. By the way, the seminal field study of the Quadri-Track ZCT was one of only seven field studies accepted by the NAS in its 2003 report, The Polygraph and Lie Detection. For any examiner interested in the betterment of polygraph in general, and improving his own craft in particular, this is must-read material. In a word, it’s riveting.
Now before the DoDPI/Utah camp scrambles to regurgitate their talking points damning so-called complex scoring rules, “invalid” tracing features, and the use of symptomatic questions to suppress inconclusives, before they trot out the “defensible dozen,” their new-found affinity for asymmetrical scoring, and the joy of algorithms, let me alert you to what I see as the quintessential moral of Matte’s poignant “story within a story” relative to the polygraph profession…
As members of an organization that is “dedicated to truth,” it is our solemn obligation to render the most ethical and objective service possible. For some people, especially, perhaps, those employed in a politically sensitive or a heavily rule-bound environment, putting their reputation on the line because it’s “the right thing to do” can be difficult. Recently, during a spirited discussion with an attorney about the probabilities of DI and NDI vis-à-vis scoring algorithms, I found myself flashing back to a passage found in the trilogy’s second part, Truth and Deception. Here’s the set-up: The protagonist, James Markham, has just been curtly reminded by a vaunted government researcher that a certain preferred algorithm makes the best use of those features most frequently found in tracing analyses, while, in the interest of efficiency, ignoring lesser-seen tracing attributes. Markham replies: You tell that to the poor innocent examinee who just happens to produce one of those rare features not included in your computer algorithm on the control questions that would exonerate him.
Speaking for myself, I don’t care nearly as much about efficiency as I do about truth. And truth, most certainly the pursuit of it, is what much of Matte’s trilogy is all about. In short, this is a work that will hit home with each and every one of us.
Whether you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Backsterite, a lock-step DoDPI follower, or simply an open-minded believer in the theory of “validated principles,” you owe it to yourself to read The Caul, A Trilogy. Personally, I hope Jim’s epic ignites a firestorm of passionate and healthy debate about polygraph, as such discourse, civilly conducted, benefits us all.
Go to Amazon and take a look at The CAUL. The site has a feature that lets you peek inside the books and actually sample their text. My commentary here was designed to focus on the “story within the story” because it’s extraordinarily meaningful to those of us in the polygraph community. But in terms of the bigger literary picture, Jim’s trilogy is a flat-out page-turner – an exhilarating and satisfying ride from start to finish. You will not be able to put The CAUL down.
And one more thing…it would make one hell of a movie!
Dan Mangan is an Associate Member of the American Polygraph Association. He is in private practice in New England.