Michael Alexander speaks to American bounty hunter Christian Matlock, originally from Angus, who stars in a BBC Scotland documentary being screened next week.
Driving along the highway in Virginia Beach on America’s Atlantic coast, Christian Matlock puts on the Johnny Cash version of Ain’t No Grave – a famous gospel song about resurrection which he describes as the “theme song to my life”.
It’s an apt tune for the tattoo-covered, 6ft 2 inches tall 28-year-old who could be movie-star casting for the role of a US bounty hunter.
But this former bad boy from Brechin is the real deal – and in a BBC Scotland documentary being screened on Monday night, he cites his chaotic early life in Angus for giving him the skills to do the dangerous job he does now, hunting and apprehending fugitives who have skipped bail.
“A lot of my past definitely helps because a lot of my job is being able to talk to people and somehow understand what they are going through at the time,” he explains.
“If they’ve got drug problems, drink problems, family problems, I can relate to a lot of that.
“In Scotland my life was heading in the wrong direction. I was doing week long drink and drug parties and a lot of ecstasy because there was nothing else to do. My run-ins with the police were getting more and more frequent.
“If I hadn’t got out I would probably be in jail.”
The fly-on-the- wall film, The Scottish Bounty Hunter, follows gun-toting Christian as he pursues fugitives on the run in the drug-ravaged lands of his adopted homeland in the north east USA.
The film delves below the stereotype of a Bail Enforcement Agent to show the unique relationships he builds with some of the people he comes across, from offenders with drug addiction to their families striving to get back to a normal life.
It takes him through some of the most deprived areas of Virginia where everyone he pursues is either a criminal, a suspect or simply at the end of their luck.
The film also follows him back to Brechin where he reflects on his youth and catches up with old friends, many of whom, he is emotional to discover, “haven’t moved on”.
He is saddened to see how Brechin, in his view, has “fallen apart” and become a “really sad town now”.
Despite enjoying his return visit to Scotland, the former Brechin High School pupil who was brought up as Christian Allday by his mother Lesley, told The Courier how moving to America to find his former Edzell-based American Marine father Ricky Matlock, when he was 21 probably saved his life.
“I was at the point where I was getting into a lot of trouble in Scotland,” he explains in an interview from his home in Virginia Beach.
“I couldn’t find a job – plus I’d always thought Americans looked a lot cooler in the movies, so I thought I’d give it a try!”
Christian explained that he became a bounty hunter by accident whilst working on security at a bar.
Far from, being like Colt Seavers (Lee Major) in the 1980s US drama The Fall Guy, a bounty hunter turned up looking for a man on the run, and before he knew it, Christian had paid $US 600 to enrol in a week-long bounty hunter school to learn about the law.
Today, Christian is contracted by bandsmen – moneylenders who offer to cover bail money for people who can’t afford it in exchange for a 10% commission. This can range from a few hundred dollars to 10s of thousands of dollars.
If the accused fails to appear in court, the bandsman loses the entire sum unless a bounty hunter like Christian can track the fugitive down.
Yet Christian insists he is “not your typical bounty hunter”. And sometimes he has to disguise his Scottish accent so he doesn’t get identified.
He says: “Don’t get me wrong. Every boy, every man wants to have that gun and they want to be kicking in doors and being all tactical. It’s exciting being like that. But I prefer to be a more undercover detective kind of guy.”
Christian, who has been clean from drink and drugs for six years, reveals that heroin is “really bad” in the area of Virginia where he lives.
Around 80% of the jobs he gets involve fugitives with a drugs background and more than 800 people die in the state each year from heroin or opiate overdoses.
Christian, who holds dual American and British citizenship, puts the spiralling rise of drugs in Virginia down to many people not being able to afford medicine via health insurance and becoming hooked on cheaper heroin instead.
But he admits he does often feel for the people he is hunting down – and as someone whose life is put at risk every time he goes out the door, he doesn’t know how much longer he can live with the long, stressful, anti-social hours of the job.
“I am currently one of the longest serving bounty hunters, but it’s not something anyone can do long term,” he says.
“I wouldn’t mind a normal life sometimes. It runs you thin.
“I have tried to get out of it a couple of times but I can’t seem to stop doing it.
Producer/director Matt Pinder said: “It was all a bit surreal. I couldn’t believe (and still can’t!) that a 28-year-old self-confessed former bad boy from Brechin in the North East of Scotland had turned his life around so completely and was now running about America with a gun, arresting people.
“This is very much a film about Christian’s unusual and fascinating life; the people he works with, the scrapes he gets into and the truly unique relationships he develops with some of his ‘clients’. “He opened a window onto some heart breaking and tragic stories about drug addiction and broken families which, more than anything is what I’ll remember from making this film.”
*The Scottish Bounty Hunter is on BBC One at 10.40pm on Monday February 13.