My latest entry in Patti Abbott’s series of Forgotten Books is a novel first published in 1983, John Hutton’s 29 Herriott Street. I read this, and Hutton’s other book, Accidental Crimes, not long after they first came out in paperback and I was greatly impressed. All the more amazing, therefore, that he did not go on to enjoy a long and distinguished career as a crime novelist.
29 Herriott Street takes some of its basic facts from that classic Liverpool murder story from the 30s, the Wallace case. Hutton, a Mancunian by birth, transplants the crime to his native city and develops the story in a fascinating, though fictional way. Forty years after the savage woman at Number 29, a writer called Winnick re-opens the case and uncovers (you guessed it!) dark and hideous secrets.
The reviews of this book were outstanding. No less a figure than A.S. Byatt admired it, and I share her enthusiasm for the ‘plain English skill of the telling.’ Hutton was a formidable talent. Accidental Crimes is equally good. Hutton is still alive, I believe, and in his 80s. He has lived in North Wales for years, and his career was devoted to education. He has long been a member of the CWA, but I’ve never met him – or even heard anyone mention his name - baffling. But he deserves to be recognised as a man who can write powerfully and engagingly. This book alone is proof of that.