Here’s a question for you. Which Golden Age crime novel begins at a football match in a working class town, and features a footballer as its protagonist? Not a book by Sayers, Christie or Dickson Carr, you can bet your bottom dollar! The answer is a book that I found a very enjoyable and breezy read when a kind friend lent it to me recently.
Bruce Hamilton, brother of the more celebrated Patrick, is an author who has long interested me, and I’m delighted to feature his debut novel as today’s Forgotten Book. This is Hue and Cry, originally published by the Crime Club in 1931, and the footballer is young Tom Payton, who kills one of his club’s directors in a drunken rage, and then goes on the run.
There’s no mystery at all about whodunit – the real question is whether Tom will get away with it. He flees to London, where he gets mixed up with a prostitute, and then with a kindly Jewess who offers him sexual comfort as well as board and lodging. Tom is definitely not a Peter Wimsey type, and Hamilton’s radical politics are in evidence at key moments of this book.
Hamilton keeps up the pace from start to finish, and as he piles the pressure on Tom, the reader finds it almost impossible (well, this reader did) not to hope that he will escape the consequences of his crime. There are some nice touches of satire in the book, too, and overall, it is a real pity that Hamilton’s policy of avoiding formula in his writing meant that his career as a crime novelist never had the success that I, at least, think he deserved. His work does have flaws, but it is genuinely interesting.