Right Riveting Read: Jeremy Hutchinson’s Case Histories, by Thomas Grant
If you’ve ever felt disadvantaged by imperfect knowledge of the events that shaped the second half of the twentieth century; ever been party to a conversation where people of a certain age make knowing reference to mysterious characters and events like the Blake spy case, Profumo, or Keeler; or your shaky grasp of recent history and literature has ever been exposed. Don’t worry, it happens to us all! Right now, earnest pundits who’ve never even cracked the spine of 1984 are referencing doublethink, newspeak, and the Ministry of Truth, in support of their opinions about fake news! But all is not lost. Here is your chance – through one man’s career – to join up the dots of modern social history.
Jeremy Hutchinson was one of the greatest criminal barristers of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. His cases of the period changed society and provide an enthralling exploration of Britain’s post-war social, political and cultural history. From the sex and spying scandals that hastened Harold Macmillan’s resignation in 1963, to the struggle against the secret state and literary censorship through his defence of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Fanny Hill, and Last Tango in Paris, Hutchinson was involved in many of the great trials of the times. He also defended George Blake, Christine Keeler, Great Train Robber Charlie Wilson, art faker Tom Keating and Howard Marks.
Younger readers may find it hard to believe, but this was a period of revolutionary change in British society. The undermining of what was then regarded as the ‘establishment’, and re-alignment of social and moral conventions was well under way, even if the ‘old guard’ failed to recognise it. And the divisions in society can hardly be better illustrated than when the prosecutor in the Lady Chatterley case invited the jury to “ask yourselves … would you approve of your young sons, young daughters – because girls can read as well as boys – reading this book? Is it a book you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?” Remember, the year was 1960, not – as you might suppose – 1860!
For those of us who lived through these formative decades – and either didn’t know, or didn’t care, that society was shifting all around us – it is fascinating to see those relatively recent events through the lens of history. But the joy of this book is that in describing Hutchinson’s career, his biographer, Thomas Grant, strips away the hyperbole and gives arm-chair historians the facts and context of each case with clarity and wit. It is also a beautiful examination of the power of language and words. As Hutchinson puts it, “Words are the ammunition of the advocate; simple but telling words placed in the right order. It is remarkable how powerful words can be.”
Advocacy is the stock in trade of trade association professional. This excellent book can provide some examples for all of us!
©2017 M J Hoare
Published by John Murray (Publishers) ISBN 978-1-444-79975-0