The Shelf: Richard Jay Hutto

Teresa Weaver on Georgia writers
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Richard Jay Hutto

The rich may be different from you and me, but often it’s the rich wannabes who are downright twisted. In A Peculiar Tribe of People: Murder and Madness in the Heart of Georgia (Lyons Press, $24.95), Richard Jay Hutto unearths a fifty-year-old crime that has it all: racism, insanity, and taboo sex. This wickedly entertaining Southern gothic mystery begins in 1960, when conniving Chester Burge, loathsome black-sheep cousin of the prominent Macon family of Dunlaps, murders his wife. The explosive trial that follows uncovers all of Burge’s secrets, from business scams to a proclivity for men.
 
Author Hutto has an intriguing pedigree: A former attorney, he served as White House appointments secretary for Jimmy Carter’s family, was chairman of the Georgia Council for the Arts, and has written several books on America’s Gilded Age. He also is an elected member of the Macon City Council. In the prologue, he writes about his fascination with Burge’s old mansion, known locally as “the murder house.” “Like a teenager who was told the dark, abandoned house in the neighborhood is haunted,” he writes, “I was intrigued, drawn toward the mystery of the mansion on the hill.” Even after ten years of research, Hutto couldn’t find all the answers. Forced to rely on fading memories and newspaper accounts in lieu of court transcripts, he wisely lets a crazy-quilt cast of eccentrics propel this real-life mystery.
 

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Photograph by Maryann Bates

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