Starting the week with a little bit of true crime, which is a genre in books that I haven’t delved too far into before, there is also a giveaway to look out for.
Truman Capote’s bestselling book “In Cold Blood” has captivated worldwide audiences for over fifty years. It is a gripping story about the consequences of a trivial robbery gone terribly wrong in a remote village of western Kansas.
But what if robbery was not the motive at all, but something more sinister? And why would the Kansas Bureau of Investigation press the Attorney General to launch a ruthless four-year legal battle to prevent fresh details of the State’s most famous crime from being made public, so many years after the case had been solved?
Based on stunning new details discovered in the personal journals and archives of former KBI Director Harold Nye—and corroborated by letters written by Richard Hickock, one of the killers on Death Row—And Every Word Is True meticulously lays out a vivid and startling new view of the investigation, one that will keep readers on the edge of their seats as they pick up where Capote left off. Even readers new to the story will find themselves drawn into a spellbinding forensic investigation that reads like a thriller, adding new perspectives to the classic tale of an iconic American crime.
Sixty years after news of the 1959 Clutter murders took the world stage, And Every Word Is True pulls back the curtain for a suspenseful encore to the true story of “In Cold Blood.”
Over a half century ago, Special Agent Harold R. Nye of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI)—who would later become that agency’s third director—was thrust into an investigation to help solve what would eventually become an iconic tale of true crime in America: the brutal slayings of a Kansas wheat farmer, Herbert Clutter, and his wife and two children in November 1959.
A little more than 50 years later—being a dealer of rare collectible letters, photographs, manuscripts, and books—I was contacted by Harold Nye’s son, Ronald, in March 2012, revealing who his father was and what materials he had to offer for sale. As an ardent collector of historical autograph memorabilia since the 1980s, with a particular appetite for literary manuscripts and signed first editions, I felt privileged to be handling the sale of the rarest books and letters by Truman Capote—presentation copies personally given by the author to one of the principal investigators, during the time history was being made.
The books, first editions of both In Cold Blood and Capote’s earlier work Selected Writings, were each warmly inscribed by Truman to Harold Nye and his wife Joyce. That alone would generate solid interest in the sale, but this particular copy of In Cold Blood was also signed by 12 other people, including Logan Sanford, Director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation; the other three principal investigators in the case, among them Special Agent Alvin Dewey (who fared remarkably well in the story); and the director, actors, and crew of the eponymous 1967 movie, which used the Clutter house and other area locations to produce on film a chillingly authentic portrayal of what appeared on the page. As of this writing, only three such books signed by all principal figures are known to exist.
But the two personal letters Truman had written to Agent Nye were the most tantalizing of the lot. Both were sent in 1962 from his villa in Spain, overlooking the Mediterranean on the Costa Brava, where he spent three springs and summers writing much of his book. In one letter, neatly composed on thin pages the color of wheat, Capote laments having to suffer yet another delay in finishing his book, the Kansas Supreme Court having issued a stay of execution for the killers. For the frustrated author, this meant he didn’t yet have an ending—one way or the other—and he was to endure another three years before realizing that goal, with the hanging of Richard Hickock and Perry Smith in April 1965. For a collector, this is the most vivid form of autograph correspondence: handwritten documents richly infused with direct historical impact and solid provenance.
I suppose I should start by saying that I have not read In Cold Blood, to be honest, I hadn’t heard of it before so I was intrigued to find out about the crime the book was based on just as I was intrigued to find out what new information this book held about the outcome of Capote’s book.
I am also happy to note that you don’t have to have read In Cold Blood or have any prior knowledge of the Clutter murders to follow this book or find it exceptionally interesting, as everything is explained so thoroughly. There is a nice easy flow to this book, and I liked how the sections were put together, it made it easier to digest the abundance of information that makes up the fuller picture of the Cutter case and the backstory to the trials of publishing the book.
The writing is very engaging, I’ll be honest I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately and wasn’t sure how well I was going to get through this book, but I was hooked pretty quickly. I was fascinated at reading about the discrepancies in the case that have been portrayed as verifiable truth and how the state of Kansas seems so eager to stop anyone looking too closely at anything other than a version of events that are now proven as more fiction than fact.
Throughout the book, there are pictures of the historical documents that cast aspersions on Capote’s account which he always maintained was a completely factual one, even though he seems to have only highlighted those in the story that suited his purpose or those who curried favour with him. I admired that the author paints a new picture with this evidence but doesn’t ever portray it as the only truth, instead draws logical conclusions but admits that there could be other interpretations. There are a lot of strange occurrences though that it would be difficult for any reader not to question what has been laid out in the past as the motive for the crime.
It was definitely quite chilling getting to read the letters that Hickock wrote, it added a lot more questions to the story and showed that there were other lines of enquiry that should have been followed. Thankfully anything too graphic does have a pre-warning from the author and morbid though it is it was strangely captivating to get to read his perspective, especially because there is also the question of how much he wrote being truth or grandstanding. It was also very insightful to get accounts from family members of those who were involved in the case, to see how much impact it had in the years following.
There are a couple of crime scene photos included however they are not depicting anything too graphic and are included to bolster points made rather than for entertainment, which I can only praise the author for. I know some people wouldn’t bat an eyelid at such things or would perhaps be actively seeking them out through curiosity but I would have been put off if they had been included.
I feel a bit weird saying that I really enjoyed a book about an actual murder but I did, it is a compelling book whilst also being sensitive to its subject. I have to admit I am now thinking about reading In Cold Blood armed with this new information to see how biased an account it is.
For those of you in the US there is a giveaway that you’ll be interested in there are four prizes to be won so click the link below for your shot to win…
Gary McAvoy is a veteran technology executive, entrepreneur, and lifelong writer. For several years he was also a literary media escort in Seattle, during which time he worked with hundreds of authors promoting their books—most notably Dr. Jane Goodall, with whom Gary later collaborated on “Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating” (Hachette, 2005).
Gary is also a professional collector of rare literary manuscripts and historical letters and books, a passion that sparked the intriguing discoveries leading up to his latest book, And Every Word Is True (Literati Editions, March 2019), a revealing look at startling new disclosures about the investigation surrounding the 1959 Clutter family murders, heinous crimes chillingly portrayed in Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood.” And Every Word Is True pulls back the curtain for a suspenseful encore to Capote’s classic tale, adding new perspectives to an iconic American crime.