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New errors are discovered in 'In Cold Blood'

The 'true crime' book by Truman Capote, which has long been plagued by charges of inaccuracy, was accused anew of factual errors after old Kansas Bureau of Investigation files were discovered.

By Staff Writer / February 12, 2013

'In Cold Blood' by Truman Capote was originally published in The New Yorker in 1965.

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Truman Capote’s true-crime classic “In Cold Blood” is coming under new scrutiny after evidence surfaced that disputes aspects of Capote’s narrative.

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Capote’s 1966 book tells the story of Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, who killed farmer Herbert Clutter, his wife, and two of Clutter’s children.  

 

New findings by the Wall Street Journal question key facts in the narrative. In the book, Capote writes that one Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent went to the farm where one of the suspects lived, but newly discovered KBI documents state that four agents went, according to the Journal. In addition, Capote says that after receiving word of the possible whereabouts of one of the alleged murderers, the KBI sent an agent to the farmhouse right away. According to the KBI files, the bureau waited five days. 

 

The documents were taken home by a KBI agent, Harold Nye, and are now the basis of a lawsuit between Nye’s son, who expressed intent to release them or sell them, and the KBI, who says the papers are their property.

 

This isn’t the first time the accuracy of “In Cold Blood” has been called into question.

 

Capote called the book about the 1959 murders “immaculately factual” in an interview with the New York Times, but various reporters and writers have claimed over the years that “Blood” has numerous inconsistencies. In his biography “Capote,” writer Gerald Clarke claims that the last scene in “Blood,” in which detective Alvin Dewey meets a friend of one of the Clutter daughters, was completely fabricated. Changes were also made between the book’s initial publication in The New Yorker and its release in hardcover, including the number of churches in the town and the times of day at which certain events happened.

 

 Former KBI director Larry Welch pointed out that the rigid rules we have today for how factual a nonfiction book needs to be weren’t in place when Capote was writing “Blood.”

 

“In this day and age, we can't even recreate the proper context for these events,” Welch said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. 

 

The KBI and “To Kill A Mockingbird” author Harper Lee, who assisted Capote with his investigations, both declined to comment for the WSJ article.

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