Files Suggest Capote Fudged In Cold Blood Facts

For one thing, lead Kansas investigator didn't act on tip immediately
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 9, 2013 7:15 AM CST
This combo made from file photos shows Richard Hitchcock, left, and Perry Smith, the murderers.   (AP Photos, File)
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(Newser) – Newly surfaced files call into question Truman Capote's assertion that his In Cold Blood classic, about the murder of a farm family in Kansas in 1959, was a stickler for accuracy, reports the Wall Street Journal. In the book, for example, Capote writes that Kansas Bureau of Investigation officials got a tip about the two men who killed the Clutters and sent out an agent the very same night. As Capote's inside-the-room version goes, the agent smoothly got the parents of one of the men to give up incriminating information. Never happened, according to the files, which were brought home years ago by a KBI agent and are now the subject of a lawsuit on whether they can be published.

The files say the KBI waited five days to act on the tip, largely because lead investigator Alvin Dewey didn't believe it. When the KBI finally moved on it, a team of four did so, not a lone, wily agent. The Journal story suggests Capote embellished things to paint Dewey as a "brilliant, haunted hero," perhaps because it made a better narrative, perhaps because without Dewey's help he had no book, or perhaps a little bit of both. The story backs up the notion that Capote got cozy treatment from Dewey—access to files, pressure on locals to be interviewed for the book, etc.—though the investigator always said otherwise. Another tidbit: Capote made Columbia Pictures pay Dewey's wife the then-princely sum of $10,000 to consult on the movie. Read the full article here. (Read more In Cold Blood stories.)

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