The accuracy of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood is being called into question. New evidence in a Wall Street Journal investigation shows details in two chapters were fudged to make the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the book's hero, Alvin Dewey Jr., look better in history's light.
Dewey was immortalized in the novel as a hard-charging detective who was strong and handsome, who toiled over the case until finally an informant came forward and fingered the two killers. According to the book, Dewey sprung to action and went by himself to the family farmhouse where they were believed to be hiding on the day they received the tip. Dewey reportedly gleaned information from the killer's parents by telling them he was looking for their son for a simple parole violation.
Except new evidence in KBI files found at a former officer's home allege Dewey originally didn't believe the informant that came forward. He thought he was a petty crook who couldn't be trusted. And the KBI reportedly waited five days to act on the information. In fact, the whole scene with the parents and the parole violation cover didn't happen. It was a fabrication:
The documents show that four lawmen—three KBI agents and a local sheriff's deputy—converged midday on the farm. They found only the suspect's mother at home. They made no pretense of pursuing a parole violation. Executing a search, they found the shotgun, took it outside and fired it to collect the empty casing for ballistic purposes. They also confiscated clothing that appeared to be smattered with blood.
Dewey benefitted from Capote's myth-making more than anyone, both professionally and financially. Capote lobbied Columbia Pictures to hire Dewey's wife as a consultant on the movie version for $10,000, a huge amount of money at the time.
There are even more details revealed in the Journal's investigation, and whole thing is worth a read. Especially on this blustery snow day.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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