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Truman Capote’s greatest lie

Questions about the accuracy of "In Cold Blood," the seminal 1966 "nonfiction novel" by Truman Capote, are nothing new; they bubbled up as soon as the book was published. Capote himself — who always maintained that "In Cold Blood" was "immaculately factual" — made thousands of changes (some grammatical, some factual) to the true-crime classic between its initial four-part-serial publication in the New Yorker and its appearance in book form the next year. His sources and critics have challenged aspects of the text ranging from the price of a horse to whether or not a graveside conversation that appears in the book's concluding pages ever occurred.

Two recent developments, however, shed a particularly troubling light on Capote's account of the 1959 murders of four members of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kan. They pertain to the search for the crime's perpetrators, Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, and to an additional four murders they are suspected of committing. In the first development, the Wall Street Journal recently reported on a dispute over records of the investigation. These documents, currently in the possession of Ron Nye, were taken home years ago by his late father, Harold Nye, one of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation detectives assigned to the case.

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