Factual Questions Raised about "In Cold Blood"

Friday, February 15, 2013


For nearly 50 years, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood has stood as perhaps the best of the true crime genre—nonfiction that’s truly as dramatic and compelling as fiction. Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported on decades-old documents that have recently come to light which point to significant fabrications in two chapters of Capote’s masterwork, including one of it’s most thrilling moments. Wall Street Journal reporter Kevin Helliker tells Brooke about how Capote's version of the story veers from what really happened.


Kevin Helliker

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [6]


I too listened to the broadcast awaiting the "great fictionalization" and must have missed it. I then re-listened to the broadcast and read Mr. Helliker's article and missed it again. That KBI did not react immediately to a tip from a "jail-house snitch" is not a story. That Mr. Dewey released confidential KBI files is a matter for KBI, not a story. All credit appears due to KBI and all its personnel, and Mr. West, in cracking this case and bringing heinous criminals to final justice. And nobody could mistake these criminals for victims, no matter how great a writer Mr. Capote is.

Feb. 18 2013 03:16 PM
Rocinante from La Mancha

What a ridiculous article in the WSJ (read it last week). I'm glad you gave the writer a chance to expound so as to make clear there was no more THERE there than it seemed in the article. TC admitted freely he made up the last scene in the graveyard and called his story a new form of writing, not a stab at playing historian. "Nonfiction novel" leaves room to be snide to a DA, I think. TC did not appear to admire the postmistress, either. And?

Aren't most of the "serious" new revelations pulled from the out-of-joint nose of the pudgy 28-looks-40-or-50 DA? If I have to choose one man's subjectivity over another's, I'll choose the man with stunning writing talent.

I was not amused by the WSJ writer's accusation that TC waited for the killers' executions so he could falsify what they told him. Irresponsible speculation is out of place when it comes from his particular high horse.

I did smile to hear the article's writer whine that people responded to his piece with "So what, great book." Dude, may I say - so what, great book.

Feb. 17 2013 11:17 PM

I really appreciate Kevin Helliker discussing the issue of Capote's representation, and the potential mis-information involved with this story. I was born and lived in Holcomb just after the killings of the Clutters, my family farmed and knew the family. The Holcomb and farming community were so deeply affected by such an incident, and then for Capote present one of the perpetrators as a victim was pouring salt on an injury which made healing so much more difficult for the community to move on.

As I listened to Mr. Helliker, I was so moved that he addressed the issue/question that perhaps there had been those who protested or challenged the stories Capote created, many that went unheard in the mass media.....I think Kevin mentioned it was essentially Garden City against the New Yorker. I believe this to be true, and heartwarming that 53 years later someone has been able to address this w/in mass media.

Feb. 17 2013 11:06 PM
RR from san francisco

Wall Street Journal reporter Kevin Helliker's interview is absurd.

In Cold Blood is a work of fiction based on real events. The point that he seems upset about is Capote's treatment of the two killers. Of course his view is subjective. I was happy to hear that Capote sought to make sure the family of the officer who helped him was rewarded. Good for him!

All these points aside, none of this matter at all in the creation of an artistic work. Artists are not responsible for the dumbing down of a culture who prefers to rely on works of fiction and films instead of history books.

An artists job is to interpret their vision and communicate that vision to us. That is ALL.

So, all of this talk about Lincoln and even Mr Spielberg's need for detail in the scene settings is a bit silly because in the end the film is his collaborative vision of Doris Kearns Goodwin's astounding interpretation of a historical event.

I suppose what is really maddening about these sorts of stories is that they contribute to the death of imagination.

Dreams, invention, imagination. The stuff that has lifted human kind throughout the ages, now being harassed to death by a fact check.

Feb. 17 2013 05:12 PM
Susan Baughman from Key West, FL

You've left Harper Lee out of this entire segment! She did most of the research - SHE could tell us best, about the process of this info being released and acted on.
(See her biography "Mockingbird" for interesting details on her being the prime researcher of ICB in this less than gay-friendly age/place)

Feb. 17 2013 09:49 AM
Chris from CT

You keep talking about serious lapses in factual details but your only support for this claim is a potentially accidental demotion which you claim was a purposeful slight...can you prove that? I think Capotes opinions and generalizations are pretty obvious in the novel, can you relate any real and important peices of fictualization?

Feb. 16 2013 05:08 PM

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