Book Review: And Every Word Is True

And Every Word Is True, by Gary McAvoy

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Reedsy Discovery for the purposes of review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.  Review originally published here:  https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/and-every-word-is-true-gary-mcavoy%5D

Like many people, I have some interest in the events surrounding the famous novel (and various adaptations) In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote.  By and large, I also have an interest in true crime stories, of which this book is an excellent example.  This is perhaps an example of a second order true crime story or a revisionist history of a true crime story, in that this book serves to undermine the official narrative of the crime as it has been promoted by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, and it should be noted that the government of Kansas comes of particularly poorly even if individual investigators come off rather well in this book.  In one sense, though, the government of Kansas had this coming to them when they sued the author, the son of a noted Kansas investigator who sought to provide for the health of an ex-wife by selling some old memorabilia, and a few other people for good measure.  Without their hostility, it is possible that there would have been a sale of some old notebooks about the murder of the Clutters that were written by the late KBI investigator Harold Nye, but not this particularly fierce book.

In a bit less than 300 pages, the author manages to detail the importance of the evidence that he uncovered as an auctioneer helping out Ronald Nye, who had saved some items of his father’s from a purge of paperwork by Ronald’s mother, the investigator’s widow.  After some very lengthy acknowledgements, a forward, and an introduction, the author begins his revisionist work with a look at the case file for the Clutter murder and what it contains, at least as best as can be determined thanks to the copies made by Harold Nye.  After that there is a discussion of the defendants and the motive for the murder, which was officially thought to be just a robbery but which appears to be considerably more complex.  After that there was a question of search & seizure as well as a discussion about discovery.  A lengthy section follows that looks at the lineup of various people involved in the research of In Cold Blood, including Capote and Nelle Harper Lee, Mr. and Mrs. Clutter (two of the murder victims), Kenneth Lyon, the KBI itself, Harold Nye, Alvin Dewey, Richard Rohelder, the two murders (along with the question of who really murdered them), William Floyd Wells, Jr., and Starling Mack Nations.  The author then moves into the question of privileged communications as well as the suspicions of various people, a look at the obstruction committed by Kansas that indicated they had something to hide, a closing argument by the author, as well as the question of closure before the book concludes with an index, bibliography, and endnotes.

By and large, this is a book that demonstrates that the Kansas Bureau of Investigation did indeed have something to hide.  While Herbert Clutter is found to have been a flawed man, engaging in an affair and caught up in some political drama involving his savvy as a businessman/farmer, and Capote is found to have been a bit petty regarding his refusal to give Nelle Harper Lee the credit she was due in helping to encourage the wagging tongues of Kansas locals put off a bit by Capote’s flamboyant effeminacy, the justice system of Kansas itself comes off by far the worst.  This is perhaps to be expected given the rush to silence and punish the murderers, the refusal to follow leads that would have examined the murder of the Clutters as a contract killing, and the attempt on the part of the state to seize and destroy evidence about the case that puts them in a less than flattering light, and even their role in feeding Capote misinformation that made his famous book less accurate than it could have been had Capote been working with the full details that the state had access to.  What has been portrayed as a simple murder with a motive of robbery turns out to have been anything but a simple murder, but rather evidence that there is indeed something rotten in the state of Kansas, and that crimes committed more than half a century ago still contain something within them that threatens the legitimacy of enough people in positions of political authority that they would prefer such truth and evidence to remain hidden.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, Book Reviews, History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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