And Every Word is True, by Gary McAvoy

Eight stars

After reading In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, I wanted to know a little more about the subject matter. Interestingly enough, I was given a book by an author friend of mine, which recounts his research and analysis into the story of the Clutter murders and how the truth was much more complicated than first revealed in Capote’s stellar book. Gary McAvoy sought to turn the hunt for the real story behind those slayings in 1959 into this wonderful piece of non-fiction. Riveting until the final page turn, McAvoy shows how versatile his writing can be, as this is nothing like those novels of his I have come to enjoy over the past few years.

White Truman Capote’s most popular book surely stirred up some interesting emotions since its publication in 1965, many are left to wonder if it is the full story. When Ron Nye reached out to Gary McAvoy, the two hit it off immediately and their thirst for knowledge around the slaying of the Clutter family began. Nye, son of the former head of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, had some documents that his father kept from the crimes, which told not only the public version of events that Capote documented in his book, but deeper and more troubling ideas. Nye and McAvoy worked tirelessly to peel things back and discover truths relating to the murders, the victims, as well as the two men collared for committing the crimes.

While all this seems reasonable and should open up new lines of communication, it would seem that Kansas officials wanted nothing to do with the investigation, nor were they forthcoming about releasing documents held under lock and key. As McAvoy posits, it was as though they did not want to truth to come out. The author delves deeper into the goings-on in the small Kansas town and makes some substantiated assumptions about how the Clutters lived their lives and the popularity they had around the community. There are also some curious discussions about how Dick Hickock and Perry Smith might have been raised to turn them into killers. These men were surely cold-blooded killers, but there is more to the story that never made it into Capote’s book. McAvoy shines a light on them and their motive throughout the latter portion of the tome.

McAvoy does not seek to smear anyone, or even point fingers at a cover-up, but the push back for information makes it clear that there are many who feel the case is closed and best left that way. Some might surmise that Kansas officials felt Capote’s piece went about as far as it should have in revealing what happened on that November night in 1959, choosing not to allow any further extrapolation to open new veins of analysis. The truth is out there and yet it seems stymied by some unspoken reason that McAvoy could not crack.

While I am so used to the Vatican style thrillers that Gary McAvoy has penned, I was highly impressed with this piece of non-fiction. It sought not to turn over stones for the sake of making a ruckus, but actually connect dots that have long been left hidden or unanswered. McAvoy presents his findings in a clear and concise manner, allowing the reader to follow what is going on with ease throughout. I am glad that I read In Cold Blood recently, as the arguments from that book are fresh in my mind, allowing me to draw needed parallels whenever possible and see how McAvoy connected his research to the public record. I am coming to really enjoy true crime and will have to read more of it, when time permits. McAvoy surely made this an interesting experience and he forced me to stop waiting around wondering about Truman Capote’s famous work.

Kudos, Mr. McAvoy, for opening my eyes to many of the happenings in this case of which I was not familiar. I am eager to see what else I can find to whet my appetite.

In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

Nine stars

While I have heard a great deal about Truman Capote and this book, it is only now that I have taken the time to read it. Full of a wonderful narrative, the book explores a horrific murder in the American Midwest, as well as the hunt for those responsible. In this stellar piece of true crime, Capote also takes the reader into the justice and punishments phases, offering a well-rounded piece of writing that is sure to captivate and shock in equal measure.

The town of Holcomb, Kansas would never be the same after November 15, 1959. Four members of the Clutter family were found murdered in their beds, shotgun blasts destroying their faces. With the blood still congealing, the authorities began piecing together what happened and who might have been responsible. With no motive and few locals expressing a beef with the farming family, the investigation stalled in the early stages.

Capote takes the reader on a slow and methodical analysis of the case, the local lore surrounding the Clutter family, as well as those who did not belong around town. Two men, Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock, were two no one could readily place and whose time in the small community oddly matched the time of the Clutter murders. Exploring their backstory, Capote shows how reprehensible these two men were, as well as the trouble they brought with them to Holcomb.

Taking the reader through the events leading up to the murders, the night itself, and the aftermath that led to the capture of the men, Capote shows significant journalistic prowess. The reader can feel as though they are in the middle of the hunt before before offered a front row seat at the courthouse, while Smith and Hickcock await their fate. Told in such a way that the reader cannot help but delve deeper throughout the narrative, Capote shows stunning abilities and has left me wanting to explore more of his work. I am kicking myself for waiting this long to read the book, which held my attention throughout.

Kudos, Mr. Capote, for a riveting piece of true crime that has me wanting to reach for more in the genre, if only to feed a sadistic curiosity. What a pleasant surprise as I made my way through this book.