Review: ‘And Every Word Is True’ Gary McAvoy

Truman Capote’s bestselling book In Cold Blood has captivated worldwide audiences for over fifty years. It is a gripping story about the consequences of a trivial robbery gone terribly wrong in a remote village of western Kansas.

But what if robbery was not the motive at all, but something more sinister? And why would the Kansas Bureau of Investigation press the Attorney General to launch a ruthless four-year legal battle to prevent fresh details of the State’s most famous crime from being made public, so many years after the case had been solved?

Based on stunning new details discovered in the personal journals and archives of former KBI Director Harold Nye —and corroborated by letters written by Richard Hickock, one of the killers, on Death Row — And Every Word Is True meticulously lays out a vivid and startling new view of the investigation, one that will keep readers on the edge of their seats as they pick up where Capote left off. Even readers new to the story will find themselves drawn into a spellbinding forensic investigation that reads like a thriller, adding new perspectives to the classic tale of an iconic American crime.

Sixty years after news of the 1959 Clutter murders took the world stage, And Every Word Is True pulls back the curtain for a suspenseful encore to the true story of In Cold Blood.

Much of what people know about the 1959 Clutter murders is what they’ve derived from Truman Capote’s self-proclaimed ‘non-fiction novel’, In Cold Blood. In Cold Blood is a fantastic read. When it was first published in 1966, it took the literary world by storm. Written with a novelist’s dramatic flair, In Cold Blood tells the tragic true story of a quadruple homicide. Some non-fiction books are just page after page of drily delivered facts, but Capote’s writerly ability ensured that In Cold Blood‘s cast of characters – from the victims themselves to the investigators seeking justice – transcended mere printed words. Every person written about feels as real to the reader as they did to Capote when he was interviewing them as part of his research. For me, this is part of what makes In Cold Blood such a haunting read. As a reader, you almost feel as though you’re there, be it when Holcomb and Garden City residents are relaying their shock and dismay at the crime, or when, at the end of the book, Smith and Hickock are being executed. However, Capote evidently wanted to write a sensationalist book and, as many people directly involved in the case have confirmed, he fabricated and altered details to make it such.

After rereading In Cold Blood about a month or so ago and subsequently learning more about the doubts surrounding its veracity, I decided that I wanted to read a more impartial account of the case. In swept Gary McAvoy and his book, And Every Word Is True, ready to turn everything that I thought I knew about the Clutter murders on its head.

For me, And Every Word Is True is jaw-droppingly shocking in its revelations. Every claim is backed up by actual evidence, be it from the late former director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation Harold Nye’s personal notebooks or letters penned by killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickock. Over the course of the book, McAvoy reveals that the Clutter case might not have been as cut and dried as everyone, including Capote himself, believed. Physical pieces of evidence prove that there was far more to the Clutter murders than a botched robbery. For example, letters written by Hickock speak of a mysterious man that he and Smith met up with within an hour of the murders, with the intention, it seems, of getting paid “five thousand bucks”. This is but one of many revelations.

McAvoy also discusses the legal battle that the KBI waged against him and Harold Nye’s son, Ronald, in regards to the ownership of Harold’s personal notebooks and documents on the case. The implication is that the KBI were somehow involved in a coverup regarding the Clutter murders and that they were perhaps concerned about the truth coming to light through Harold Nye’s notes and other documents about the case. Obviously, I haven’t done even 1% of the research that McAvoy has, nor have I seen much of the documentation that was in Harold Nye’s possession for decades. However, I feel it’s perhaps more a case of the KBI being horrendously embarrassed by the fact that their own official accounts on the murders are based on In Cold Blood rather than actual evidence. Perhaps they wanted to gain ownership of Harold Nye’s notes, letters and documents to prevent the KBI’s ineptitude becoming public knowledge. That’s just my personal opinion anyway.

I highly recommend And Every Word Is True to any true crime fanatic and to anyone who’s read In Cold Blood. If you’re interested in this book, but haven’t read In Cold Blood, I recommend starting with that first.

Have you read And Every Word Is True? Let me know in the comments!

Want to read And Every Word Is True? Head on over to Hive, Bookshop or World of Books to order your copy, or buy it through your local bookstore.

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