Truman Capote’s bestselling book In Cold Blood has captivated worldwide audiences for more than 50 years. It’s 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.
The Big Thrill caught up to author Gary McAvoy and had a chance to discuss his true crime book, AND EVERY WORD IS TRUE:
Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?
Though this was not the purpose (but an essential byproduct), discovering that the Clutter family was not as squeaky clean as Capote would have readers believe not only provided breathtaking discoveries—validated both by official, unreleased police reports, but in part by the killers themselves—but set the foundation for a book of both literary criticism and true crime exposé that reads like a thriller.
What attracts you to this book’s genre?
In this specific situation, the genre was already laid out for me.
What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?
The biggest challenge was the depth of research required to validate the revelations I had discovered in Agent Nye’s archives (not to mention defending ourselves in court while the book was being written). The greatest opportunities were presented in finding that what I had suspected was, in fact, true (hence the title of the book, taken from an actual Capote quote).
Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?
I basically fell into this work by accident in 2012, when—as a dealer of rare collectible literary books and letters—Ronald Nye, the son of former Kansas Bureau of Investigation Director Harold R. Nye, consigned his father’s books and letters sent to him by author Truman Capote, while Nye was investigating the 1959 Clutter murder case, on which Capote based his book In Cold Blood. When the State of Kansas discovered Nye’s official files were part of the consignment, they sued both Ron and me. Prevailing in that litigation some four years later, the discoveries I made provided more than sufficient need to tell a different story than readers of In Cold Blood had read.
What’s the one question you wish someone would ask you about this book, or your work in general?
Do you wish you could have interviewed Truman Capote? (Yes!)
What was the most challenging part of the co-authoring relationship?
While he was not a co-author, I did collaborate with Ronald Nye, the son of the lead investigator of the Clutter murders. Interviewing him over the years yielded a wealth of personal stories, many of which lend a human drama to the book. The challenge was asking the right questions, since Ron—who has a photographic memory—will talk for days on anything I asked of him.
A native Californian transplanted to the Pacific Northwest, Gary McAvoy began writing early in life, for a small-town newspaper and regional Southern California magazines, then corporate communications for his own businesses and client projects, and on to published nonfiction books. As a technology industry veteran, Gary developed and edited Cracking the New Economy: Business Tools for the Entrepreneur, published in 2000 by the Washington Software Association, on whose board he served as vice chair and a director for six years.
From 1999 to 2005 Gary worked closely with primatologist and animal ethicist Dr. Jane Goodall, serving as Seattle Base Camp Chair for the Jane Goodall Institute, managing Northwest fundraising efforts in support of the institute’s global initiatives. In 2003 Gary convinced Jane she should speak to global food issues, and in 2005 they co-authored “Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating” (Warner Books) with Gail Hudson.
Nurturing a lifelong passion for collecting handwritten history, in 1997 Gary founded VintageMemorabilia.com, featuring authentic signed letters, documents, manuscripts, books, photographs, and other memorabilia of historical or cultural significance. Those who share this passion know that few things compare to holding history in your hands—a letter written by Abraham Lincoln, for example, or one by Truman Capote discussing work on his book In Cold Blood.
It was this last acquisition, in fact, that sparked the adventures leading up to his newest book, AND EVERY WORD IS TRUE (Literati Editions, 2019), a fresh look at the investigation of the infamous 1959 Clutter family murders, heinous crimes chillingly portrayed in Capote’s landmark nonfiction novel. Having prevailed in a four-year lawsuit brought by the State of Kansas—a tenacious campaign of suppression and intimidation to prevent the book’s publication—AND EVERY WORD IS TRUE pulls back the curtain for a suspenseful encore to the true story of In Cold Blood.
To learn more about Gary and his work, please visit his website.