The Guts of a Butterfly

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Author: Truman Capote
Editors: Roger Matuz and Cathy Falk
Date: 1990
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 2,476 words

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Ah, and so at last we know! Mr Kenneth Tynan's chief literary concern is the integrity and responsibility of the writer. But how very surprising—when one considers that these are the particular qualities most notably absent from his article about my book, In Cold Blood [see excerpt above dated March 27, 1966]....

Without quoting the piece virtually word by word, I scarcely know how to disentangle this knotted cat's-cradle that Tynan's egocentric ignorance has created. My only choice is to indicate, before tackling the larger issues, a few of the distortions so general to the infested whole.

Certainly the following is typical of Tynan's lazy inaccuracy: ... in the course of the book Capote alleges (a) that Dick frequently tried to rape pubescent girls, (b) that he intended (but failed) to kill a fellow prisoner in a Kansas jail, and (c) that he and Perry were prevented only by chance from carrying out the premeditated murder of a travelling salesman who gave them a lift.... There is no evidence to substantiate these charges outside the killers' graves, to which Capote contributed the cost of the headstones.

No evidence?

Clearly Tynan's reading of the book is as haphazard as his prose-style; otherwise he could not have failed to notice that Richard Hickock himself describes, in a statement for Dr W. Mitchell Jones, the defence psychiatrist, his sexual interest in pubescent girls, and how, on a number of past occasions, he had implemented that interest. The text of this statement is printed in Part Four. Moreover, is there any question that Hickock intended to rape Nancy Clutter? Not only is that a part of the trial record, not only did he never deny it, but he describes the matter at length in an article he himself wrote and published in an American magazine (Male, November, 1961).

And now to items (b) and (c). In a brief preface to my book there appears this sentence: "All the material in this book not derived from my own observation is either taken from official records or is the result of interviews with the persons directly concerned.... " Perhaps Tynan thinks this a mere idle phrase. It is not. Almost all the substance of the book can be verified in one form or another, as Tynan would have soon discovered had he taken his work seriously. Yes, the stories involved in (b) and (c) were told to me by Smith and Hickock; but these particular anecdotes were also told at separate times to four different agents of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (Clarence Duntz, Harold Nye , Alvin Dewey, and Roy Church—unlike Tynan, I name my sources), and are a part of the official Kansas Bureau dossier.

That's three factual errors in one paragraph; and as for the final reference to my having contributed to the cost of Hickock and Smith's gravestones, Tynan seems to be scornful of this action. Why? If I had not done it no one else would; I was their sole...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100000161