Is the letter written by Perry's sister included in Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, as well as the those written by Perry's father and Willie-Jay the real letters, or they have been embellished by Capote?
While Truman Capote’s “nonfiction novel,” as he labeled his most well-known work, In Cold Blood, has been pilloried over the years for the author’s dissembling regarding the line between fact and fiction, the letters from Perry Smith’s father, sister and former fellow prisoner are authentic. Once Capote set out to dramatize a real-life crime, using details from the actual investigation and real names, and while insinuating himself into the lives of key figures, his determination to place artistic merit over fealty to absolute truth condemned him to a life of heightened scrutiny. Most recently, a trove of documents directly related to the 1959 murders of a Kansas farm family by Perry Smith and Richard (Dick) Hickock, and to Capote’s involvement in the investigation, have placed the late author’s veracity into question even more than ever before. (See the February 8, 2013 Wall Street Journal article the link to which is provided below.) Capote, as these documents indicate, fabricated more than he had been willing to admit while alive, to such an extent that the integrity of the law enforcement officials with whom he maintained contact during and after the investigation has been called into question. While none of these revelations serves to cast any doubt at all into Smith and Hickock’s guilt, they do undermine Capote’s character. That said, and to reiterate, the correspondence Capote included in In Cold Blood, specifically, the letters from Tex John Smith, Barbara Smith, and Willie-Jay, to Perry Smith, are authentic.