New York: Random House, 1965. Archive of material belonging to Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent and Capote source Harold Nye, including a first edition copy of "In Cold Blood" INSCRIBED on the front endpaper by Capote: "for Harold / with my admiration and much gratitude / Truman." Additionally inscribed on the first five leaves by over a dozen other Kansas investigators and principals associated with the 1967 film, including director Richard Brooks, cinematographer Conrad Hall, and actors Robert Blake and Scott Wilson. Also included in the archive are two manuscript letters signed from Capote to Nye—one dated 28 May 1962, the other dated 5 July 1962—and an original program from the film adaptation.
Laid in with the inscribed copy of the book is a small handwritten note by Nye, noting instances in which he appears in the text, with holograph pencil check mark annotations to the corresponding locations in the book. Also laid in with the book is a small Harper's Magazine clipping featuring a scathing letter from William S. Burroughs to Truman Capote, discussing "In Cold Blood" (although, as the publication notes, it is not known whether the letter was ever sent).
Housed in a custom quarter-leather clamshell box.
Beginning his thirty-year career as a beat patrolman in his hometown of Oakley, Kansas, Nye was recruited for the KBI by director Lou Richter in 1955, and quickly gained a reputation for his orderly and meticulous work. He was later elected by Richter's successor Logan Sanford to lead the bureau's Investigations Division, and would ultimately become the director of the KBI in 1969 when Sanford himself retired. Nye is widely credited with the bulk of the investigative work on the 1959 Clutter murders, the case which would become the basis for Capote's landmark 1965 book.
Although Nye's work drove the successful prosecution of killers Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, his role in Capote's text was noticeably minimized, with KBI Special Agent Alvin Dewey largely replacing Nye as the book's protagonist. Nye's own relationship with Capote would become increasingly acrimonious due to the investigator's uneasy relationship with the writer's sexuality, an aversion which would only be exacerbated by the publication of Capote's book, which Nye criticized years later as "a fiction."
The writer's relationship with Nye was still amiable in 1962—and as Capote's letters reveal, it appears that Nye initially held a quite prominent role in early drafts of the book. The letters to Nye are typically polite and warm, the first describing a recent cross-country trip to Lansing, Michigan and San Bruno, California to visit Hickock and Smith as well as interview Smith's sister Dorothy Marchant. Capote also briefly details Nye's presence in the book, noting that Nye appears "very often" and reassuring Nye that his depiction is positive, although admitting "I have had to do a little shifting here and there". Capote closes by asking Nye two questions about the investigation and Nye's family.
In the second letter, apparently a follow-up to Nye's response to the first, Capote admits to revealing the investigator's guise as a California parole officer during an earlier interview with Smith's sister Dorothy Marchant, but reassures Nye that Marchant was "merely amused" upon learning of Nye's deception. As with the first letter, Capote notes his continued frustration at having to wait for an official execution date for Hickock and Smith, and expresses his strong desire to finally complete the book. (The writer purportedly six years in total researching and writing "In Cold Blood.")
Contrary to contemporary reports that the investigator never completed the book, Nye's handwritten note laid in with his copy of "In Cold Blood" proves the investigator read Capote's book thoroughly, through to the last chapter. In 2019, Nye's son Ronald would publish a rebuttal to Capote's book, "And Every Word Is True," using his father's steno notebooks from the case and other pieces of evidence the senior Nye had preserved, continuing the tumultuous relationship between Harold Nye and Capote posthumously.
Altogether, the archive presents an extraordinary glimpse into the checkered history of a milestone in true crime writing, capturing the unusual relationship between one of the twentieth century's foremost writers and one of his key sources.
Book and dust jacket Near Fine. Letters and program Very Good plus, varying sizes, one letter starting to split horizontally at the center fold.