Harper Lee article on 'In Cold Blood' murders discovered in FBI magazine
Harper Lee’s biographer believes he has discovered a feature article the To Kill a Mockingbird writer published about the quadruple murder covered in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.
Published in the March 1960 issue of the Grapevine, a magazine for FBI professionals, the article, which does not have a byline, details the brutal murder of Herb and Bonnie Clutter and their children Nancy and Kenyon at their Kansas farmhouse. In the feature Lee, who journeyed with Capote to Kansas to report on the story, wrote about the murder investigation and detective Alan Dewey of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s role in solving the murders. The piece was published just months before Lee released her classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird.
Charles J. Shields, Lee’s biographer, told The Guardian he found the article while revising his 2006 biography of Lee, who died in February, called Mockingbird: a Portrait of Harper Lee. In search of any details missing from public knowledge of Lee’s life, Shields combed Kansas newspapers and found a column by Dolores Hope in the Garden City Telegram from February 1960 telling readers to look for a forthcoming article from Lee about the Clutter murders and subsequent investigation in Grapevine.
Shields contacted the Grapevine office in Washington, who suggested he look up the February or March issue of the magazine from 1960.
“Lo and behold, in March 1960 is a … very well-written feature story about the Clutter case,” Shields told The Guardian. Other evidence that signifies Lee wrote the piece exists in details only she and Capote knew about the case, Shields said.
Shields said Lee probably didn’t add her byline to the feature, “Because it was typical of Harper Lee to not try to crowd her friend Truman.” Capote credited Lee as his “research assistant” for her reporting in In Cold Blood.
The Guardian reports that the Grapevine will reprint the article next month with a a newly written introduction from Shields.