Found: Harper Lee’s Own Article About the ‘In Cold Blood’ Murders - Atlas Obscura
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Found: Harper Lee’s Own Article About the ‘In Cold Blood’ Murders

It didn’t have a byline.

The house where the Clutter murders were committed. (Photo: Spacini/CC BY 3.0)

When Truman Capote went to Kansas to report on the Clutter murders, which would become the subject of In Cold Blood, his childhood friend, Harper Lee, came with him. She wasn’t yet famous in her own right—To Kill a Mockingbird would be published the next year, in 1960—and she had come to Kansas to help Capote out. But, her biographer recently discovered, she also wrote about the murders.

As Charles J. Shields told the Guardian, he was searching for any clues to Lee’s life and work he’d missed in previous versions of his book. He found one. He came across a small announcement in a Kansas paper that said that, “The story of the work of the FBI in general and KBI Agent Al Dewey in particular on the Clutter murder will appear in Grapevine the FBI’s publication. Nelle Harper Lee … wrote the piece.”

The staff of Grapevine had long passed around a bit of lore, the Harper Lee had once written for them. But there was no piece in their archives with her byline. In March 1960, though, not long after the Kansas notice was posted, the magazine did publish an account of the Clutter murders—presumably the one Lee wrote.

The story is short, compared to In Cold Blood, and focuses on the FBI work, rather than the murderer. Lee also gave her friend a shout-out: “Truman Capote, well-known novelist, playwright, and reporter was sent by the New Yorker to do a three-part piece of reportage on the crime, which will later be published in book form by Random House,” she wrote.

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Every day, we highlight one newly found object, curiosity or wonder. Discover something amazing? Tell us about it! Send your finds to sarah.laskow@atlasobscura.com.