It’s Sunday morning, and it’s raining. Heavily. The rain hits the gutters with the precision of Buddy Rich; it syncopates against the windows, sparks against the red planter in the garden; and makes the tyres sing a silky song as the cars sail along the tarmac by my door.
It was a rainy day in Kansas, too, the day Truman Capote came to visit. Came to write the story of Herb Clutter and his family; a true story, people thought. But as with many things in Truman’s life, the truth was to be soaked in a downpour of fiction, so he could create a masterpiece which would elevate him in the eyes of the world, and especially the eyes he most wanted – the eyes of celebrity.
Herb Clutter never wanted to be famous or celebrated. He just wanted to live his life amongst his family and friends – to work hard, keep his wife and children safe and comfortable, and get by. In that, through no fault of his own, he failed. But his story, and that of his and his loved ones’ horrible, grotesque deaths, was not the story depicted to the world by Truman. In other circumstances, the crimes of Richard Hickok and Perry Smith in decimating a peaceful, harmless family in rural America would have created a maelstrom in Kansas for a while, then become unknown to all but students of crime. But Truman made sure that this story would not only become known to the world, and would live a life far beyond that of the protagonists, but it would play a large part in feeding the biggest story of all, as far as he was concerned – the legend of Truman Capote.
This is a tale of a murder. And of a book. And of a family, an ordinary family from Kansas, in 1959. It’s also the story of the well-known and flamboyant author from New York City, and of two criminals who became murderers. But mostly it’s about how all these disparate elements converged, to make a story worth retelling.
For those unfamiliar with the murders, or of the ensuing book, ‘In Cold Blood’, or even with Truman Capote, here’s a little background. In November 1959, Herb Clutter was 48 years old. He made his living as a farmer in West Kansas, providing for his wife Bonnie, his 16 year old daughter Nancy, and his 15 year old son Kenyon. Two older daughters had by now left home. A family photo of all six of them show a happy contented group, gathered by the fireplace, the room lightly decorated for Christmas. Herb is a tall, lean man, clean shaven, bespectacled, smiling; the ideal of a hard-working, decent man enjoying a relaxing moment amongst his family. By all accounts of people who really knew him, he was just that – he cared deeply about his family, his faith and his farming, and whilst he wasn’t notably wealthy, put real effort into providing for his loved ones. People afterwards were ready to give tribute to a man who paid his way in life, played his part in his community, and would always help a neighbour in need of it. He took his work and his faith conscientiously, and would, like millions of his fellows, have done anything to keep his wife and daughters from harm.
Bonnie, 45 at the time, was a small, neat and prim woman with dark hair. Capote would later paint her as a neurotic soul, tortured by depression and mental illness, who had come to spending most of her time in bed. That suited his narrative; however family and friends would later dispute this account, and describe Nancy as a fairly normal middle-aged mother; perhaps she did have bouts of depression, but it seems dubious that she was the basket case she would seem following the publication of ‘In Cold Blood’.
Nancy and Kenyon completed the family at home on the November night in 1959. They seem to have been fairly normal teenagers of their period and their environment. It would appear that Herb ran a fairly moralistic, disciplined household where his children were concerned; he kept to his faith and his morals himself, and expected no less from his family. (He was said to be equally strict with his employees where alcohol was concerned, requiring abstention from anyone who worked for him.) But there’s no sign that his kids showed any great propensity to rebel – they’d been brought up in a God-fearing, Mid-Western home, and as yet saw no reason to step out of line, or to disrespect their father and Mother. This was 1959; this was Kansas. Maybe as times changed over the next few years, the Clutter offspring would, like many other young people, rattle the bars of the cage. But for these two, the opportunity would never arise…
It was either late Saturday or early Sunday when two men, 31 and 28 years old, entered the Clutter house through an unlocked door. They were there to steal the thousands of dollars that were kept in the family safe of this wealthy farmer – they knew this because a former prison cell mate of the younger of the two, Dick Hickock, had worked for Herb Clutter, and he’d described the hoard to Dick in detail. Hickock soon had the caper planned out – recruit an accomplice, go to Kansas, break in and steal $10,000. It was simple.
Dick Hickock still bore the facial disfigurement from a car accident some years earlier. It seems to have changed him, and he drifted through different jobs, engaging in petty theft and cheque fraud, before ending up in Kansas State Penitentiary for stealing a rifle. By the time he left prison in 1959 at the age of 28, he had three children to two wives, and was twice divorced. He’d also met Perry Smith.
Perry Smith was proving to be a real piece of work. 31 years old , he was born in Nevada to an abusive father; when his mother left taking the kids, they went to San Francisco. But when he was 13, his Mother choked on her own vomit, and Perry ended up in a Catholic orphanage . Unsurprisingly, he suffered from bed-wetting; equally unsurprisingly, the nuns abused him physically and emotionally. These formative experiences must have severely reduced Smith’s chances of growing up into a normal, stable, law-abiding man. He got into street gangs and petty crime, and at 16 joined the Merchant Marine, followed by service in the US Army in Korea. Even though he got into some trouble in Korea by fighting with locals, he left in 1952 with an honourable discharge.
In 1956 Perry was convicted of breaking and entering, and sent to Kansas State Penitentiary for five to twelve years. It was where he would meet Dick Hickok in 1958, sent there for five years for burglary. This is where the thread which would connect them to the unsuspecting Clutters would first begin to connect. This is where they learnt of Herb’s (fictional) $10,000 stash. And this was the launching pad – for their transformation into universally known, brutal killers; for the Clutters’ transformation into tragic victims of a savage crime; and for Capote’s elevation from successful writer into best-selling celebrity author.
So what of the third side of this human triangle of drama and death? The man whose book would be seven years in the making, and which would go to the top of the best-seller lists, making its creator wealthier by $6 million?
Truman Capote was, in his day, one of the best known people in the United States – a celebrity when that word actually meant something – although people on this side of the ocean may, especially today, be less familiar with him or his works. He was known for his short stories, often well received; then his first novel – Other Voices, Other Rooms, was at once semi-autobiographical and a best seller. From a fast start in 1945, when he was 21, he went on to build a successful career in novels, stories, magazine articles. He had a style, a talent for storytelling, that deservedly brought him fame and fortune. His 1958 novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s would go on to be an even more enduring movie with Audrey Hepburn as its iconic star. And his output would reach a new height with 1966’s ‘In Cold Blood’. This book, which he himself described as a ‘non-fiction novel’, would make Truman a real literary, and by extension, popular culture star.
But as well as building his literary career, Truman would also create what he perhaps saw as essential to his great desire – acceptance. Acceptance by the public, by his peers, and most of all, by the people in society who were the movers and shakers of the day – and, of course, wealthy and fashionable. So in newspapers and magazines, then as a staple guest of talk shows, then regular appearances by the side of high profile society beauties (some more beautiful than others, but all overdressed and bejewelled), then following his fall from high society grace, a fixture in New York’s most famous discotheques, especially Studio 54. Truman Capote the writer became Truman Capote the famous figure. Truman Capote – Celebrity.
His start was anything other than celebrated, however. He was born Truman Streckfus Persons in 1924 in New Orleans, to parents who divorced when he was two. His mother seems to have been an intermittent figure in his life, and for several years he was brought up by relatives, until in 1933 his mother remarried, and Truman went to live with her and his new stepfather, José Garcia Capote, in New York. Even then, his relationship with his mother was fraught, and she became an alcoholic, prone to frequent rages at him because he was homosexual.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Truman’s outwardly flamboyant and confident persona hid his feelings of estrangement, and of isolation, exacerbated by his abandonment and his sexuality. Maybe for the rest of his life he worked harder to overcome that than at anything else.
Did Truman’s gayness, which in the society of his youth may well have intensified the feelings of exclusion starting from his Mother’s rejection, feed his vital need to belong? But gayness or maternal rejection isn’t a prerequisite for such a feeling; being an only child, being shy, lacking confidence, being a different colour to everyone else – all these things can make someone desperate to be accepted by the crowd, while never feeling truly part of the gang. Many grow up in a happy family, loved and cosseted, without any gender identity problems, and without standing out in any way, yet still feeling a yearning to seek approval and acceptance. But Capote seems to have been more driven than most – aflame with a need to make his talents a currency, with which he could buy his way into a firmament far from the one into which he’d been born in 1924 New Orleans.
So a horrific and brutal act led to a confluence of disparate figures which finally came to fruition in Capote’s book.
What of the book? From the very first paragraph, Truman Capote really paints a picture; a poetic vision of Holcomb and Western Kansas. He writes of the “high wheat plains’, and of ‘hard blue skies and desert clean air’. As he describes the ‘awesomely extensive’ vista, and ‘a white cluster of grain elevators rising as gracefully as Greek temples’ appearing in the distance, I feel the force of his writing. In this opening, we’re easily seduced by the vision he’s immediately creating. We can imagine ourself in the landscape, breathing the cool clear air which fills our lungs with expectation, and makes us want to drink more of it; lingering over this beautifully rural and captivating land, wanting to spend time here.
But this seduction doesn’t last; without further delay our seducer rips away the veil to reveal his true purpose; to show himself not as chronicler, but as assailant. Because in paragraph two, this idyll fades into a condescending description of the town – ‘an aimless congregation of buildings’. The streets, which, he tells us are unnamed, unshaded and unpaved become ‘the direst mud’ after rain. He draws attention to one of the staples of small town American communities, the bank, but is eager to point to its ‘irrelevant sign, this one in flaking gold on a dirty window’. Then he points out out that the bank failed in 1933; it’s now an apartment house. The town has another – but it’s in a ‘ramshackle mansion’. The Post Office, another vital part of town life, is in his words, ‘falling apart’. The depot, by which is meant the railway station, has ‘peeling sulphur-coloured paint’, and is ‘equally melancholy’. So much so in fact, that the ‘celebrated expresses’ go straight through without stopping. And this, says Capote, was just how they liked it.
Capote praises the school, and uses it to make the point that the parents of the pupils are prosperous. The community of Holcomb benefits from natural resources and a beneficial climate, and as a result has a new school, comfortable farmhouses and ‘steep and swollen grain elevators’.
So as Capote shows the town as run-down and faded, populate by hick farmers and cowboys, he at once describes a ‘prosperous people’. Farmers have ‘done well’. With a biblical nod he tells of ‘seven years…of droughtless beneficence’.
And it’s in these early pages while Capote is setting the scene for his revelation, that I got a sense of how he wants to have his cake while eating it. A sense of his duality. While he’s befriending these people, he’s at once betraying them. He ingratiates himself into their confidence, all the while preparing to use it for his own ends. And his own end is all about his own celebrity. Just as we’d see some years later with his travails in New York society, his yearning for acceptance was often accompanied by a desire to put down people he thought might secretly not fully accept him as an equal. This contradiction would be a constant. And he was far too clever not to fully understand what he was doing, and even to be quite prepared for the consequences.
It’s speculation, but perhaps this need came from his own humble New Orleans beginnings. A feeling of disenchantment must have started early – his parents divorced when he was two, and his mother left him to be cared for by her relatives. At eight years old, he was taken to live with his mother and her new husband in New York City. As well as this upheaval in environment, taken from people who loved him and were no doubt loved back, he went to two relative strangers, and his very name, Truman Streckfus Persons, became Truman García Capote. He was a prodigy in writing, and proficient at an early age, but to have these changes imposed at such a developmental stage may have created a certain duality in his personality, and perhaps this at a time when he wanted to be recognised for his talent, and maybe finding it wasn’t being rewarded.
In ‘In Cold Blood’, this duality surfaces as he shows the inhabitants of Holcomb as at once prosperous and hard working, yet insular and ‘quite content to exist inside ordinary life’. Is it just me, or does Capote make this sound like a fault compared to his own burgeoning celebration and urbanity? Maybe this is at the heart of what he wanted to achieve with the entire project – not only greater celebrity and success, and recognition amongst his peers, but also a desire to climb above these ordinary, working people, even the wealthy successful ones, and to stand above them?
The book soon turns it’s attention to Herb Clutter, the first victim of this horrific crime. Capote begins by describing Herb as ‘the master of River Valley Farm’, immediately suggesting a certain aloofness and austerity. Capote is positive in describing Herb’s physical attributes, and draws a favourable portrait – ‘in first-rate condition’, ‘cut a man’s man figure. Broad shouldered, hair still dark at forty-eight – Capote’s description of Herb bears repeating – ‘his square-jawed, confident face retained a healthy-hued youthfulness, and his teeth, unstinted and strong enough to shatter walnuts, were still intact’. As Capote never met any of the Clutter family, I wonder how much of this was direct testimony from Herb’s fellows, how much from photographs, and how much was colour from Truman’s imagination?
Capote continues to paint for us a portrait of Herb by drawing attention to his standing. He’s a ‘most widely known citizen…prominent…respectfully recognised’. Maybe it’s a little harsh to suggest that Capote is being dismissive when he declares that Herb had always been clear as to what he wanted, and had then achieved it.
But as soon as Herb and his world is placed upon a pedestal, Capote begins to pull it down again. Shortly after describing his happy marriage and his love for Bonnie among a description of her which is at best unflattering, and must be largely speculative, Capote begins to paint this very world in more austere and less attractive tones.
Take for instance, the description of the farmhouse which Herb Clutter had designed for his family. Capote revels in phrases which downplay and almost denigrate – ‘sensible and sedate’ soon becomes ‘not notably decorative…spongy displays of liver- coloured carpet intermittently abolishing the glare resounding floors…a banquette upholstered in blue and white plastic.’ He then rounds off his portrayal of rural taste by saying that it was not only ‘what Mr and Mrs Clutter liked’, it was the preference of ‘the majority of their neighbours.’
Perry Smith cut the throat of Herb Clutter with his knife. Truman Capote cuts the throat of Herb’s memory with words.
It was while reading these early pages that I got the feeling how in his book, as in life, the author wants it both ways. Setting Herb Clutter up as a man of some substance, a pillar of his community, yet at once patronising him, making it clear that he may have been a big fish, but his pond was very insubstantial. In contrast, of course, to Truman’s own pond – the very big one that was the literary, social and celebrity scene of New York City, no less. Was this Capote’s way of using Herb Clutter to enhance his own sense of self-worth – of showing that he was a big city sophisticate amongst these Midwest farmers? And of at once showing how far he’d come from his own poor, fractured New Orleans roots?
It’s also possible that in the final version, Capote’s view of Herb, and of Holcomb, came to be coloured by his feelings around Perry Smith, with whom he developed a closer relationship, in contrast to the Clutter family, who he only ever knew from his conversations with the folks of Holcomb.
It seems to me that the whole book is an allegory for Truman’s duality of purpose – of having his cake and eating it. The way, for instance that he took liberties with the truth, while portraying it as accurate – portraying people, such as Bonnie Clutter, and Perry Smith’s landlady in Las Vegas, in ways far from their true selves. The way he was determined to attend their executions, yet refused their request that he visit them on their last night. And above all, depicting the book as a ‘non-fiction novel’, yet stretching the non-fiction element beyond breaking point. Maybe this is an essential part of what Truman Capote really was – a mass of contradictions, who could be a different person depending on the mood, setting, or the outcome he sought. He even chose his own fact-checker, a friend, who seems to have done little more than verify dates and names, rather than bother to check the veracity of the events themselves. Perhaps his use of the ’non-fiction novel’ device was a way to avoid criticism of the liberties he took.
And what of the aftermath? For the protagonists, it can be neatly categorised as short, medium and long-term. The Clutter family who were slaughtered so savagely on that November night had no aftermath, except in the memories of those who loved them, knew them, or shared the little community of Holcomb with them. And of course, as characters in Capote’s story. They had two daughters, Eveanna and Beverley who no longer lived at home, although they share a place in the well-know family photo around the fireplace. Beverley was due to be married in December, but to help bring some light into what must have been a very dark time, and to share it with the relatives who’d travelled long distances for the funeral, the wedding was held four days after the Clutters had been laid to rest. (In spite of Capote’s large numbers of interviews with Holcomb folks, and his copious note-taking, he didn’t seek to interview either daughter, but satisfied himself with repeating the report of the wedding from the Garden City Telegram.) The aftermath for the two surviving Clutters was to be one of grief and loss for their family, although they remained discreet and private, and seem to have borne their loss with real dignity and a sense of perspective, which no doubt helped them avoid becoming further casualties of the murderers. And even for Herb, Bonnie, Nancy and Kenyon, their aftermath became the many acts of remembrance and memory by the people of Holcomb and Garden City.
As for the perpetrators, they continued with their vagrant, dissolute, criminal ways on a trail through the mid-west, where they committed fraud while they made their way to Las Vegas where they were tracked down and arrested on the 30th December, some six weeks after the killings. They were also suspected of the murders of Christine and Cliff Walker and their two very young children in Florida on December 19th 1959. Capote asserted in his book that they had an alibi and couldn’t have been guilty, but investigations showed several factual errors in that account, and the authorities still to this day consider Smith and Hickock ’viable suspects’.
They went on trial in March 1960 for the murders of the Clutter family, and after a brief trial were found guilty and sentenced to be executed. They were duly, finally, hanged at Kansas State Penitentiary on April 14th 1965. Thus ended two lives which brought little but sorrow for most people who crossed paths with them.
Most people, that is, except Truman Capote. Upon visiting Holcomb as early as November 1959, in company with his childhood friend Harper Lee, author of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, he quickly ingratiated himself with the townsfolk, (no doubt helped greatly by Lee, who was fondly thought of afterwards); they were at first askance at this effeminate, high-voiced, preening figure from New York, but seemed to have been won round by his undoubted charm. Of course, this was his real stock-in-trade – to ingratiate himself with people who he identified as having use to him, only to later betray them. He would then spend the next six years preparing and fleshing out his book, including befriending and interviewing Smith and Hickock. He even attended the 1960 trial, then the execution in 1965. And when his work was published, first in a four parter in the New Yorker in September 1965, followed in book form four months later, his success went to further heights. It earned him millions of dollars; it appeared on the best seller lists; and it sold by the million and was translated into 30 languages. The fact that important parts of it were fabrication (the final scene involving FBI agent Alvin Dewey for instance) didn’t hinder it in the slightest.
In the years following, he became the darling of New York high society, feted and lionised by the wives of the rich and famous, and they allowed him to be the repository of their secrets and innermost thoughts.
Then, in keeping with his usual aim to have his cake and eat it, he would betray these women when he wrote an expose’ called ‘La Côte Basque’. One of the few published pieces from a planned novel to be called ‘Answered Prayers’, it laid out in often graphic detail the secrets that his wealthy, female society acquaintances had shared with him – in what they believed were confidential conversations between close friends. But Truman Capote harboured no such illusions. All along he was gathering ammunition for another great work, one that would send his star even higher than ’In Cold Blood’. He intended to divulge theses secrets to the world, and he did. He intended to coat his characters in such gossamer that the world would be in little doubt who they depicted, and he did. And he intended to create a society scandal that would put everyone’s tongues wagging, and keep his name on everyone’s lips. He did that too. But the big error he made was that he naively thought his erstwhile friends would laugh indulgently, and forgive him, because after all, they loved him, and they needed him to boost their charitable work and maintain their society profiles. But they didn’t.
This was largely because the hurt and embarrassment went too deep. There was naivety on both sides; but the revelations and salacious gossip earned him anger from the victims, and disdain from many other people – even while they ate up the scandal, they immediately recognised and disliked his betrayal.
The setting for ’La Côte Basque’ is a lunch in the titular restaurant, between ‘Jonesy’, a thinly disguised Capote, and ‘Lady Ina Coolbirth’, a society girl who was equally transparent as Nancy ’Slim’ Keith, well known in important fashion and media circles. During the course of the lunch, Ina Coolbirth gossips happily about various other patrons, revealing via Jonesy (aka Capote) their scandals and peccadilloes, which range from titillating and salacious to downright cruel and vicious. The cast of slandered characters easily visible behind the voile Capote had draped over them included Princess Margaret, Jackie Kennedy, Gloria Vanderbilt. His ‘friends’ occupied the cream of New York society, amongst them Slim Keith, and Babe Paley, whose philandering husband Bill was the top man at media giants CBS.
But some of the stories went way beyond catty and cruel. Joseph Kennedy, father of JFK, was depicted as having crept into the bedroom of ‘Lady Coolbirth’ as a teenager and raped her.
Capote’s story related how Bill betrayed Babe with Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s wife, and how his paramour had actually menstruated during sex. Capote must have taken great pleasure in describing how this powerful man, head of one of the biggest media outfits in the world, had frantically tried to wash the sheets. But rather than sharing her friend’s thrill at exposing her traitorous husband to the world, and gushing to him at how clever he was, Babe felt real pain. Capote hadn’t betrayed Bill; he’d betrayed her to the world. And his knife must have cut at least as deep as her husband’s affair had.
But perhaps the cruelest cut was the one delivered to Ann Woodward, who some twenty years before had shot and killed her husband one night at their home. She claimed that she’d mistaken him for an intruder. After an inquest, it was decided that she shouldn’t face charges. And so the story had been forgotten…until 1975 and Esquire, where Capote resurrected it under the character of ‘Anne Hopkins’. But in Capote’s retelling, there was no doubt that it was murder, nor that the mother-in-law had bribed police to hush the matter up.
Of course, the names had been changed. But otherwise, everyone who mattered, which in that world meant everyone in New York society, knew exactly who was who.
These revelations had real consequences, not only for the cast of characters, but ultimately for Capote himself. He’d not only been a friend of these women, known as his ‘Swans’, he’d been a confidante, in whom they vested their closest secrets, because they trusted him. So when he called asking to speak to Babe, who he professed to adore, (Babe was already seriously ill with cancer,) Bill refused to allow Capote to speak to him, his words making it clear that Truman was persona non grata with him and his wife. Babe would die in 1978; she never spoke to Capote again. Ann Woodward committed suicide just days before the Esquire article hit the newsstands. And his other great friend Slim Keith, the model for his fictional gossip-monger Lady Ina Coolbirth, refused to take his calls; she too cut him out. Truman Capote’s entrée into the society circles in which he’d basked, in which he’d gloried, and which he ultimately exploited, was instantly rescinded. They’d been his best friends; but in the end, he showed that he wasn’t theirs. So the price they exacted for his betrayal was the one that would hurt him most – exclusion.
He’d apparently naively thought that his portrayal would bring him further acclamation, that the women referred to as his ‘Swans” would coo in pleasure at how clever, how daring, how observant he was; and that their rich and powerful husbands would simply acquiesce. That they’d laugh so much at his exposure of their friends, they’d simply ignore, or not recognise, his portrayal of them. In Babe’s case she would probably enjoy the outing of her husband’s infidelity. He’d even told People magazine in advance that he was writing a book called ‘Answered Prayers’, saying “There’s the handle, the trigger, the barrel and, finally, the bullet,” he said. “And when that bullet is fired from the gun, it’s going to come out with a speed and power like you’ve never seen — wham!”
Truman Capote died at the age of fifty-nine in 1984. After the fallout from ‘La Côte Basque’, he was reduced to a much different kind of social circle – the hedonistic mayhem of the Studio 54 scene, the Andy Warhol crowd, and a diet of cocaine, heroin, and booze. A regular on the chat-show circuit, and on the tabloid front pages, the pictures of him on the arm of a beautiful graceful lady at a fancy charity ball disappeared, to be replaced by images of him dancing in a disco with people he wouldn’t have bothered with a few years before. It was fitting that the once famed, now fading discotheque would be his bolt hole – by then they were a reflection of one another, and mostly famous for their fame. Even his new friend Warhol mirrored him – talent which had became obscured by self publicity.
As for the killers in the Clutter case, who became mere players in the spectacle of Capote’s life, they would soon be forgotten outside the pages of his book. Capote himself professed horror at their brutal, if inevitable, end, and he certainly seems to have formed something of a friendship with Perry Smith during his many visits to Death Row. He admitted that ‘In Cold Blood’ (which was first serialised in the New York Times in 1965, six years after the killings, then published in book form the following year) wouldn’t be complete until, and unless, they were executed. This must have been a macabre thought to him, yet celebrity and success always seemed to trump friendship or conscience in Capote’s world. They went to their end as they’d served, two petty criminals with the emphasis on petty. For theirs was indeed a petty crime – committed for money which didn’t exist, for reasons which didn’t exist, and against people who were truly innocent victims of greed.
In the end, the Clutter’s lives were needlessly sacrificed to satisfy the greed for money of two small-time criminals. And their memories were needlessly sacrificed to satisfy the greed for celebrity of one talented, yet flawed, writer. They are the real heroes of this sad story. The people of Holcomb remembered Herb as he was, an honest, reliable, hard-working man who many considered a friend. They remembered Bonnie as a woman whose life depended on her family, and her faith, and who, although she had her health troubles, was there to help and guide others. They remembered Nancy and Kenyon as two young, likeable and popular people who had their whole lives, lives of promise, before them. All four’s last moments must have been filled with barely imaginable horror and fear. All four were snuffed out like candles. Yet the flames of the memory of them continued to burn bright amongst their loved ones and their friends and neighbours. Fate was not so kind to the memories of those who slaughtered them. Nor was history so kind to the memory of the man who exploited the story of that slaughter. That’s why, in this tale, we should think kindly of Herb, Bonnie, Nancy, and Kenyon. And only of them.