Fifty-eight years have passed since the Clutter family was murdered in Holcomb, yet the haunting slaughter and ensuing media frenzy continues to seep into pop culture.
In the early morning hours of November 15, 1959, four members of the Clutter family were killed — parents, Herb and Bonnie Clutter, along with their two youngest children, Nancy and Kenyon. The gruesome killings rocked the small community, led to an investigation which spanned several states and gripped the media’s attention.
Two men were arrested for the crime — Richard “Dick” Hickock and Perry Smith. The investigation revealed the two traveled across Kansas and even made a stop in Emporia. While in Emporia, they purchased the rope they later used to restrain the Clutters. The men were tried and found guilty of the murders and were ultimately put to death.
During the investigative process, a unique man, Truman Capote, landed in Holcomb to write about the crime. Capote ultimately published the book, "In Cold Blood," about the murders. The book was later made into a movie of the same name. In recent years, some have questioned the accuracy of Capote’s telling of the events surrounding the murders.
Author Amy Brashear spent several years living in Garden City, not far from Holcomb, and found herself wondering if there was another story to tell.
“I spent my elementary years growing up in Garden City and then moved to Dodge City,” Brashear said. “I’ve always been a big fan of Truman Capote’s, 'In Cold Blood' and I’ve always wondered what if. I’ve always wondered what it was like to live during that time, in that small town. What it was like to have this tiny man with a strange voice come to town. Everyone has a story who knew the Clutter family, and I always wondered what it was like to lose a friend like that.”
The questions she grew up thinking about motivated Brashear to write her own book — No Saints in Kansas — which releases today. The book is a young adult, fictional re-imagining of Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" and the brutal murders that inspired it. Gripping and fast-paced, this meticulously researched historical fiction will reinvigorate a new generation to Capote and tell another side of the Clutter murders.
The book focuses around teenager Carly Flannigan, who was transplanted to Holcomb from New York City. Flannigan and her brother knew the Clutters. Their father, an attorney, eventually serves as the defense attorney for one of the accused.
Brashear meticulously researched the historical facts surrounding the murders, investigation, Capote’s work and even managed to seamlessly tie in significant national news events.
“I’ve worked on this book for three years — researching and writing,” Brashear said. “For research, I relied on newspaper articles and the crime reports. The Garden City Police Department has many crime scene photos and reports on their website, so that helped. I tried to stay away from 'In Cold Blood' and really stuck with the newspaper articles. Every day the newspaper had something new, so it was a great resource.”
Brashear’s writing effortlessly depicts the trauma the people of Holcomb faced in the aftermath of the Clutter murders. She weaves together teenage angst, trauma, detective work and scandal into a historical account which is believable and, most of all, relatable.
“I think it dives deeper into the town,” Brashears said. “It’s not just about Dick and Perry. If you are into true crime, I think my book is a good starting-off point.”
No Saints in Kansas is available wherever books are sold.