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Wichita reporter wrote book about murders

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, Nov. 15, 2009, at 12:06 a.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, April 23, 2013, at 4:40 p.m.

Was it the Clutter murders or Truman Capote, as a storyteller, that keeps the interest alive five decades later?

What if Random House had picked a Kansan to tell the story?

In Houston, 54-year-old Michael Nations wonders about that.

His father, Starling Mack Nations, was a reporter for The Wichita Eagle and Beacon during the late 1950s and early 1960s. He visited and corresponded with Dick Hickock and other death row inmates at Lansing State Prison in 1961 and 1962. The elder Nations prepared a several hundred page manuscript titled "High Road to Hell" about the Clutter family murders and Hickock's involvement.

"My dad didn't have the financing of Truman Capote or the notoriety, but he was a well-known newspaperman," Michael Nations said.

"He went all the way to New York City to interview with the Random House publisher," Nations said.

In the end, Random House chose Capote's version. Nations' condensed version ran in Male magazine in December 1961.

"My father's book was called the 'High Road to Hell,' appropriately because of the odd circumstances inside the house — like the killers putting the pillow under the boy's head, a box underneath Mr. Clutter because they didn't want him to be cold, then minutes later savagely murdering all the family," Michael Nations said. "It was odd things like that.

"This was just so much a part of my family's life, part of my father's life."

Starling Mack Nations died in a car accident in 1968.

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