In 1968 various branches of the U.S. government performed an investigation into the background of civil servant Charles Bukowski. The FBI and Postal Service took offense to some of his writing (mainly the notes of a dirty old man column he wrote for the Los Angeles tabloid Open City), and had their "informants" report Bukowski to higher-ups in the post office. The bulk of these files are interviews with neighbors and employers, few of whom who seem to remember Bukowski. However, the files do contain some surprises. Not the least of which: Bukowski claimed he was married to Jane Cooney.
Every Bukowski biography names Barbara Frye as his first wife. However, in 1952 (three years before his marriage to Barbara Frye) Bukowski stated that he was married to Jane Cooney Baker - the "Jane" of many of his most heartfelt works. Jane's name and birth date are blacked out in the copies of the FBI files released to the public, but we have used sophisticated spectral analysis (holding pages up to a bright light) to read this and other blocked out passages. A close up scan of the page in question (page 7 of FBI report LA 140-6698 dated 3/28/68) clearly shows Jane's name (misspelled as JANE S. COONYE).
You can view the files in order, or skip to interesting pages via the links below. As an added bonus, we have included detailed instructions for requesting your own copy of the files from the FBI! (Note that they electronically redact material from the file now, so you will not have the blacked out sections to try to read through.)
Or go directly to these pages:
Addresses and jobs through 1957
A "notes of a dirty old man" column
Arrested for dodging the draft
Married to Jane in 1952
Married to Jane (close-up)
Writing is "highly romanticized"
Never seen women in his apartment
College from 1939 to 1941
Drunk, night in jail
Second "notes of a dirty old man" column
Third "notes of a dirty old man" column
Unfit for military service
1) Every page of the files is included here, even mostly blank pages and copies of envelopes.
2) Howard Sounes, author of two excellent books about Bukowski; Charles Bukowski: Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life and Bukowski in Pictures, maintains that Bukowski and Cooney Baker were never married. Since they are both dead, the truth about their marriage (or lack thereof) may never be known. Read the files and decide for yourself. Then read:
This 1959 poem from Gallows magazine that makes mention of his second wife (referring to Barbara Frye).
This 1960 poem manuscript excerpt in which he refers to himself as "twice divorced."
This 1966 poem manuscript excerpt which says he has had "2 wives."
These references combined with the FBI files would seem to confirm that Jane was his first wife, despite what the biographies may say. Why he may have dropped the marriage from his history in later years is unknown.