FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
SUBJECT: Charles Bukowski FILE: 140-35907
In 1968 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 weekly Los Angeles paper Open City). 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 is that Bukowski claimed he was married to Jane Cooney Baker.
Every Bukowski biography cites 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. While Jane's name and birth date were manually blacked out, or redacted, from the copies of the FBI files released to the public (as were many other names and bits of information), we have used sophisticated spectral analysis (i.e., holding pages up to a bright light) to read this and other blocked out passages. A close up scan of the page in question clearly shows Jane's name (misspelled as JANE S. COONYE).
You can view the file 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 rather than the blacked out sections you see here, you'll just see an empty box.)
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) Despite what the FBI file says about Bukowski and Jane being married, 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. Now you can read the FBI files and decide for yourself.
In addition, you may want to 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 - Bukowski's own words - combined with the FBI files would seem to strongly suggest that Jane was his first wife, despite what the biographies say. Why Bukowski dropped the marriage from his history in later years, if indeed he and Jane were married, is a question that may never be answered.