In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the kille...

Title:In Cold Blood
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In Cold Blood Reviews

  • Amy Galaviz

    After I read it, I looked up pictures of the Clutter family, and just stared for about five minutes. They endured what is probably everyone’s worst fear.

    Having never heard anything of the Clutter murders prior to reading this book, the experience of reading it was intense, gripping, and suspenseful from beginning to end. Capote, with his impartial writing style, relayed facts and details in such a way as to give a complete character illustration of everyone involved: from each of the Clutters, t

    After I read it, I looked up pictures of the Clutter family, and just stared for about five minutes. They endured what is probably everyone’s worst fear.

    Having never heard anything of the Clutter murders prior to reading this book, the experience of reading it was intense, gripping, and suspenseful from beginning to end. Capote, with his impartial writing style, relayed facts and details in such a way as to give a complete character illustration of everyone involved: from each of the Clutters, to the investigators, lawyers, and even the murderers themselves. He did not reveal his personal sentiments or biases, or even presume to know right from wrong. In what he coined a “non-fiction novel,” Capote brilliantly combined the elements of a fictional murder novel with factual journalism and psychological analysis to show the moral dilemmas surrounding the act of murder.

    In the section about the Clutter family life during their final days before the murders, Capote’s description of their daily routines and habits made what was to come even more troubling. Nancy and Kenyon were going through the typical hardships of adolescence; Nancy had a boyfriend of whom her father did not approve and was the most popular girl in school, while Kenyon was self-conscious, nerdy, and socially awkward. Herbert and Bonnie’s marriage was a bit shaky; Bonnie had a mysterious and fleeting mental illness, and Herbert was very busy with his farming business and did not have much time to tend to her. However, despite their problems, they maintained a strong family bond, were well-liked by the entire community, and we get a sense that things were looking up for them.

    After the murder takes place, as if to intensify the suspense, Capote does not immediately reveal to us exactly how or why Perry and Dick committed the crime, but instead takes us on their journey as they attempt escape through the deep South while the investigators begin to try to solve the crime. We learn much about these two characters through their interactions with each other, letters, diary excerpts, and interviews with family members. We are brought deep into their psyche, learning everything from their personal hygiene habits to their mannerisms and quirks. In an uncomfortable yet brilliant way, Capote allows us to sympathize with the murderers, if only for a moment. What exactly went wrong with them? Did Perry Smith’s childhood of abuse, neglect, and displacement lead him to have moments of extreme callousness and violence? Dick, who had a seemingly normal childhood and a loving family, was in a car accident which left him with a permanent head injury. Was his head injury the cause of his downfall, or was it some other unknown character defect? Even though they were capable of evil and cold-heartedness, they also had goals and insecurities as well as the capacity for creativity, love, and fear. The murders were a tragic “psychological accident” (according to Alvin Dewey), the collision of two personalities gone terribly wrong with an innocent family who was in the wrong situation at the wrong time.

    The final section of the book, from their first of many trials to their execution, presents us with the moral dilemmas surrounding the punishment of crime. Capote does not make any definitive conclusions, but poses many questions: Is execution right or wrong? Why the long delay (approx. 6 years) between the guilty verdict and the execution? Was a fair trial possible or necessary, given the horrific nature of the crimes committed? It is impossible to summarize the impact of this book in a few paragraphs, but it will definitely stay with me for years to come.

  • Will Byrnes

    This is one of the great ones. Capote blankets Holcomb, Kansas with his curiosity. The root of this work is a ghastly crime. Two recently released convicts, seeking a fortune that did not exist, invade the Clutter family home, tie up the four family members present and leave no witnesses. It takes some time for the perpetrators to be identified, then tracked down. Capote looks at how the townspeople react to this. Many, fearful that one of their own was responsible, become withdrawn. How do peop

    This is one of the great ones. Capote blankets Holcomb, Kansas with his curiosity. The root of this work is a ghastly crime. Two recently released convicts, seeking a fortune that did not exist, invade the Clutter family home, tie up the four family members present and leave no witnesses. It takes some time for the perpetrators to be identified, then tracked down. Capote looks at how the townspeople react to this. Many, fearful that one of their own was responsible, become withdrawn. How do people mourn? He looks at the sequence of investigation that leads ultimately to the capture of the suspects, focusing on one of the chief investigators. He looks in depth at the criminals. What makes them tick? How could people do such awful things? In reading this I was reminded of some of the great panoramic art works of a bygone age, works by Bosch, Breughel, in which entire towns were brought together into one wide-screen image. This is what Capote has done. But even with all the territory he covers there is considerable depth. I was also reminded, for an entirely different reason of Thomas Hardy. Capote has an incredible gift for language. He writes beautifully, offering descriptions that can bring to tears anyone who truly loves language. It has the power of poetry. This is truly a classic, a book that defined a new genre of literature. If you haven’t read it, you must.

  • Stephen

    4.0 to 4.5 stars. Written over a period of 7 years and published in 1966, this novel, while not technically the first “true crime” non-fiction novel, is credited (correctly) with establishing the genre and being the progenitor of today's true crime novel. I would certainly agree that most of the other true crime novels that I have read followed almost the exact "blue print" laid out by Capote in this book. That is quite a testament to the technical excellence of this novel

    4.0 to 4.5 stars. Written over a period of 7 years and published in 1966, this novel, while not technically the first “true crime” non-fiction novel, is credited (correctly) with establishing the genre and being the progenitor of today's true crime novel. I would certainly agree that most of the other true crime novels that I have read followed almost the exact "blue print" laid out by Capote in this book. That is quite a testament to the technical excellence of this novel.

    The book recounts the story of the brutal murders in Holcomb, Kansas of a farmer named Herb Clutter, his wife and their two children. The book spends the early pages going back and forth between introducing the reader to the Clutter family and also to the two murderers, Perry Smith and Dick Hickock. I thought Capote did a superb job of allowing the reader to “get to know” the Clutter family (and the killers for that matter) so that impact of the actual murders would resonate more deeply.

    Overall, I thought the job that Capote did of laying out the story in the sequence that he did was masterful. By following the structure that he did he was able to keep the narrative tension high throughout the entire novel. This is a difficult task to accomplish when both the nature of the crime itself and the eventual fate of the perpetrators are known before you even pick up the book. However, Capote pulls it off and for that he deserves much credit.

    The novel is also much more comprehensive than just a detailed restatement of the murders. The book spends considerable time showing the effect the killings had on the Holcomb community and how different people responded to the event both postively and negatively. It follows the killers, both leading up to the murders and also during their time in hiding afterwards. Further, it recounts the actions of the police and the manhunt that eventually led to the capture of Smith and Hickock. Lastly, Capote spends considerable time on the trial of the two killers as well as the effect the trial and its aftermath had on the people most closely involved with the case.

    Overall, I thought the book was just about perfect in its execution. The critical events are detailed and fully-fleshed out without excess padding over the book’s 400 pages. I thought it was very interesting to discover that Capote produced almost 8000 pages worth of transcripts, notes and commentary from which he then distilled the final product. This certainly highlights the painstaking research Capote did and the unprecedented access he was given to the events and people surrounding this tragedy.

    An amazing achievement and one that I HIGHLY RECOMMEND people read.

    I only gave this book 4.0 to 4.5 stars. I feel weird saying “only” when the rating means I more than really liked it (call it really, really, super duper liked it). It just wasn’t

    enough for me to give it 5 stars. Sadly, I think this says more about me than it does about the merits of the book. The recounting of the killings just did not have the emotional impact on me that I think, in all fairness, they should have. I guess you could say that I was shocked to find myself “not shocked” by the recounting of the murders.

    Unfortunately, having grown up in a world that has been witness to horrors so far beyond the tragic events described in the novel, the slayings did not evoke the kind of visceral reaction that I would have expected. A contributing factor to this may be that at the same time as I was listening to this book on audio, I was reading Jack Ketchum’s

    and

    by J.A. Konrath et al, two of the goriest books I have ever read. The horrors recounted in Capote’s novel came across as very PG to PG-13. Again, that is both a sad and scary thing to realize just how “comfortable” you can become reading, watching or hearing about crimes like this one. I think this last comment leads nicely into the next section.

    Have the horrors of the world today really become so fucking “over the top” extreme that they have numbed me to the point where reading about the pre-meditated, unprovoked murder of a family of four doesn’t quite have the requisite “shock value” to immediately cause bile to rise in the back of my throat. In all honesty, YES!! In fact, I believe that as horrific as the killings were they would barely be a two minute headline on the evening news today. When you really stop to think about it, how catastrophically and dementedly fucked up is that!!

    The truth is that nowadays events like the Clutter family killings happen all too often. In fact, it's possible that if the murders happened today they might go completely ignored by everyone except the local news where they occurred. Sadly, when on any given day we might be hearing about some troubled teen going “Columbine” on his classmates because some douche bag tripped him in the lunch room or reading about some disgruntled worker deciding that the boss who fired him doesn’t deserve to live and so proceeds to kill a dozen of his former co-workers because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Don’t take my comments as advocating the curtailment of ANY form of entertainment being made today whether it be books, movies, music, video games or TV shows. NO, NO, No and please NO!! I like and love my violent, over the top, blood-soaked books, graphic novels and even TV shows (pause for a big shout out to Dexter). Now I could do without most of the real gory, slasher type films but hey, to each their own.

    So this is not about advocating change in what we watch or read (I certainly have no plans to change). I am simply recognizing the fact that as a society we have fallen down the “rabbit hole” and are living in a fucked up, violent, blood-soaked world that tears at our empathy on a daily basis. It is just something that many of us (myself included) seem to have become all too comfortable with it. Whether its loving us some Tony Soprano (and c’mon how can you not) or laughing as we shoot hookers during a game of Grand Theft Auto (I would note without further comment the current serial killings involving prostitutes) or hearing about another 5 dead American soldiers killed by a roadside bomb and then casually changing the channel to get back to the ball game so you can put it out of your mind.

    This is us. We have become the world that Cormac McCarthy envisioned in

    and, like Sheriff Tom Bell in McCarthy’s novel, I think it would be impossible for the people of Capote’s time to imagine the world as it is today.

    I am not sure what, if anything, all this says about us or me, but there you have it. Rant over, review concluded.

  • Jason

    It is clear from reading

    that not only is Philip Seymour Hoffman an excellent writer, but he is also an in-depth researcher. Every line in this book is painstakingly detailed and therein, as they say, is the devil. Well, the devil had me hooked from start to finish.

    Beginning with a day-in-the-life of the Clutter family shortly before four of its members were slain, Mr. Hoffman presents the real-life tale of the murders (as well as its aftermath) in a somewhat nonlinear fashion, ski

    It is clear from reading

    that not only is Philip Seymour Hoffman an excellent writer, but he is also an in-depth researcher. Every line in this book is painstakingly detailed and therein, as they say, is the devil. Well, the devil had me hooked from start to finish.

    Beginning with a day-in-the-life of the Clutter family shortly before four of its members were slain, Mr. Hoffman presents the real-life tale of the murders (as well as its aftermath) in a somewhat nonlinear fashion, skipping past the killings themselves to account for the daily activities and whereabouts of their perpetrators—Dick Hickock and Perry Smith—until finally revealing, once Hickock and Smith are caught, the goings-on at the Clutter family home on the night of the murders. All of this, I think, adds to the intensity of the storytelling and maintains the suspense necessary to move the narrative along.

    Though the writing is

    perfect, and someone (like Trudi) might come onto this review and yell at me for having attributed to it an incorrect number of stars, it is difficult for me to award that fifth star in cases where the book fails to rock my world, emotionally speaking. In other words, a book has to have its way with me—it needs to seduce me and whisper into my ear, and even making breakfast for me in the morning wouldn’t hurt. But these are just explanatory ramblings, and they are mostly unnecessary. Because this really is one helluva book.

    In doing some research of my own I have discovered that Mr. Hoffman was not alone in his procurement of the details for this book. His good friend Catherine Keener, author of

    , accompanied him to the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, where the murders took place. He did this, presumably, to maximize the information-garnering potential for his manuscript. But oddly enough, Keener is not credited anywhere in the novel as having made any contribution to it whatsoever.

    Come to think of it, though, neither is Philip Seymour Hoffman.

  • Jeffrey Keeten

    Hickock, Richard Eugene (WM)28 KBI 97 093; FBI 859 273 A. Address: Edgerton, Kansas. Birthdate 6-6-31 Birthplace K.C., Kans. Height: 5-10 Weight: 175 Hair: Blond. Eyes: Blue. Build: Stout. Comp: Ruddy. Occup: Car Painter. Crime: Cheat & Defr. & Bad Checks. Paroled: 8-13-59 By: So. K.C.K.

    Smith, Perry Edward (WM) 27-59. Birthplace: Nevada. Height: 5-4. Weight: 156 Hair: D. Brn. Crim

    Hickock, Richard Eugene (WM)28 KBI 97 093; FBI 859 273 A. Address: Edgerton, Kansas. Birthdate 6-6-31 Birthplace K.C., Kans. Height: 5-10 Weight: 175 Hair: Blond. Eyes: Blue. Build: Stout. Comp: Ruddy. Occup: Car Painter. Crime: Cheat & Defr. & Bad Checks. Paroled: 8-13-59 By: So. K.C.K.

    Smith, Perry Edward (WM) 27-59. Birthplace: Nevada. Height: 5-4. Weight: 156 Hair: D. Brn. Crime: B&E. Arrested: (blank) By: (blank). Disposition: Sent KSP 3-13-56 from Phillips Co. 5-10yrs. Rec. 3-14-56. Paroled: 7-6-59.

    As I write this review, I'm sitting about 60 miles from the Clutter house in Holcomb, Kansas. Holcomb is a small, farming community located just west of Garden City. The line from the long running show

    perfectly describes this community. Where not only does everyone in the bar know your name, but everyone in the whole county knows your name and knows your family history.

    I don't own a copy of

    . I usually avoid reading true crime books. I don't have any interest in filling my head with tragedy. I want to go about my life with a degree of caution, but not ruled by the fear I feel such books will instill.

    I stopped by the Dodge City Library, and as expected, they had several copies for me to choose from. The librarian at the check out desk, a woman about mid-sixties, slender, elegant, and still attractive paused for a moment looking down at the book. She physically shivered. She looked up at me and said in a whisper,

    .

    She can remember watching her father put locks on the doors for the first time and knowing afterwards that there was life before the Clutter murders, and then there was life after the Clutter murders. Her response surprised me. In a time when any crime anywhere in the country is broadcast out to the nation I would have thought some of the impact of the Clutter murder would have been buried under the avalanche of murder and mayhem related to us on a daily basis. For this community and for all the small communities dotting the map of Kansas, and even in the surrounding states, this was something that wasn't supposed to happen in a small town. This was big city crime

    .

    As I talked to people about the Clutter murders most everybody had a physical reaction. They flinched as if they were dodging a blow. You could almost see the pages of their memories fluttering behind their eyes back to 1959. They attributed more deaths to the crime, each of them citing six deaths rather than four. This could have to do with the fact that there were six Clutters. The two older girls had already left the home and started their own lives and were not present on that fateful night when their family was murdered.

    was required reading in many schools in this region clear up until about the 1970s, so even people who were too young to remember the crime have still been impacted by the murders.

    In the description above of Perry Edward Smith there is a reference to Phillips County. This has special significance for me because I was born and raised in Phillips County. The family farm is located in Phillips County. My Dad and I graduated from Phillipsburg High School. My Dad was a sophomore in high school in 1955 when Perry Smith decided to burglarize the Chandler Sales Company in Phillipsburg, Kansas and this seemingly insignificant act was really the beginning of this story. Smith and his accomplice, also Smith, stole typewriters, adding machines etc and got away clean. Later they ignored a traffic signal in St. Joseph, Missouri and were pulled over by a cop. All the loot was wedged into the backseat of the car eliciting the wrong kinds of questions from law enforcement. They were extradited back to Phillipsburg, where through an open window (image my embarrassment for the law enforcement of my home county)they escaped. Later Perry was caught again and sent back to Phillipsburg where the law enforcement did a better job of keeping track of him.

    Perry Smith received 10 years in the Kansas Penitentiary in Leavenworth. Richard Eugene Hickock was already serving time in Leavenworth for fraud. The two met and became friends. The final piece to the puzzle that not only determined the fate of the Clutter family, but also the fates of Smith and Hickock was for them to meet Floyd Wells. Wells, serving time for some bit of stupidity, had worked for Herb Clutter back in 1948. He told Hickock and Smith that Clutter was not only a rich farmer, but kept a safe full of cash in his house.

    There was no safe. There was no pile of cash. There was absolutely no reason for four people to lose their lives for $40.

    After the murders they went to Mexico for a while, but even though they could live cheaply money still trickled through their fingers, after they burned through the goods they had acquired through the Clutter robbery and through defrauding retail stores, they found that working in Mexico didn't pay well either. They came back up to the United States and there was an interesting moment from the time they were in Miami that for me was really indicative of a level of detachment they were able to maintain. Perry Smith is reading the paper and sees an article about a family that was tied up and shot to death.

    WTF? Some nut? How about the original coconut heads that murdered the family in Kansas?

    Perry does have a moment or two where he weighs what happened in Kansas.

    Truman Capote had been looking for the right story for an experimental form of writing he'd been thinking about. He wanted to blend fiction and nonfiction and the Clutter murders struck him as the perfect story to launch this new form of writing. I have to admire his fortitude, for a man of his sensibilities not only spending that much time among farmbillies, but having to befriend them as well. It must have been somewhat of a painful experience.

    Floyd Wells eventually comes forward and tells what he knows about the murders. He had always liked Herb Clutter and felt bad that what he had told, in a moment of prison bonding, had led to such a vicious conclusion. Without his statement I'm pretty sure that Smith and Hickock would have gotten away with the murders. The slender evidence tying them to the murders would have made it almost impossible to prosecute them. They are convicted with the help of their signed confessions, and the punishment is death. As they are being led back to their cells:

    This is a beautifully written book. I want to thank Harper Lee for her role in helping Capote bring this book to completion. I'm not sure Capote would have had the perseverance to see it through without her holding his hand. I was long overdue to read this. I'm glad that "On the Southern Literary Trail" selected to read this book. It was the right push to get me past my own reticence in avoiding this genre. I certainly have a connection to this book and that may have colored my perceptions and certainly may have elevated my rating of the book, but given the historic nature of the book, ushering in a new genre that is still vibrantly alive today; I think most anyone should put this on their reading list.

  • Lyn

    In Cold Blood by Truman Capote was described by its author as a non-fiction novel.

    The novel was first published in 1965 and at the time this style of writing, perhaps even the template for a new genre, was fresh and new and bold. Almost 50 years later and the disturbing images are as fresh, vibrant and malevolent as when the ink was wet.

    The style of writing has no doubt inspired generations of writers since, but their imitation has done little to diminish the power of Capote’s work. Whether it

    In Cold Blood by Truman Capote was described by its author as a non-fiction novel.

    The novel was first published in 1965 and at the time this style of writing, perhaps even the template for a new genre, was fresh and new and bold. Almost 50 years later and the disturbing images are as fresh, vibrant and malevolent as when the ink was wet.

    The style of writing has no doubt inspired generations of writers since, but their imitation has done little to diminish the power of Capote’s work. Whether it was wholly accurate or not is for journalists and scholars to debate, but for the reader, his vision was compelling and his perspective on the crime, and especially as a character study, almost a biography, on the criminals is hypnotic.

    Critics may take umbrage with Capote’s sympathetic depiction of the killer’s plight, and perhaps such an argument has great merit, since the murderers showed no mercy to their victims, but Capote’s contribution lies in his objective illumination of all the surrounding facts and details of the crime. The author began with the crime scene outlines of the victims as they were stenciled on the floor of an upper middle class home in western Kansas and rippled outward until his narrative covered the lives, background and family dynamics of the victims, their murderers and the laws and cultures that had produced both.

    A staggeringly detailed account of a brutal slaying, Capote has left us with a rich literary gift that should be on a list of books that must be read.

  • Justin

    At the beginning, In Cold Blood reads like a classic southern gothic tale. I've read about Harper Lee hanging out with Capote while he put this thing together, and at times it feels like she greatly influenced how it was written. You meet the Clutters who are just the nicest people in the world out working hard and going to school and being awesome people in the town. And, I know there's all this controversy over how the book is written since it adds fictional conversations and thoughts that Cap

    At the beginning, In Cold Blood reads like a classic southern gothic tale. I've read about Harper Lee hanging out with Capote while he put this thing together, and at times it feels like she greatly influenced how it was written. You meet the Clutters who are just the nicest people in the world out working hard and going to school and being awesome people in the town. And, I know there's all this controversy over how the book is written since it adds fictional conversations and thoughts that Capote obviously couldn't have known, but everything is rooted in the nonfiction account of what happened, and I think it adds a deeper layer of connection to the family.

    I read Helter Skelter in high school, and I remember that book starting out right from the gate with all the details of the murders before diving into the Manson family and the trial. In Cold Blood works more in reverse and saves the details for later, and my God when I got there I didn't even want to read about what happened. It was all so senseless and random. I had a hard time finishing the book after that. I just wanted it to be over.

    Often beautifully and brilliantly written, sometimes tedious to get through, sometimes way too meticulous with details, sometimes spending a couple of pages discussing cats or a building or something, this book is a classic in the true crime genre. I haven't read a lot of true crime in my reading life, but I've read enough to know that this deserves a spot at the top of the list. Capote does an excellent job laying out the story, and gives the family, the murderers, and the cops an overwhelming amount of description and development. I knew more about the killers than I ever wanted to know, and I want things to go a different direction even though I knew they wouldn't.

    Now I have to watch the movie, then Capote, then Infamous. This is a story that will be stuck in my head for a while. It's a harsh reminder of the evil that exists in the world, and how fragile our existence on this planet really is. It's also a very detailed account of the senseless murder of most of a family, but I took away a lot of other stuff from its pages, too. Read it.

  • Matthew

    This book is one of the first, if not the first, true crime novel. According to Wikipedia, only

    has sold more copies in the True Crime category than In Cold Blood. While true crime fans might read this today and think that it sounds like your basic true crime story, at the time it was groundbreaking to detail a crime in this much detail and in a format as big as a novel.

    One of the things it appears that this novel set the precedence for, and t

    This book is one of the first, if not the first, true crime novel. According to Wikipedia, only

    has sold more copies in the True Crime category than In Cold Blood. While true crime fans might read this today and think that it sounds like your basic true crime story, at the time it was groundbreaking to detail a crime in this much detail and in a format as big as a novel.

    One of the things it appears that this novel set the precedence for, and that I have seen in other true crime novels, is that the author is not only researching the story, he is getting in the mix and talking face to face with the criminals (example - Ann Rule). Sometimes this leads to relationships and feelings that are reflected in the retelling. After you finish reading this, it is interesting to look this up online and see some of the theories about how Capote approached this crime and the people involved.

    Speaking of Capote, I have never seen any of the movies about him, but it sounds like all of them focus on this part of his life – and there are at least 3 of them! I may need to check them out to see what I think. Also, I need to check out the

    One think I found very, very interesting

    One thing I forgot to add when I originally wrote this review was that having read this and Breakfast At Tiffany's, it is hard to believe it is the same author. Probably the most diverse writing from the same author I have ever encountered.

    True crime fans! Non-fiction fans! Fans of must read classics! You must add In Cold Blood to your list.

  • Brina

    In Cold Blood is the new school classics selection in the group catching up on classics for November 2016. Having read Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's recently and enjoying his writing, I could not wait to read this nonfiction thriller in advance of the upcoming group read. Writing in his relaxing southern style, Capote turns a horrid crime into a story to make the how's and whys accessible to the average American. It is in this regard that I rate this thrilling classic five stars.

    On Nov

    In Cold Blood is the new school classics selection in the group catching up on classics for November 2016. Having read Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's recently and enjoying his writing, I could not wait to read this nonfiction thriller in advance of the upcoming group read. Writing in his relaxing southern style, Capote turns a horrid crime into a story to make the how's and whys accessible to the average American. It is in this regard that I rate this thrilling classic five stars.

    On November 15, 1959 Richard "Dick" Hickock and Perry Smith, on a tip from another inmate, brutally murdered four members of the Clutter family of Holcomb, Kansas. Having heard that the Clutters possessed either a safe or $10,000 cash in their home, Smith and Hickock desired this wealth for themselves so that they could live out their days in a Mexican beach resort. To their surprise and chagrin, the Clutters did not have neither the safe nor the cash, but Hickock had said to leave no witnesses. Crime committed, the pair escaped to a life of continued crimes and violence and believing that authorities would never catch up with them. And in the beginning it appeared that this ill advised lifestyle might actually work.

    Due to the relentless work of the Kansas Bureau of Investigations (KBI) lead by Alvin Dewey, Hickock and Smith were eventually brought to justice and ultimately given the death penalty. Capote weaves a tale by giving us the backstory of both felons as well as a picture of Holcomb and nearby Garden City, Kansas as an idyllic place to raise a family. The crime changed everything. Families kept their doors locked and did not allow their children to venture far from home. In the surrounding areas, people viewed their lives as a before and after. Inevitably, the Clutter case lead to less community interaction and a beginning of a breakdown of society.

    Yet by providing the backstories of the felons, Capote allows the the readers to emphasize with their place in society. Dick Hickock was on his way to finishing at the top of his class with a possible athletic scholarship and a degree in engineering. His family could not afford a university education even with the scholarship so Hickock went to work. An automobile accident left him partially brain damaged as his parents maintained that he was not the same person since, and this one incident lead to his adult life of crime. Smith, on the other hand, lead a bleak childhood to the point where readers would feel sorry for him. Coming from a fractured family and only a third grade education, Smith suffered from a superiority complex his entire life. His role in the Clutter murders was the consummation of a lifetime of rejection. The felons came from diametrically opposed upbringings and yet I was left feeling remorse for both.

    Capote pieced together the crime to the point where I felt that I knew the people of Holcomb as well as the principal players in the crime intimately. This work lead to a new genre that brings together nonfiction and fiction in a way that history feels like a story. Both Capote and his research assistant Harper Lee ended up as award winning authors. Their fictional writing skills allowed for the personalization of this tale and ultimately help change the way many write nonfiction.

    Truman Capote is one of 20th America's master storytellers, and In Cold Blood is by many considered his opus. His research was detail oriented and allowed him to bring the story of the Clutter murders to the average American home. After completing this five star work painting the picture of the how's and whys of murder, I look forward to reading more of his charming Southern stories.

  • Michael Finocchiaro

    I just wonder why it took me so long to get this masterpiece on my currently-reading shelf. What a breathtaking story! And told in the most amazing novelistic style! The cold-blooded murders in Kansas in 1956 is described by a cold, distant narrator via the interviews of the family, acquaintances, and community around the victims and the the hair-raising stories of Perry and Bobby, the murderers. It is a real page-turner - I couldn't put it down! The descriptions of the youth of all the tragic p

    I just wonder why it took me so long to get this masterpiece on my currently-reading shelf. What a breathtaking story! And told in the most amazing novelistic style! The cold-blooded murders in Kansas in 1956 is described by a cold, distant narrator via the interviews of the family, acquaintances, and community around the victims and the the hair-raising stories of Perry and Bobby, the murderers. It is a real page-turner - I couldn't put it down! The descriptions of the youth of all the tragic protagonists is explored from every angle as under a magnifying glass. In Cold Blood kept me thinking that most of the recent murder mystery shows and movies were indebted to this piece of literature (that Capote probably deserved a Pulitzer for but was passed over, helas, in 1965). There is this strange homoerotism between the two murderers (who call each other "sugar" and "honey") but who both spout homophobic words throughout. Like the lawyers, I felt Richard was the coldest one and Perry the most twisted and tragic.

    This book is a true masterpiece of the non-fiction novel (even if some of the facts brought out by Capote were disputed) and its narration is stupendous in character development and maintaining an enormous amount of suspense end-to-end. It is even more astounding, because the reader already knows who commits the crime, the novel only elucidates the "why" and even that is ambiguous and pathetic. An awesome read.

    Note that in A Capote Reader, there is a great short essay about the making of movie In Cold Blood where Capote talks a bit about the 6 years it took him to write this masterpiece. (Haven't seen the movie yet :/)


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