Something a bit different today, my first encounter with the ‘true-crime’ genre. I read this one as the result of a conversation I had with a lecturer about Harper Lee and Truman Capote’s relationship with one another and the pair have fascinated me ever since.
Title: In Cold Blood
Author: Truman Capote
Date published: January 1966
Goodreads summary: 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 killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.
This book had me compelled and disturbed from the offset and if you’re the kind of person who liked the Making a Murderer series and are someone who is eerily fascinated by what goes on in the human brain then In Cold Blood will undoubtedly tickle your fancy.
But this isn’t Dexter; there’s something truly haunting about the factual nature of this novel and the ways in which Capote details the cruel murder of the Clutter family, not to mention the lives of their attackers. The description of the actual crime sickened me; Capote writes such empathy into the moment it’s almost unbearable – knowing it really happened. I will admit there were times where I had to take a break and put this novel down but that is by no means a fault in Capote’s record. The pace I read this at is a testament to his excellent writing in combination with my own weak disposition.
Since its release in 1966 many scenes as well as dialogues and relationships have been contested and falsified whilst the key facts remain more-or-less the same. For some this will degrade from the overall reception of this text but for me it was simply a case of writing a story that would endure. Capote created, not just a memoir, but a lasting text, one that would captivate and maintain interest beyond the context of the events it depicts. For that I feel some factual discrepancies can be allowed – so long as we remember they are there.
In terms of pace do not expect a thriller; written in retrospect this novel doesn’t follow the typical whodunit style and, as I imagine many true crime novels do, doesn’t motivate readers by keeping secrets from them. The combination of the novel style and that of journalism makes for characters and places that are uniquely real; this undoubtedly alters the pace.
The most compelling thing about this feat of literary engineering is its human element. Perry Smith and Dick Hickock are as complex on paper as a human is in reality and there’s something so wrong about finishing a novel and feeling as though you intimately know a pair of convicted murderers. It’s that unsettling feeling that really makes this novel shine. True or not, reading it is an experience and for ‘learning-something-new’ function alone it’s 100% worthwhile.
Find it on Goodreads
If you have any other suggestions feel free to message me or leave them in the comments section below!
I’d like to post a few short essays on stuff I’ve read at some point – I’d be interested to hear what you think of it and if there’s anything you’d like to read. I particularly don’t want to overload these reviews with weird theory so it’d be nice to have somewhere to share them 🙂
– Cat –