In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Originally Published: 1966
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote is the true story of the 1959 murders of four members of the Clutter family in Holcomb Kansas.
First, there is a lot of controversy over this book, because Capote wrote it more as a crime novel, than a non-fiction account of the murders. His prose is excellent, but because he tended to embellish conversations and descriptions, some thought it took away from the facts. The facts are there, and can be substantiated, just somewhat hidden in his story. This method of relating true crime had not been tested much before, although it would be used in the future.
After reading a newspaper article of the tragedy, Capote, along with his friend Harper Lee (author of To Kill a Mockingbird), traveled to Kansas and interviewed the residents of the small farming community, as well as the investigators, reporters, and eventually the killers themselves.
On the night of November 15, 1959, Herbert Clutter, along with his wife Bonnie, and his teenage children Nancy and Kenyon, were tied up and shot in their home in Holcomb Kansas. Herbert Clutter also had his throat slashed. Very little was stolen. Very little evidence was left behind. The Clutters were a prosperous and well-respected family in the community, and no one understood this crime, as no enemies could be found.
Although the Sheriff’s office quickly called in the Kansas Bureau of Investigation to help solve this crime, it was actually Floyd Wells, a former employee of the Clutters, and currently a prisoner at Kansas State Penitentiary that led to the killers. Wells relayed the names of Dick Hancock and Percy Smith to the warden of the prison. Dick and he had been cellmates, and Wells had told him all about the Clutter family, as well as detailing their wealth, the layout of the land and the house. He may have exaggerated the fact that there was a safe in the house with plenty of cash. Four people were killed in cold blood, and the killers got $40-$50, and a radio.
This book tells the gruesome tale of those murders. It also delves deeply into both the lives of the community and the lives of the killers. It shows the fear created by these killings, and the seeming indifference of the murderers.
Personally, there are other, more recent, true crime authors that I prefer reading. However, Capote definitely wrote very well, just a little too detailed. If nothing else, it was a thought-provoking novel.
Favorite Quote from In Cold Blood:
“IT IS NO SHAME TO HAVE A DIRTY FACE—THE SHAME COMES WHEN YOU KEEP IT DIRTY.” — from a letter sent to Perry from his sister Barbara
“Imagination, of course, can open any door—turn the key and let terror walk right in.”
Re-Read: January 2017
About the Author: Truman Garcia Capote (1924-1984) was an American novelist, screenwriter, playwright, and actor, many of whose short stories, novels, plays, and nonfiction are recognized literary classics, including the novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1958) and the true crime novel In Cold Blood (1966), which he labeled a “nonfiction novel”. At least 20 films and television dramas have been produced of Capote novels, stories, and plays.