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In Cold Blood

A book by Truman Capote

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A clearly framed horrifying account of cold-blooded murder.

  • May 11, 2013
  • by
The murders that are graphically depicted in Truman Capote's In Cold Blood -which is now universally recognized more for its writing than anything else- are nauseating, grisly and malicious; these words do not aptly describe the frightful overtone, essence and nub of the book - that violence is not purely restricted to inner cities and to metropolises. The murders that occurred on 15 November 1959 in Holcomb, Kansas is the exclamation point to that alarming fact. Violent murders can happen in places like Holcomb where, "The village (of Holcomb) stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call 'out there.' Some seventy miles east of the Colorado border, the countryside, with its hard blue skys and desert-clear air, has an atmosphere that is rather more Far West than Middle West. The local accent is barbed with a prairie twang, a ranch-hand nasalness, and the men, many of them, wear narrow frontier trousers, Stetsons, and high-heeled boots with pointed toes. The land is flat, and the views are awesomely extensive; horses, herds of cattle, a white cluster of grain elevators rising as gracefully as Greek temple are visible long before a traveler reaches them." [Page three] That image of oridinary middle America with traditional homspun values that predated the golden age of Camelot dose not seem like the appropriate setting for a bloody quadruple homicide. But that in fact is cold, hard reality that can not be altered, irrelevant of society's wish for the prevention of outside ills to seep into the homogeneous and community-oriented sub-societies like Holcomb. The murders, which are a strong facet in this book, goes beyond senseless evil; it is outside human intellectual and logical reach, because during the latter part of fifties and early sixties, the study of criminology, sociology and the psychological sciences was nowhere near as honed and accurate as it is today. It was just four gruesome unsolved murders. The cure: get the person or persons responsible and punish them to the full extent of the law. Case closed. In Cold Blood is writtien in that same straight-forward, stick-to-the-facts fashion. Capote stuck to the actualities at hand; he did not interlace the act of murder with scientific/psychological reasoning as to why it happened. He knew that it was not for simple financial gain; there was something deeper and more profound involved. I think Capote was curious about that aspect of it, but it raised questions regarding his standard of objectivity when writing about the wondering and soulless lives of Perry Smith and Richard Hickock. In Cold Blood is representative of a true American tragedy on all counts, for you have the horrid slaughter of the Clutter family, and in another way, you have the death of two men who could have become something more than what they ended up if their circumstances early in their life had been just a little bit different. Ultimately, the punishment for the crime was well deserved, if not a tragedy in its own right. All told, there are no words that can appropriately express the emotions that are evoked when the book is entirely read through. For me, I did not know what depleted my emotions more: the fantastic breadth of writing adroitness or the vividly detailed vicious massacre of the Clutter family and the muddled lives of its two very sad criminals. I now realize that it is a definate hybrid of the two - a true but grim American classic where the act of murder and its consequences is stunningly written and astonishingly articulated.
A clearly framed horrifying account of cold-blooded murder.

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More In Cold Blood reviews
review by . October 27, 2010
Dateline 1959, Holcomb, Kansas: Herb Clutter, a wealthy, well-respected God-fearing Methodist farmer, his wife and two children are brutally murdered in what modern police parlance would term a home invasion. The Clutters, dispatched without any apparent motive, made particularly poignant victims. Mr Clutter, a hard-working, successful farmer, allowed no drinking on his farm. Generous to a fault and yet prudent with his money to an extreme, he paid for everything by cheque. His attractive daughter, …
review by . October 15, 2010
Capote's prose is fantastic. His images are precise and vivid, and due to this his ability to create an encapsulating scene that truly puts the reader in the moment, in this Kansas city--a quiet, small-town paradise--as it was turned inside out after a quadruple murder. Capote delves deep into the psyche of the killers, while juxtaposing that to the solitary and yet dynamically-portrayed lives of the victims.
Quick Tip by . October 25, 2010
Read this when it first came out and have never forgotten it. Working on this book changed Capote's life, and not for the better.
Quick Tip by . October 25, 2010
First of the so-called non-fiction novel. The book is the biography of a crime, the victims, and particularly the murderers. What makes the book so good is that it is told with a novelist's ear for telling instead of an historian's eye to fact. It is no small feat to describe gruesome crime scene photos in a way that makes it compelling instead of just nauseating.
Quick Tip by . October 27, 2010
An extraordinary compelling work, seminal and pioneering in its nature, that plumbs the depths of a motiveless multiple murder in 1950s Kansas and brings the reaction of the community and a shocked nation to life. The first "novelized" true crime non-fiction.
Quick Tip by . June 24, 2010
Fabulous true crime novel
Quick Tip by . June 23, 2010
the things men do!
review by . May 15, 2010
If you read the first paragraph of Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" it may seem at first to just be a descriptive opening for the book until you read it again. Those opening lines can almost be scanned as poetry because Capote has breathed his life, his unique talent into them and as you read on, you'll see all the words of this true crime story transcend ordinary writing. It is the difference between a great writer and a mediocre one, that special life-breath, that rare life- force that is the hallmark …
review by . May 23, 2009
...if it only were one! I would feel so much better liking it. It is a brilliant piece of borderline writing, mixing 'fiction' and journalism.   Unfortunately it also seems to have done something highly immoral, if the story as told by the movie 'Capote' is correct: it seems that Capote deceived the killers, who are his subject of observation, into seeing him as 'on their side', ie supporting their defense. He befriended them, including unclear levels of personal attraction,and made one of …
review by . February 05, 2008
Truman Capote, with major help from Nell Harper Lee, produced groundbreaking work with 1965's In Cold Blood. These days there are probably few readers or film fans not already acquainted with the basic details of the crime upon which Capote based the book: Herb Clutter, his wife and two youngest children, both teenagers, were shot to death in November 1959 in their isolated Holcomb, Kansas, farmhouse. Two petty criminals who had recently been paroled by the Kansas prison system were arrested, convicted …
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"Until one morning in mid-November of 1959, few Americans--in fact, few Kansans--had ever heard of Holcomb. Like the waters of the river, like the motorists on the highway, and like the yellow trains streaking down the Santa Fe tracks, drama, in the shape of exceptional happenings, had never stopped there." If all Truman Capote did was invent a new genre--journalism written with the language and structure of literature--this "nonfiction novel" about the brutal slaying of the Clutter family by two would-be robbers would be remembered as a trail-blazing experiment that has influenced countless writers. But Capote achieved more than that. He wrote a true masterpiece of creative nonfiction. The images of this tale continue to resonate in our minds: 16-year-old Nancy Clutter teaching a friend how to bake a cherry pie, Dick Hickock's black '49 Chevrolet sedan, Perry Smith's Gibson guitar and his dreams of gold in a tropical paradise--the blood on the walls and the final "thud-snap" of the rope-broken necks.
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ISBN-10: 0679745580
ISBN-13: 978-0679745587
Author: Truman Capote
Genre: Literature & Fiction, Nonfiction
Publisher: Vintage
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