In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

I am thrilled that Novel Insights is back in the UK (though I am not sure she is going back to blogging or not), after what has felt like absolutely ages as we have been friends for 24 years, she has come back from her travels around the globe and so it was time for us to catch up with ‘Rogue Book Group’. Only I had forgotten to read one of the books that we had chosen to do. We actually were a bit flummoxed as we were pretty sure that we had chosen five books and though we could remember Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Blind Assassin’, Linwood Barclay’s ‘No Time For Goodbye’, Daphne Du Maurier’s ‘The Parasites’ and the one book I hadn’t yet read Truman Capote’s ‘In Cold Blood’ we were stuck on the fifth. Then after much research we realised it was just the four… typical. Anyway in order to do ‘Rogue Book Group’ (we had a picnic in the park) I needed to finally read ‘In Cold Blood’ which was easy as I found I was unable to put it down! 

In Cold Blood is a non-fiction account of the mass murder of the Clutter Family in Holcomb, Kansas in 1959. Where Herb Clutter, his wife Bonnie and two of their four children Nancy and Kenyon were horrifically murdered for what seemed like absolutely no logical reason whatsoever. Capote writes of the events leading up to the deaths of this family, onto catching the killers, their trial and then their execution through the eyes of the people of Holcomb and some of the detectives in the case as well as having had many meetings with the murderers Dick Hickock and Perry Smith to try and work out why people could do this and how these people could get caught.

At no point does this book ever feel like a text book which some non fiction can do for me. All the characters from the family and villagers to the killers and all those involved in the case and the trial are fully formed. You know the types too for example many of the gossips in the village who start to mistrust each other and spread rumours. It shows how a village that was in the middle of nowhere with no crime record dealt with such a shocking event, so in some ways it’s a study of humans and how they react. You also get to feel that you know the family and this adds to the trauma of when the events that actually took place that night, from the mouths of the murderers, it makes the impact greater and also makes what is a very emotional and gruesome event even more so.

The characters that you do get to know the best, possibly because Capote was fascinated by their motives and what drive people to do something so callous (and in the end only for $40 which was all they found in the house), are the killers themselves. Capote has researched their backgrounds, gone through letters, diaries and interviewed family members to find out if someone’s background and environment can create a murderer. It does appear that Capote was more interested in Perry Smith than Dick Hickock as the former is a much more researched and mentioned during the novel (some people, including those who made the movie believe Capote was obsessed/besotted with the killer, I am not so sure) and you feel that you have much more insight and time with him.

What I think made this book such a fascinating, with a subject like this especially as its real I don’t think you can call it a wonderful book, book to read was how Capote wrote it. The day of the murder is written so vividly and the settings so descriptively you could almost have been there. Note for the faint hearted the same applies when Perry actually admits what happened on that horrific night (I actually got quite upset by it). Undoubtedly it has to be said that this is an absolute masterpiece both of non fiction and as a book as a whole and I would recommend this read to anyone and everyone, particularly if you like crime. It has stayed with me for days since I closed the final page.

Many people say that In Cold Blood was Capote’s finest work and after so far this year reading Summer Crossing and Breakfast At Tiffany’s I certainly think that that statement isn’t far from the truth, though I have many more of his books that I desperately want to read. However I don’t think you can judge it along side the other two as it is a work of non-fiction. I am not the biggest fan of non fiction, I like the odd autobiography, diary or selection of letters but it’s not a genre I am drawn to. If I found more non fiction like this I think that I would possibly overdose on it all as this was utterly fantastic.

Hmmm, that’s quite a gloomy post! Maybe I should leave you with a picture of me and Novel Insights when we were lying full to the brim with summery picnic food and had exhausted the discussion on all four books which we agreed we loved all of.

Novel Insights & Savidge Reads Full of Fiction (& Picnic)

Novel Insights & Savidge Reads Full of Fiction (& Picnic)

As well as the new Book Group which I have started with Kimbofo (and which Novel Insights is also coming too) I am going to be carrying on with Rogue Book Group too. The next book that we have chosen is Tess of the D’Urbervilles!


Filed under Book Group, Books of 2009, Penguin Classics, Review, Truman Capote

10 responses to “In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

  1. What a cute picture, and it does offset the dark topic of the book! I absolutely LOVED this book. This is one of my big secrets…I love true crime. I’ve read perhaps hundreds of books from this genre from some of the most talented in the business, and I must say that In Cold Blood is the best of the lot. The whipped cream on top of this treasure was the side story with Harper Lee, and the cherry on top was Capote’s near-obsession with Perry Smith. I find it all very fascinating. Did you see the movie Capote? I saw it three times, and is a must see for anyone interested in the story or the author. Good luck with the new book club…I’ll be there in spirit!

    • savidgereads

      I think this book is great Sandy and I am so glad (if that is right with the subject matter) that I have finally gotten round to reading it. It will be in my top books of all time for certain (which will be appearing on here soon)!

      The books we choose at book group I will also put a link up to that day on here so if you want to read along or have read it then you can too!

      • As you may have seen from my posts, I am leaving today for Poland, and will be gone for 2 1/2 weeks. Once I’m back, however, I may jump on some of your band wagons and read with you. It would be fun!

  2. The new site looks very good so far. Hope the moves works out for you.

    In Cold Blood is nowone of my favorites, though I resisted reading it for many years. I think I’ve actually owned and sold or gave away weveral copies. The movie Infamous is much more up front about Capotes attraction to Perry Smith than Capote was. From what I know, he did pay the prison gaurds to give him time alone with Smith, which was illegal of course. Maybe I should just read George Plimpton’s biography of Capote, which is the basis for both movies.

    Tess is also one of my favorites. I could not put it down either. Read the whole thing in one day.

    • savidgereads

      Like me C.B… I too resisted but wow what a book, I should have read it sooner, though I do believe timing is everything with books in all honesty! I shall look up George Plimptons biography on Amazon now!

      Very pleased to hear you are a fan off Tess, the idea of reading Hardy, as I havent as yet, is one that fills me with joy and fear at once.

  3. Best of luck with your new blog. Like the photo too!

    In Cold Blood, I have started it several times but somehow haven’t got around finishing it. I hope to do so this month.

    Tess is one of my favourite Hardy novels. Bleak, tragic but it is still very relevant in some parts of India.

    • savidgereads

      Gautami defintely give In Cold Blood another go, the subject matter is quite hard but i simply couldnt put the book down.

      Interesting that Tess is relevant in India, I would never have thought of that and thats a fascinating way to look at it!

  4. adevotedreader

    I was blown away by In Cold Blood as well. Re other non-fiction books that are as good, I’d suggest Hiroshima By John Hersey and Joe Cinque’s Consolation by Helen Garner- not easy reads, but hard to put down!

    I love Hardy so hope you enjoy Tess.

  5. savidgereads

    Tess isnt actually going to be read for a fair while as at the moment I am working on an all new book group with the lovely Kimbofo, more on that tomorrow.

    I think everyone who reads In Cold Blood will be in some way blown away by it, well I think they should be. Both Hiroshima and the Helen Garner will be added to my wishlist now thanks to your recommendations. I read Garners ‘The Spare Room’ last year and thought it was amazing!

  6. Pingback: Books of 2009 « Savidge Reads

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