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In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
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In Cold Blood (original 1965; edition 2002)

by Truman Capote

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14,186275143 (4.16)518
Member:sawcat
Title:In Cold Blood
Authors:Truman Capote
Info:Random House (2002), Hardcover, 343 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:nonfiction, crime, true crime, nonfiction novel

Work details

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (1965)

1001 (79) 1001 books (68) 20th century (166) America (56) American (187) American literature (195) biography (65) Capote (71) classic (176) classics (129) creative nonfiction (57) crime (675) death penalty (52) fiction (440) history (157) journalism (220) Kansas (263) literature (165) murder (484) mystery (93) non-fiction (1,226) non-fiction novel (57) novel (128) own (72) read (201) to-read (239) true crime (921) Truman Capote (66) unread (94) USA (110)
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    Operación Masacre by Rodolfo Walsh (chrisharpe)
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English (256)  Spanish (8)  French (2)  Catalan (2)  Hungarian (1)  Italian (1)  Norwegian (1)  Swedish (1)  Danish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (274)
Showing 1-5 of 256 (next | show all)
When I began the journey of this book, I was under the false impression that the book was fiction. At that time, I thought it was distasteful for Capote to pick such a kind, generous, and overall underserving of any malace to be brutally slaughtered (after all, why do murder victims always have to be good people?). Then I was corrected--it's a true story.

Then I read the back of the book, which tells us that Capote wrote the story of the murder of the Clutter family, the capture, trial and execution of thier killers.

And that was the rest of the book. It's interesting, however, despite that I now 'know' the outcome of the book, how I could be so captured by it. Asking myself, "How do they ever find the killers?!?!" That was probably more of Capote's writing than the actual story itself?

A good book, well worth reading. ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
When I began the journey of this book, I was under the false impression that the book was fiction. At that time, I thought it was distasteful for Capote to pick such a kind, generous, and overall underserving of any malace to be brutally slaughtered (after all, why do murder victims always have to be good people?). Then I was corrected--it's a true story.

Then I read the back of the book, which tells us that Capote wrote the story of the murder of the Clutter family, the capture, trial and execution of thier killers.

And that was the rest of the book. It's interesting, however, despite that I now 'know' the outcome of the book, how I could be so captured by it. Asking myself, "How do they ever find the killers?!?!" That was probably more of Capote's writing than the actual story itself?

A good book, well worth reading. ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
This was a good true-crime book. Even though Capote seemed to be trying to drum up sympathy for the killer, it didn't work for me--off with his head! The description of the events of that fateful night overrode any so-called mitigating circumstances (which seemed weak to me, anyway). I felt justice was served. ( )
  darcy36 | Jul 8, 2014 |
http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/3539230/

Read during Fall 2006

Extremely well written but creepy nonetheless. Capote strikes a delicate balance with his descriptions of the two killers; there is no doubt that they are killers but there is almost a sympathy for their dreadful lives and personalites. The horror of the crime is never lost and the people invovled stay very real. It's strange to say it reads like fiction because it is clearly written as nonfiction.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
Original post at Book Rhapsody.

***

An Answered Prayer


Philip Seymour Hoffman portrayed Capote in the biopic with the same title. It focuses on the years when the author was writing his book In Cold Blood. His acting got the nods of the Academy Award jurors. This performance is laudable, but I must say that in the film, I am more intrigued by the epilogue where it is said that Capote, in his last unfinished novel’s epigraph, chose this: More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.

As if the film isn’t devastating enough. What is with this book? It is, according to Capote, the novel of the decade that would keep the literary tongues wagging for his genius in coming up with a new genre, the nonfiction novel. I agree, and it is more than a sensation. It is an event hardly ignorable for the cunning stringing of facts that created a compelling novel about the murder of the Clutter family that set the “out there” Holcomb, Kansas into a key town of the United States. That is, at least, in the world of letters.

But we do not go and read the Clutters’ family history with accounts of the parents’ childhoods and all that. Yes, we are given basic information regarding the Clutters’ stature in the town and a background of how they came to be. The novel sheds more light instead on the murderers, Richard Eugene Hickock and Perry Edward Smith. More so, it makes us see what drives a murderer to commit an act so violent and that is apparently devoid of any motive. Surely, we have our own preconceived notions of murderers, but is the description below, spoken by an outsider, a proper “characterization” of one?

“And that night, of all nights, we had to leave him alone, Wendle and I almost never go out, but we had a long-standing engagement, and Wendle didn’t think we ought to break it. But I’ll always be sorry we left him alone. Next day I did fix the rice. He wouldn’t touch it. Or hardly speak to me. He hated the whole world. But the morning the men came to take him to the penitentiary, he thanked me and gave me a picture of himself. A little Kodak made when he was sixteen years old. He said it was how he wanted me to remember him, like the boy in the picture.”

The novel opens with a description of that town even Kansans barely know. Far-flung, quiet, almost idyllic, it is the kind of town whose silence is laboriously detailed as an evidence of its only redeeming quality, for soon enough, after finishing the first quarter of the novel, this very silence is irrevocably shattered by four shots at the dead of the night.

The reader thinks he knows what’s going on. True, Dick and Perry kill the Clutters, but is that enough? The reader knows and he doesn’t know. We do not bother to read this to find more details about the crime as if one were a federal crime investigator. In fact, the scene of the crime is incapable of producing any hard evidence. The crime is not even solved by the heads of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. So what is there to expect from this?

We get quite close to the murderers’ heads, and this creates a sympathy so surprising for what they did can be hardly condoned. We go through a montage of their cross-state and cross-country sprees, hitching rides, stealing cars, siphoning gas from other cars, selling cars. And then hitching rides again, repeating the same cycle until their itinerary is abruptly cut by their capture.

And then their confession, their imprisonment, their trial, their death.

The pages go through the psychological make-up of the murderers as they careen through the bleak flat lands of America. We think what a world power this country is, but what we are given are long stretches of roads that go on and on with occasional crimes that are most likely left unsolved. Had Capote not noticed a small column on the paper briefly describing the crime, the murder of the Clutters would not have been worth mentioning and its violence could have been easily lost as fast as the settling dust of America’s forgotten highways.

But no. The details produced by the years of research Capote spent allowed him to frame a documentary and use his tools as a novelist to erect the foundation of a colossal book that defies genres. We are gripped by the murders, slightly because the things we are reading happened out there once upon a time, and mostly because of both the involvement and detachment of probably one of the loneliest persons to ever receive the capital punishment, Perry Smith.

And we wonder still: is this creative writing? Or journalism? It doesn’t matter, and that is always the case for something that has left you both transfixed with its unflinching storytelling and unsettled with its sneaky way of shaking your own judgments. Indeed, this is one rare book that allows fact to overpower fiction. It is Capote’s answered prayer. He got what he wished for, and he was never the same again. ( )
  angusmiranda | Jun 10, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 256 (next | show all)
If nothing else, In Cold Blood justifies another Capote conviction: that when reportage commands the highest literary skills, it can approach the level of art.
added by Shortride | editTime (Jan 21, 1966)
 

» Add other authors (82 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Capote, Trumanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Borràs, Maria LluïsaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Breckan, Eldor MartinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brick, ScottNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cornips, ThérèseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Larsstuvold, RuneForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Een waar verslag van een viervoudige moord en zijn gevolgen.
Freres humains qui apres nour vivez

N'ayez les cuers contre nous endurcis,

Car, se pitie de nous povres avez,

Dieu en aura plus tost de vous mercis

Francois Villon (Ballade des pendus)
Brothers, men who live after us,
Let not your hearts be hardened against us,
Because, if you have pity for us poor men,
God will have more mercy toward you.
Dedication
For Jack Dunphy and Harper Lee with my love and gratitude
First words
The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call 'out there'.
Quotations
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
Mensenbroeders, gij die na ons leeft, wil niet verbitterd aan ons denken, want wie erbarmen met ons armen heeft, zal God veel eerder zijn genade schenken. (François Villon - Ballade der gehangenen)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
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Book description
Haiku summary
Two cons kill family.
Reporter relates the tale
In fiction format.

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679745580, Paperback)

"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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:02 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

An account of the senseless murder of a Kansas farm family and the search for the killers.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 12 descriptions

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Four editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141182571, 014103839X, 0141043083, 0241956838

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