The chilling true crime ‘non-fiction novel’ that made Truman Capote’s name, In Cold Blood is a seminal work of modern prose, a remarkable synthesis of journalistic skill and powerfully evocative narrative.
Controversial and compelling, In Cold Blood reconstructs the murder in 1959 of a Kansas farmer, his wife and both their children. Truman Capote’s comprehensive study of the killings and subsequent investigation explores the circumstances surrounding this terrible crime and the effect it had on those involved. At the centre of his study are the amoral young killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock, who, vividly drawn by Capote, are shown to be reprehensible yet entirely and frighteningly human.
It was refreshing to read a non-fiction title for a change. The last one we read was years ago, and I think I should certainly refresh my choice of books in future. The beginning was a struggle for me as I was wondering where it was going (even though I knew exactly where it was going). However, once we hit the actual murders I was hooked on every word. We’ve all read a crime novel, and we’ve all read a real-life story at some point, but this was something different. The quality in both the writing and research was simply masterful, and I can honestly say that I’ve never read anything like it.
Capote takes the views from both the killers, the victims’ friends, the police, the witnesses and various others involved in this horrific crime. He than crafts his account in as accurate a way as he possibly can to ensure that a fully-rounded account is offered to his readers. The length at which he goes to deliver this novel is quite astonishing and I’m pretty confident in saying that the whole group thought so too. It was interesting to read about the killers both before and after the murders and it’s quite unbelievable how emotionless they appeared to be.
As a group we all felt that the way in which the actual murders was described was a credit to Capote’s thoughtful and tactful writing skill. We didn’t need to know about the blood spatter, gore and the minute details of every shot or knife slash. Less was more in this case and Capote managed to paint a hauntingly vivid picture of the scenes without showering the reader with the usual bloody detail that seems to be required in modern day literature.
The end of the book, where the killers await execution, was both eye-opening and quite disturbing in equal measures, which prompted the group to discuss the death penalty and how relevant we think it is in today’s society. Thankfully, it’s not something we have to worry about in the UK, but it was interesting to discuss people’s thoughts on the American justice system and it was also interesting to read Capote’s account of other trials that were running at the same time as Smith and Hickcock’s.
The group, as a whole, found this to be quite a remarkable read and I would certainly recommend this to anyone who is interested in real-life crime, or indeed, crime fiction. It’s an exceptional read on many levels and a wonderful example of a well-written, factual account of one of the worst crimes in American history.