Saturday, 22 June 2019

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote


In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
First published in America by Random House in 1965.

My 1960s book for the 2018-19 Decade Challenge (now completed!), a Classics Club read, and one of my 2019 COYER Summer Challenge reads

How I got this book:
Borrowed from a friend

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues. 

As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.


I only rarely pick up true crime books these days because I devoured so many not-so-well-written examples as a teenager that they quite put me off attempting any more. That said, a friend offering to lend me his vintage edition of In Cold Blood together with it being a Classic and of the right era to complete my current Decade Challenge - how could I turn it down?

Capote certainly did his research for In Cold Blood. I wasn't expecting such an incredible depth and breadth of information, and especially not for so many pages of small font (it's an old book) to grip my attention for hours. This is excellent reportage journalism of a kind I feel we rarely encounter any more (although I was strongly reminded of One Of Us: Anders Breivik by Asne Seierstad which I would happily recommend to other fans of In Cold Blood. Truman not only recounts in graphic detail the events immediately surrounding the Clutter murders, but also goes back in time to explore the culprits' pasts and follows the Dewey investigation until the ultimate conclusion of the court case. Extensive recounting of interviews and statements allowed me to feel as though I got a good sense of Holcomb town and of the main people involved in the infamous murder. In thinking about the murderers themselves, I am glad to be separated from them by thousands of miles and several decades. That kind of senseless violence is truly chilling to contemplate and I could understand how it was so destructive to the small town community, especially during the weeks in which many Holcomb inhabitants were looking to cast blame towards each other.

I appreciated Capote's level headedness throughout this book. He avoids sensationalist gimmicks and I never felt as though I was being manipulated towards a particular point of view in the way that present-day journalists usually do. Instead In Cold Blood came across to me as a masterpiece of  impartial factual reporting which I am glad to have read.


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Books by Truman Capote / Reportage / Books from America

12 comments:

  1. I've always wondered about this book but dodged it because of the 'classic' tag. It sounds interesting.

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    1. In Cold Blood doesn't feel like a classic to read. It's simply very well written true crime :-)

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  2. It's not my kind of book but I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it.

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    1. I wasn't sure it would be my kind of book either until I got into it!

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  3. I'm considering reading this book after reading a fictional detective thriller, We Were Killers Once, with this story at the heart of it as a 'cold case'.

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    1. It would be great to see how close the fictional story stayed to the actual history

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  4. I've wanted to read this since I saw a semi-fictitious biopic (yes, that's a thing, just go with it,) called Infamous (2006) that explored Capote's relationship with one of the killers, and how it developed as he was writing the book. :)

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    1. Having read this book, Infamous sounds like a film I'd like to see. He must have put a tremendous effort into research and it really comes acrosd

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  5. True Crime is the one genre I haven't read much of really, and I'm cautious about trying it for some reason. But Truman Capote is a popular one and from this review it sounds amazing. Should I start here?

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    1. I think you should start here! And then maybe try Ghettoside by Jill Leovy http://litflits.blogspot.com/search/label/Jill%20Leovy
      I was as impressed by her ideas and writing

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  6. I've read this book several times over the years. The story is fascinating but heartbreaking. So many lives were devastated, including Capote's. He said later that he didn't expect to be so drawn in to the lives of the locals or the killers.

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    1. That's interesting to know.
      I hadn't read this before now and it was a far deeper and more thoughtful investigation than I had expected

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