Thursday, November 6, 2008
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were dragged from their beds in the early hours of the morning and tied up. All four 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. Author Truman Capote, on assignment from the New Yorker, traveled to Holcomb in late 1959, along with his assistant and close friend, Nell Harper Lee, to investigate the killings for an article he was to write. After completing his assignment, Capote was still intrigued by the murders and continued with his investigation. He organized interviews with everyone in town; he scoured through police records and statements. The killers, Perry Smith and Dick Hickock were eventually arrested and sentenced to death, with Capote interviewing them during their stay on Death Row. The Clutter killings became an obsession for Capote, leading him to write a book that would not only introduce a new genre to the literary world, non-fiction novel, but become a literary classic in it of itself. What is great about Capote’s In Cold Blood is that it can be seen as a novel, a creative work, and a piece of journalism.
I had been looking forward to reading this book for a long time, having seen it lying on my sister’s bedroom floor for years and the title alone had given me shivers. Independent Reading at school gave me the perfect opportunity to read it. Having been written in 1965, I was surprised to find that this book hasn’t dated at all. It interested me that this book delved into not only the social factors that shape a psychopath, but also the points-of-view, however horrific they may be, of the perpetrators of the crime. Capote explored the killers’ upbringing, relationships, and actions. I enjoyed the fact that, from the beginning, the reader knows exactly who was to be killed and who the killers were, instead of it being a guessing game. Something that has stuck with me long after finishing the book was the realization that there are people like Perry Smith and Dick Hickock out there in the world, willing to kill in cold blood with no motive. “There’s got to be something wrong with somebody who’d do a thing like that.” Ironically, one of the killers, Perry Smith, said this about himself, while the other killer, Dick Hickock said about himself, “Deal me out, baby…I’m a normal.” A harrowing look into the minds of a killer, In Cold Blood is a chilling account of one of America’s most famous murders. And although certain parts dragged at times, overall, Truman Capote’s nonfiction novel is a literary masterpiece.