Truman Capote in the Clutter living room.

Booklist Updates: A Foray into the True Crime Novel

Thoughts on In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

A true crime novel by Truman Capote
A true crime novel by Truman Capote

I knew very little about Truman Capote before I read this book. Yes, I knew the name. I knew the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but that’s all. I honestly had no idea he had a side of him that was fascinated by tragedy.

Although, maybe to some–Holly Golightly’s character would be considered tragic. But we’ll save that for another discussion.

In Cold Blood recounts what happens when the senseless murders of an entire, well-to-do family rock the sleepy town of Holcomb, Kansas. It is a true story of that one windy night in November 1959 when Dick Hickock and Perry Smith decide they’re going to invade, rob, and ultimately massacre the Clutter Family in the middle of the night.

Richard Eugene Hickock (left) and Perry Edward Smith (right) murdered 4 members of the Clutter family in Holcomb, KS in 1959.

Despite the fact that I Googled the real life event before I finished the book, I still read it poised at the edge of my seat. I give credit to Capote’s gift for storytelling.

From what I found in my Googling, though, others accused Capote for taking certain liberties with his story. In fact, there were a few reports that some conversations or encounters hadn’t even taken place.

I think I would agree with that considering this man didn’t even take notes when he interviewed people. He relied on his memory and tapes.

In addition to that, there were no footnotes at the end of the book. There was no appendix that listed times and dates of interviews, etc. So yeah, could it be 100% accurate? Maybe not. But that doesn’t deny the fact that it’s a superbly written, thoughtfully constructed piece of dramatic literature. However, according to the lead investigator, Capote’s book was largely factually true.

Craig and I watched the movie adaptation shortly after I finished the book. He saw it before, but because he loved it so much, he was up for watching it again.

In Cold Blood directed by Richard Brooks (1967)
In Cold Blood directed by Richard Brooks (Columbia Pictures 1967).

It was well done. Disturbing, especially for the time period. However, the event itself was disturbing so you can only put so much lipstick on a hog, you know. But while the movie did a good job of painting the big picture, it could never capture the detail that spilled out of the pages of the book. That’s true for any movie adaptation, not just this one.

Craig described it as “one of the greatest character study films within the subject of crime/justice drama” and I would enthusiastically agree with him.

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