REVIEW: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Format:  Audio CD, 14 disks 
Genre:  True Crime
ISBN:  073933364X
Published:  January 2006 (audio)
Setting:  Holcomb KS
Rating:  5 of 5 stars

Back of the Book Blurb:

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.

My Thoughts:

This book was riveting from start to finish, and I could hardly find enough time to be in the car & listen to it.  Capote is a gifted writer, and has superbly cobbled together the story of the grisly, horrifying murder of the Clutter family from the monumental amount of files, notes, interviews, and evidence that he had at his disposal.  I was (and am) blown away by Capote’s ability to make even the most unsavory of characters somewhat sympathetic.  He was able to (initially) approach the story from a sort of journalistic aspect, and as such he seemed able to write from a relatively objective view about what was obviously a sickeningly violent incident, and an incident seemingly without motive or reason.

What became interesting as I got toward the end of the book was the fact that Capote became more sympathetic toward Perry Smith.  He seemed to see Perry as a sort of pawn in the hands of Dick Hickock.  Perhaps Dick thought so as well at times, but I got the sense from the book (despite how Capote described him) that Perry Smith was much more brutal and cold than Dick Hickock ever dreamed of being.  I find it strange that I would come to that (obvious) assumption, considering that by the end of the book, Capote was personally acquainted with both men.  However, I wondered if Capote was a little captivated by Smith, and as such (by the end) could not see him in as objective a fashion as he did at first.  It was a gut reaction, of course, and I am only speculating.

Regardless of how personally involved in their lives Capote became – and my understanding was that the prison system allowed him generous access to both Smith & Hickock – I think he did what seemed almost impossible to do, and that was to give as accurate an account of the crime as possible.  Not only did he do so, but he created what is widely regarded as the book that introduced the genre of true crime & the non-fiction novel.  In Cold Blood is in a class by itself, having set the bar of excellence in its genre so high that it has yet (in my opinion) to be equalled or surpassed.

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