Mar 3, 2009

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (Vintage Paperback)

I'll start off by saying that I didn't intend to read this book. Of course, I'd heard about it and knew of Truman Capote, but hadn't read any of his work. Then one day this past January, I watched the movie Capote, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. I was entranced by his performance. He was utterly amazing as Truman Capote.

After I watched the movie, I couldn't get the story of the Clutter family murders out of my head. The sheer senselessness and brutality of it haunted me. I made a mental note that I would definitely read the book 'one day'.

A few weeks later I made a trip to my public library and before I knew it, was staring at all of the different editions of this classic history-making true crime novel. I ended up taking one home. I started reading immediately and put all other books I was reading off to the side.

The book is written in parts. The first detailing the last day the Clutter family was alive. It chronicles alternately between the family and the two men who were then making their way to Holcomb for a 'score'. Part two of the book is the aftermath of the murders and how the community dealt with it. There were few leads and no one could even imagine who could've done such a terrible thing to a family that everyone loved and respected. Part three describes how the authorities learned the identities of Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, retracing the killers' movements after they fled. Part four involves their incarceration and ultimate sentencing to Death Row to await their fate.

As it turns out, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the shocking murders that took place on that moonlit November night in Holcomb, Kansas. To say that I enjoyed this book sounds disturbing, so I will just say that I appreciated Capote's writing and the details of the case. It must've been a mentally exhausting book to write and having seen the movie, Capote, I know that it was very difficult for him as he spent so much time with Perry Smith in order to get the information needed for the book. Capote, in fact, befriended him and at times, misled his intentions to gain his trust, so I don't have much sympathy for what Capote went through in order to write his book. I know I keep referring to the movie, but it explains much of what happened. I know from the movie Capote felt tortured about his less than honest actions regarding his so-called friendship with Perry. In fact, in the front of the book he wrote (and never finished) Answered Prayers, after In Cold Blood, he wrote a message that said: "More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones." I find that extremely poignant.

This is a book that even though is written about a horrible crime, I'm glad I read it. Here's a clip I found of Truman Capote taling about writing the book:

And here is a clip from the movie Capote starring Philip Seymour Hoffman:

I definitely want to read some of his fiction books, for example The Grass Harp, which I'm told is beautifully written. Or Breakfast At Tiffany's. Have you read any of Truman Capote's books? If so, please leave a comment and tell me how you liked it.

Author: Truman Capote
Publisher: Vintage (paperback)
Published: 1994 (First Edition published 1965)
Pages: 368


  1. The crime was horrible, but the book was fascinating and hard to put down. I loved the clip with Truman Capote!

  2. I'm reading this for my bookclub this month. I have to go pick it up at the library tomorrow. Sounds like a fascinating but disturbing book. Is it classified as a classic?

  3. I read this for the first time this fall with my high school book club book. We were all fascinated by his incredible literary writing style of a horrid non-fiction event.

    It caused me to also want to check out more of his writing. I did manage to read 3 of his short stories in January (I was on the waiting list at the library for over a month): A Christmas Memory - One Christmas - and the Thanksgiving Visitor. They were eerily amazing.

    I would very much like to read A Breakfast at Tiffany's, which I think would be totally different from any of the works I have read so far.

    Another fascination that I have with Capote is that he is most likely "Dill" from To Kill a Mockingbird -- one of my all time favorite books.

    I definitely must rent the movie, Capote, of which I have heard fabulous reviews.

  4. I picked up the book for the same reason. I loved the movie Capote. I am so glad I did. I had avoided it for years after hearing horrible things about the In Cold Blood movie as a child. As it turns out, compared to todays standards the movie wasn't all that frightening. I've heard the book Breakfast at Tiffanys is different from the movie, but I haven't picked it up yet.

  5. Your review was excellent and now I must check out the movie from the library and I'm sure that it will make me want to read the book!! I haven't read true-crime in a very long time because it scares the crap out of me!! But I just may have to read this one!!

  6. I had to read this book in high school and enjoyed it so much that I recently re-read it. It's a wonderful book because what makes it faxcinating is the horrendous nature of the crimes AND the fact that Capote pretty much created and poularized a whole new genre of books.

  7. It's on my shelf to read this year. I did see the movie and it did make me more curious for the details.

  8. The closest I've been to Capote is Kim Powers' Capote in Kansas, which I enjoyed. Since reading that book, I've added him to the list of authors I must read some day.

    Diary of an Eccentric


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