Last Updated 07 Jul 2020

In Cold Blood Book Review

Category In Cold Blood
Essay type Book Review
Words 887 (3 pages)
Views 443

If one is interested in reading a disturbingly detailed and factually based novel that chronicles the course and motives of complex crime, read Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences. ” If one scares easily, is squeamish or wants to avoid imagining a remorseless, brutal killer around every corner, do not. In his 1965 nonfiction novel, Capote paints a disturbingly vivid picture of the quadruple murder of the Clutters, a highly regarded and semi-wealthy farming family from Holcomb, Kansas.

In Cold Blood examines the incentives and methods used by the killers, as well as the effect these murders had on the small Kansas town. “In Cold Blood,” what many consider Capote’s masterpiece, was one of the first novels of its kind: nonfiction. This genre requires an author to possess the “just the facts” attitude of a journalist, while still maintaining the ability to tell a detailed and aesthetically pleasing story. To write “In Cold Blood,” as a journalist would, Capote traveled to Holcomb.

He planned to interview residents about their methods of coping with the tragedy. While in Holcomb, the Clutters’ murderers, Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, were caught. After that, Capote’s novel evolved into something more complex. He spent the next six years following the trial and interviewing the murderers and Holcomb residents. “In Cold Blood” showcases Capote’s true talent for both journalistic and prose writing. If one considers all the sources used in the novel, it is clear that an abundant amount of research and effort went into this work.

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In the acknowledgements preceding the novel, Capote wrote, “All the material in this book not derived from my own observation is either taken from official records or is the result of interviews with persons directly concerned, more often than not numerous interviews conducted over a considerable period of time. ” Not only did he spend the better part of a decade conducting interviews and reviewing documents, but Capote also did his best to re-create the thoughts and feelings of those vital characters with whom he could not speak, the Clutter family.

He did so through interviews with others and his own inferences. Additionally, he did the same to fill in any other character gaps. Because “In Cold Blood” is composed mostly of interviews, a large part of the novel is dialog. The dialog not only keeps readers interested, but also offers an insight directly into the mind of the killers and the townspeople. Words straight from the mouth of Perry Smith or Susan Kidwell resonate much better with readers than a simple paraphrase from Capote ever could. Readers cannot help but cringe and reach for their jugular as they read Smith’s graphic descriptions. I didn’t realize what I’d done till I heard the sound. Like somebody drowning. Screaming under water,” said Smith. Similarly, Kidwell’s account of the event adds an even deeper emotional aspect to the story. Her words are haunting. Of finding her friend that day, Kidwell said, “I don’t remember screaming. Nancy Ewalt says I did – screamed and screamed. I only remember Nancy’s Teddy bear staring at me. And Nancy. ” Throughout “In Cold Blood,” Capote illustrates several journalistic characteristics, one of which being oddity.

The murder of a nice family from a small town is certainly unusual, especially when no motives or suspects fit the case. Additionally, when the killers were caught, their indifference towards the crime varied drastically from what one would expect. Dick even said, “I know it is wrong. But at the time I never give any thought to whether it is right or wrong. The same with stealing. It seems to be an impulse. ” “In Cold Blood” also demonstrates proximity and human interest. Holcomb, Kansas is comparable to Any-town, USA.

Because this crime and location seemed to be, at first, so randomly chosen, they peak human interest. Capote did a great job emphasizing the consequential insecurity felt by the Holcomb residents. He instilled that fear into readers, and they are sure to assume that each bump in the night is Perry Smith sneaking lightly to their bedrooms. While Capote did quite well making “In Cold Blood” newsworthy, he failed to practice one important principal of journalism. Capote did not maintain an independence from those whom he covered, so his writing showed bias.

In a novel that required so much research and so many interviews, it is understandable that Capote would become friendly and sympathetic of the Holcomb citizens. However, Capote became sympathetic of the killers, especially Smith. While Perry murdered the Clutter family, Capote so obviously favored him over Dick. Throughout the novel, Smith is described as a gentle man with a conscience, and it is indicated that he may have mental problems. Capote’s characterization of Smith was designed to make readers pity him.

Dick, on the other hand, is almost always portrayed as a heartless and brutal man who is fully responsible for his actions. In the end of the novel, Capote even alludes to the radical idea that Perry should not receive the death penalty. All in all, “In Cold Blood” is a well-written and interesting novel not designed for the weak of heart. Capote’s masterpiece is sure send a shiver up readers’ spines and leave paranoia in their minds. Capote does show some bias in his writing, but given the situations, it is understandable.

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Cite this page

In Cold Blood Book Review. (2017, Mar 10). Retrieved from

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