Book #44: In Cold Blood

I read Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood in less than 2 days. It was that good.

It’s one of the first non-fiction “novels” I’ve ever read. And it’s fantastic. Basically, Capote recounts the murder of the Clutter family and the pursuit and trial of the killers, Dick Hickock and Perry Smith. The first part of the book leads up to the murder. Capote recounts the Clutters’ last day alive. The father takes out a life insurance policy , the daughter helps a young neighbor bake a pie and sees her boyfriend, the son helps the gardner with a chore, and the sick mother convalesces. In this part, Capote also recounts what Hickock and Smith were doing before the murder. For the rest of the book, time is split between the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI), the killers, and, ultimately, the prosecutors. The fact that these people were all real can sometimes be forgotten in this book, because Capote so skillfully takes readers in and out of their thoughts. It doesn’t feel like a non-fiction book at all.

I’m interested in creative non-fiction as a genre, so it was super interesting to see how Capote handled putting the information into the narrative. One of the things I thought was so interesting was how Capote dealt with the murder itself. Although the narrative leading up to the event is linear and split between the murderers and the murdered, he skips over the actual murder and picks up with the bodies being discovered and Smith and Hickock heading to Mexico. He doesn’t reveal how exactly the murders were done until he gets to the part where Hickock and Smith are caught and confess to the crime.

I thought this was a really interesting way of doing it. In writing about true events that have already happened, it’s so easy to just focus on the event the way it happened without a thought of adding any suspense. But with a story like this, where cold-blooded killers are on the run and a whole family has been murdered, suspense makes it so much better. I’m so pleased Capote thought to do it that way.

Even though the facts of the story might not be QUITE as accurate as Capote claims, he still did non-fiction really uniquely and creatively.

Rating: *****
Up Next: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

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