“In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote

WikiInColdBlood3pedia says that some people consider In Cold Blood, published in 1966, to be the original non-fiction novel. The book concerns the 1959 murders of four members of the Herbert Clutter family in the small farming community of Holcomb, Kansas. When Capote learned of this crime, and before the killers were captured, he decided to travel to Kansas and write about the crime. In this, he was accompanied by his friend and fellow author Harper Lee, and together they interviewed local residents and investigators assigned to the case and took thousands of pages of notes. The killers were arrested six weeks after the murders and later executed. Capote ultimately spent six years working on the book, which was an instant success and today is the second biggest-selling true crime book in publishing history.

The book has been praised for its eloquent prose, extensive detail, and the triple narrative, which describes the lives of the murderers, the victims, and other members of the rural community in alternating sequences. However, critics have noted that some important details in the book do differ from the real events.

Our group read this in 2015, when a select group of five people got together for the December meeting.

As the book was based on true events we found that there was  not a lot to discuss, but we still managed to talk around it for a full session.  The general feeling was that there was not much suspense but the book was extremely well written and that this alone did manage to capture the reader.  We all found the characters interesting and had plenty of discussion around the childhood of one of the killers and how much that influenced his behaviour and events.

Two further comments were received from members who had missed the meeting. Hilary said:

I put off opening this book as it is filed under ‘true crime’, which is a genre that attracts all sorts of memoirs and to be honest not very literary works. But this is in a class of it’s own – so well written. Although the journalist in Truman shows through with lots of facts (names, descriptions of occupation, age, marital status etc for some almost irrelevant characters), it is a good read with such a strong story line. Although I suppose one could argue you’d have to be a very bad writer to make this story not interesting! If it had been a 21st century book I would have liked to see some references / bibliographical sources for some of the information given and the theories referred to.
Evan said:
I enjoyed the book, with reservations. I found it tough going to start with, until I got used to the journalistic style. Fortunately the writing and the story itself was then strong enough to keep my interest. The killers made for fascinating characters, and the in-depth study was gripping. I don’t think it’s possible to completely understand how people can simply kill in cold blood, but the narrative pointed to reasons without pointing fingers – in cold blood could refer to the writing style as well as the crime. The biggest problem for me is the lack of any kind of real suspense in what otherwise has similarities to crime fiction. I’m glad to have read it, but I have no great desire to read more True Crime, however well written.

Scores from our individual readers ranged from 6 to 8.5. Overall, the book was considered to be a good read and everyone was glad that they had read it – our average score was 6.8 (based on seven readers).

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