In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Vintage Books, 343 pages
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.
Five years, four months and twenty-nine days later, on April 14, 1965, Richard Eugene Hickock, aged thirty-three, and Perry Edward Smith, aged thirty-six, were hanged from the crime on a gallows in a warehouse in the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing, Kansa.
In Cold Blood is the story of the lives and deaths of these six people. It has already been hailed as a masterpiece.
I love watching crime shows, but I only really like watching fictional ones. Any crime show or documentary that is “based on a true story” automatically creeps me out. I can do a marathon of CSI all day, but when someone tells me that someone near us was robbed or a friend of a friend of a friend is killed, I automatically shut my ears because I don’t want to imagine it happening to the people I care for. Case in point: there was a time when I learned that our neighbor was robbed, and for the next week, I slept with a scissor beside my bed (not a wise thing, actually) because I was afraid that someone would get in our house and do the same thing to us. I figure the scissor is a good enough weapon, right?
So I’m not really sure why I voted for In Cold Blood by Truman Capote when we had our poll for our September 2012 book. I guess I was swayed by the good reviews on the book, plus it seemed the most interesting among the choices. I guess I also totally forgot about that certain part of my paranoid childhood until I started reading the book.
In Cold Blood is Truman Capote’s account of the murder of the Clutter family in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas by Richard Hickock and Perry Smith. It’s not really a simple account of the murder told in a boring old non-fiction narrative. This is classified ascreative nonfiction so it read like a novel, and instead of just focusing on the murders, we are given a peek into the lives of the accused, their trial, up until their execution five years later.
Here’s the thing with In Cold Blood: it reads like any other crime novel until you do a little research and realize/remember that the characters in this book were actually real people. I was really just enjoying Capote’s writing while I was reading the first part, until someone from the book club posted photos of the Clutter family on our thread and I got major creeps because I remembered that the story was real. I’m not as
paranoid worried now as I was when I was a kid, but realizing the truth in this story made my skin crawl. I can’t imagine the horror of that night.
But again, the story didn’t really focus much on the victims but on the killers. It’s an interesting angle that actually made me feel sorry for them despite the grievous sin they committed. I’m not saying that what they did was excusable — it’s just that seeing their side of the story, or at least, their background, made me just a little bit sympathetic to them. They could have been better people, I thought. There could have been something that could have changed their past so they won’t have to do what they did. And end up that way.
In Cold Blood could spark discussions on numerous topics, especially on the death penalty and justice, and that was exactly what happened during our face to face discussion. Interestingly, I got one of the hard ones again, something about justice and it started a pretty long debate/discussion on what justice really meant for everyone of us. I admit that it’s one of the things that I need time to really understand, and that right now I just really, really pray hard that nothing like this ever happens to anyone I care for.
In Cold Blood reminded me of the time when I did a Criminal Minds marathon a few years back. I really enjoyed it, but I didn’t really go out of my way to watch it again. Once is enough, I guess (unless it’s for research or something). Likewise, I liked In Cold Blood, but I don’t think I have the heart to read something like this again.