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on 25 July 2004
This book is startling for two reasons - both for the graphic realism in which Capote describes the killings and perhaps more profoundly for the way in which he describes the thoughts, feelings and actions of the killers themselves. However it would be naive to suggest that Capote through 'humanising' the perpetrators of these crimes, in effect lessens the gravity of their actions and allows the reader to 'understand' and even sympathise with them. To claim this is to misunderstand the books message. Rather it is a poignant questioning of the American justice system itself and the moral implications of 'taking a life for a life.' The fact that describing the lives of Smith and Hickock doesnt really affect the way one views the murders is important - for as the criminals themselves claim, the victims could almost have been anyone, and it is the motiveless nature of the crime that eventually becomes the subject of the books final chapter. It is significant that Capote spends time analysing the fact that the criminals were very likely suffering from the early stages of severe mental illness and yet the Kansas justice system at the time refused to allow further inverstigation into this. One of the questions Capote seems to provoke is, on what basis is capital punishment performed? Does it stop crime? And indeed if it merely punishes those who are too sick and disfunctional to be affected by such a penalty - what difference does it make anyway?
All in all this is a fantastic book - the prose flitting between an immedeate journalistic prose and a subtler, darker poetic style that creates a suitably morose atmosphere to this sometimes bleak book - it is exciting and I found myself reading on just to see what happens - however at its root is a deep question about human nature and human justice and whilst reading it is important not to lose sight of just why this novel generated such controversy upon its release in 1965.
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on 17 December 2008
As a teenager in the 1960's, this book had a profound effect on me. I had never read anything like it and I have never again found a 'true crime' book that can live up to this one, in terms of the quality of writing and the emotional impact.

We now know that Truman Capote became emotionally and personally invoved with Perry Smith, one of the murderers. That actually allows m to now read the book with a different perspective.

Most poignant to me
. is that this is the first time I have actually seen a photo of the Clutter family....In the 60's, the book had no photos of the Clutters or Smith and Hickock. When I first read the book I so wanted to see what the fanily looked like - especially Nancy - but now seeing the photos, I realise that Capote dscribed all the characters SO well... and all were as I pictured them in my mind.

This is a book that I would urge everyone to read. Capote was a skilled writer and this is one of his best.

It's a beautifully written book about the horrific murder of a family in a small community and the effect it has on all the people around them. It's also about their killers - right up to the point of their execution.
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on 29 January 2003
This differs completely from Capote's other famous work Breakfast At Tiffany's and is as dark in tone as the other is playful. It must be the best of "real life" crime books and spawned a genre that includes such books as Burn's Happy Like Murderers or Sereny's The Story Of Mary Bell. But ICB eclipses these more recent attempts through Capote's style that refuses to sentimentalise but shows the players in the crime as real people. The murderers are shown to be unpleasant men, not devils or divorced from reason- the realization that such people may be living in any society unknown to the rest of us is what makes this book so sinister.
Capote, fortunately, does no overstate the violence or in any way glamorise it. What the end leaves us with is the monumental sense of life wasted- both of those killed, those left behind and those who perpetrated the murders.
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on 11 October 2009
Have recently started going back to some "classics" that I have never read. This was one recommended, particularly after the "Truman Capote" movie was released. Rivetting portrayal of two killers. The reviews say that it reads like a novel, but that isn't quite true ..... and with the subject matter, I don't think it really should. Capote portrays the killers with a slight grain of sympathy, but it is difficult to feel any for the two boys who carried out the murders. The scene in the house must have been horrendous .... how could it not be, but the two killers showed no mercy at all, being concerned only for their credo of "no witnesses". Great, compelling read.
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on 23 July 2006
I really hadn't a clue what to expect regarding this book. I bought it on the back of the recent film of its making, and while I hadn't seen the film either, I heard about the book and was interested in its storyline.

It tells of the pointless, brutal murder of a wealthy US farmer in the late 50's seen through the eyes of his local community and the two murderers. It reads as a novel and yet is a form of reportage used in many factual crime books since.

What chills more than anything is the different background of the two murderers. One was from a problem background and was almost destined to have a life involved in crime. The other came from a stable family home, but turned out "just plain bad". Their matter of fact view of the murders after they committed them, and their lack of any sense of the enormity of their crimes is something I will remember for a long time.

A sad, morbid story, but a classic book.
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on 6 April 2009
A chilling, ironically life-affirming tale of motiveless murder based on real events. Written in journalistic detail and without prejudice - the latter quite a feat for Capote - the fascination of the author translates very easily when read, and to powerful effect. Capote himself was unable to accept or explain his human empathy for the killers, and was never to write again. I was left feeling humbled by the demise of the killers, which became parallelled with that of the author: one written, the other between the lines.
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on 11 January 2009
Admittedly, I was only awakened to Truman Capote after the two popular recent films made in his honour. But after reading this book I can understand why he is so highly rated in the world of crime writing.

Capote's style is a perfectly balanced mix, managing to remain truthful to the events by describing them in intimate detail yet at the same time examining and speculating about the emotional states of all the main characters. He builds the contrasting profiles of Smith and Hickock and constructs the fugitives' relationship and the tensions between them with brilliant subtlety as the story progresses.

It's amazing that an unconventional crime novel like this where we know who's guilty from near the start remains gripping from the first page to the last. If you are interested in crime fiction then this is a must read. I don't say this about many novels, but it is a genuine masterpiece.
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on 21 September 2008
This book is very deserving of its status as a classic. In this true crime story Capote almost single handedly created a distinct genre - true crime. It's easily as gripping as a novel, yet one is always aware of the fact that everything described here actually happened, adding to the book's tragic and often upsetting content. Perhaps the most remarkable achievement is that Capote doesn't dehumanise the killers - they are real people, not just ogres. When reading the book my feelings lurched from revulsion and alienation to a sense of sympathy and forgiveness for the killers. It seems to me that the real villain of the piece are not necessarily the killers - although their actions are quite horrific - but the society which excluded and forgot them with terrible consequences. Fifty years on, while things may have improved, change in America is still too slow.
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on 25 September 2006
A remarkable read that draws you in to another world. Of course when it was written it was contemporary and now it's an insight in to the shattered rural idyll of 1950's America.

I was enthralled and capitvated by this book and Capote maintains terrific pace whilst neglecting no detail in this tragic case. He quotes the Police officer in charge (Alvin Dewey) who wants "to know the Clutter family more than they knew themselves" and indeed we are brought in to their lives in razor sharp detail.

This is one of those books that leaves you empty when it's finished as it was so fulfilling during reading. Seriously recommended, you'll love it.
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on 10 December 2008
The first ever 'non-fiction novel', as its author proudly proclaimed, takes crime (and dare we say prose) writing to another level.

Brilliantly executed by Capote, the reconstruction of a gruesome multiple murder in an obscure Kansan town takes us deep into the criminal mind and showcases the degradation and corruption two sorry human beings store in their hardened hearts after a life of crime across the U.S.A. of the 1950's.

Capote avoids the usual moralizing and let us intimate not just with Perry and Dick (the murderers), but also with all those in one way or another touched by the murders in the sleepy town of Holcombe and thereabouts.

There is much to be praised in Capote's creation. An innovative masterpiece that stands the test of time. Upon publication, it made its author the most celebrated writer in America and beyond.
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