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In Cold Blood
on 23 June 2017
When this book was suggested for my bookclub, I was intrigued. It is one of those books that I have meant to read forever and, indeed, it was published in 1966, the year I was born, so it was interesting for me to read just from that angle (even if it was first serialised in the ‘New Yorker’ in 1965).
Like so many great things that are created, this was inspired by something quite inconspicuous; a one column story which appeared in a newspaper on November, 16th, 1959, about the murder of the Clutter family on Rivery Valley Farm in western Kansas. This news story sent Truman Capote out to Kansas to investigate and resulted in him creating, arguably, the first ‘nonfiction novel.’
Although the subject matter of this book is, obviously, a tragedy, it is wonderfully written, with great sympathy to everyone involved and a very modern examination of the reasons for the crime. Indeed, early crime books/magazines tended towards the sensational and shocking; whereas this is much more analytical and interested in character and motive. “In Cold Blood,” is the second best selling true crime book of all time, beaten only by the brilliant, “Helter Skelter,” so it keeps good company.
Like, “Helter Skelter,” this book is obsessed with detail. “In Cold Blood,” is a work of great research and took years to write. Capote sets the scene well; taking us through the last day of the Clutters lives and introducing us to this respected, and respectable, family. Although, later in the book, the author focuses on the killers, their backgrounds and their motivations, he is respectful to the victims and, by introducing them to the reader first, he enables us to feel sympathy for them before anything else. However, the bulk of the book does look at the men who are arrested, and tried, for the murders in great detail. He examines their past, their relationship and how they were caught, plus what happened to them afterwards.
Although these events happened a long time ago, this book does not feel particularly dated. The reasons behind such crimes are, sadly, still much the same as they were then. Although I cannot say this was an easy, or comfortable, read, it is really a brilliantly written book and I am glad that I finally read it.