Tag: Ken Kesey

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Posted August 30, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

In Cold Blood by Truman CapoteTitle: In Cold Blood (Goodreads)
Author: Truman Capote
Published: Penguin, 1965
Pages: 336
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

In 1959 a farmer from Holcomb, Kansas was killed along with his wife and two of his four children by a couple of two-bit thieves. This brutal crime spawned a desperate search for the killers who left bloody footprints at the murder scene. From petty crime to mass murder, In Cold Blood tells the story from murder to the gallows where they were executed by hanging.

In the Truman Capote literary masterpiece, it is easy to consider In Cold Blood a crime novel; it has shades of pulp and southern gothic throughout the book. However this journalistic investigation has often been cited as the first and best example of the non-fiction genre known as true crime. While there have been true crime books before In Cold Blood, this book did redefine the genre. Capote likes to call his book a non-fiction novel which he defined in an interview with The New Your Times as “a narrative form that employed all techniques of fictional art, but was nevertheless immaculately factual”.

However this is not just a book about the brutal murder of the Clutter family; we also get a Capote’s depiction of rural America. Outside the details of the crime, the author paints a descriptive backdrop of Kansas, the way he sees it. Religion, masculinity, femininity, the nuclear family and small town communities all play a big part in developing the scene. When he talks about the crime, the reader gets to explore the psychological motivations of murder and awaiting execution.

There is the issue of mental illness that needs to be explored when talking about In Cold Blood. It is almost like Truman Capote wants to challenge the reader to consider if Perry and Dick suffered from an untreated mental illness. There are shade of delusional, depression, schizophrenia and a sociopathic personality that comes through when talking about these two people but as this is 1959 I expect no psychological consult or treatment were given to these men; the court rejected the request.

I expected a true crime book but I feel like In Cold Blood was trying to do something similar to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey and The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I was very impressed with this book and I feel like Capote may have ruined true crime and even narrative non-fiction for the rest of the authors in these genres. Capote’s investigational skills and mastery over the written word is what makes this book a masterpiece.