In Cold Blood review, and giveaway!

In Cold Blood book cover
In Cold Blood
In Cold Blood
Truman Capote

Welcome to Day SIX of the Book Journey Celebration of Banned Books Week, 2011 Edition!

Be sure to pick up all the clues from Saturday, September 24, through Saturday, October 1 and leave a comment on each of the participating blogs to be eligible to win the prize package. Participating blogs are posted daily at Book Journey. Good luck and have fun!

Reason for Ban: According to the ALA, In Cold Blood has been challenged because it contains sex, violence, and profanity. Um, yeah. I really don’t want to read a book that doesn’t contain at least one of those things.

In high school, I had a friend who grew up not far from Holcomb, Kansas, where the infamous events of In Cold Blood took place. In fact, shortly after we met, I picked up a copy of this book, read the first chapter or so, and then promptly lost the book. I never did find it, but I always wanted to finish reading it. When I spotted a copy at the Borders liquidation sale, I bought it.

The book is known for ushering in a new style of non-fiction writing. In fact, I found my copy in the literature/fiction section, even though it depicts true events. Truman Capote became interested in the grisly murder of the Clutter family, and began covering it as a reporter for the The New Yorker. He and his friend Harper Lee travelled to Kansas, spending significant amounts of time interviewing townspeople, investigators, lawyers, and the defendants.

For those unfamiliar with the general story, four members of the prominent and well-liked Clutter family, were murdered in their home. The two killers were drifters who spent time in and out of prison throughout the country.

This is never a real “whodunit,” since the reader is privy to the murderers’ identities from the very beginning, before there’s even a murder.  Capote manages to keep the reader interested by juggling two simultaneous storylines, one following the events in Holcomb, and one following the killers. The first fifty pages or so have you waiting, ever more anxiously, for the showdown that you know is coming. You’re kept waiting until the very end before the murders are described from the viewpoint of the killers.

Capote describes the Clutter family and their home at River Valley Farm as quaint, unstylish, outmoded. They seem to spring from a different time and place than Capote, living in New York, must have been used to. At times it seems that he holds them and their lifestyle slightly in contempt. Here he describes the interior of the Clutter home: 

“[T]here were spongy displays of liver-colored carpet intermittently abolishing the glare of the varnished, resounding floors; an immense modernistic living-room couch covered in nubby fabric interwoven with glittery strands of silver metal; a breakfast alcove featuring a banquette upholstered in blue-and-white plastic. This sort of furnishing was what Mr. and Mrs. Clutter liked, as did the majority of their acquaintances, whose homes, by and large, were similarly furnished.”

Dick and Perry, the killers, are seriously troubled young men. But Capote makes you realize that they are people, not monsters.  Perry, in particular, is a pathetic case. He was one of four children. Two of his siblings died tragically, and his other sister, Barbara, has tried her hardest to escape what she sees as a family curse. She had cut off contact with Perry, saying she was afraid of him. This was a far cry from the love she’d felt for him when they were children, before their family had broken up. She recalled some of the hard times, scouring the country, looking for work during the Great Depression, not having enough to eat: 

[She] remembered that once the family had lived for days on nothing but rotten bananas, and that, as a result, Perry had got colic; he had screamed all night, while Bobo, as Barbara was called, wept for fear he was dying.

The book ends with Perry Smith and Dick Hickock paying the ultimate price for their crimes. Even knowing the ending, In Cold Blood is well worth reading as a compelling account of a crime and its aftermath.

Want to read this? Enter to WIN my copy of In Cold Blood by leaving a comment telling me (along with something else) that you’re interested. I’ll pick a winner next Monday, October 3rd. 

US entrants only, as I am a poor unemployed blogger with a mountain of student loans.
And here’s your clue:

18 thoughts on “In Cold Blood review, and giveaway!

  1. I found In Cold Blood truly chilling and chose it as my pick for our book club discussion two years ago. Capote certainly had a "city" viewpoint but he researched both the killers and victims well. In fact, perhaps in Perry's case, he quite too close. I thought the 1967 film starring Robert Blake as Perry really captured the character.

  2. I read this one a few months ago, long after I'd seen the movie Capote.Yes, Capote definitely had a unique perspective, and I can certainly feel his contempt in the descriptions.He did seem to have a special connection with Perry, though.Thanks for the great review. I liked the part about your friend who lived near Holcomb.

  3. @Debbie: yes, his research was really great. I've heard the "too close" allegations regarding Perry, but I couldn't find anything to back it up. It makes a good story, though!@Laurel-Rain: Thanks! I still haven't seen Capote, but I'm sure I'll watch it eventually.

  4. I have not read In Cold Blood until this year, recently, in summer. Had I not known the historic murder case, I would have thought it a fiction. I am captured by his disinterest and emotional detachment in laying out the case. For the most part during the reading I held my breath.

  5. @Heather: Thanks!@Matt: He really manages to keep you on the edge of your seat, despite knowing from the beginning (basically) what happens.@Nise':Thanks! I really need to see the movie.

  6. How interesting to know someone from that part of Kansas. I didn't realize until I was reading some stuff about Harper Lee last year with the 50 anniv of TKAM, how good friends/co-researchers they were.Thanks!

  7. Thanks for sharing about Capote, I didn't realize he had been friends with Harper Lee. I have not read In Cold Blood, but will definitely check it out now. Great post!dlodden at frontiernet dot net

  8. @holdenj: Yes, supposedly Harper Lee was indispensable in getting Capote access to the people of Holcomb.@Nana:@Sheila: No problem!@Natalie: Yes, he did. To me, that shows his talent.@Barb: Thanks! This is the only Capote I've read, but I think I'll be picking up more eventually. @DarcyO: Yes, certainly check it out!@Chris: Yes, I definitely enjoyed it. It was interesting to read about a 1960s trial. It's so different today.

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