In Cold Blood

I’m back from NYC! Here is one of my favorite pictures that I took while there:

This was the view from the Highline in NYC
During the six day span of traveling and being in New York , I read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. It was easily one of the best books I’ve read in a while.
For those who have not read In Cold Blood, it is about the Clutter family murders. Capote did extensive research and interviews to tell the story of the four family members that were brutally murdered and the two men who committed the crime. In brief, Dick and Perry, the criminals, broke into the Clutter home and murdered Mr. and Mrs. Clutter and two of the four children (the other two were married and living elsewhere) for seemingly no reason. The only clues left behind were a couple bloody boot prints, some rope, and the gossip of a small town that was rocked by this tragedy.
Capote captures the event first by introducing the Clutter family – they are widely respected and loved in town and have no enemies. Capote details the events of their lives the day before they were murdered and gets accounts from neighbors and some of the last people to see the family alive. He mixes these accounts with descriptions of the criminals and their activities as they purchased supplies for the crime. Then, Capote alternately tells the story of Dick and Perry, and the detectives that are trying to track them down. In the end, Capote describes the long process of bringing the two murderers to justice and how the town changed because of the Clutter family murders.
The flow and organization of this book is impressive. I can only imagine how much work it took to not only collect the information but to arrange it in a logical and compelling way. It’s incredibly informatvie, but reads like a story. In fact, the reader wants to believe it is simply a made-up story, because it all seems so unreal. Capote effectively creates suspense and captures the town and its inhabitants perfectly, weaving in quotations seamlessly and using realistic dialogue.
It’s clear that Capote became obsessed with the killers in the process of writing the book. Dick and Perry receive as much attention as the Clutter family does – maybe even more. Capote almost creates sympathy by detailing the circumstances that bred these murderers, but the reader never forgets the horror of the crime they committed. The book ends on a somewhat hopeful note, years later, when the main detective visits the Clutter family graves to find the best friend of the murdered daughter at the grave site too, remembering the family.
I read this book mostly on the plane, in coffee shops in NYC, or on the subway. By the end, when Capote describes the incredibly long time it took for Dick and Perry to be condemned to Death Row, I was so impatient that I had to resist skipping ahead. This may have had something to do with the fact that I was waiting for a flight after the snow had canceled my initial one and was antsy to begin with, but Capote created so much tension that it was impossible not to get impatient with the people in power in the book. He described the system, how people fought to save the lives of the criminals despite what they had done, and the torturous process of being held in prison within sight of the gallows before execution. When Dick and Perry finally were punished for their crimes, it was like a huge weight had been lifted. I love when books give me such a strong personal reaction – that’s when you really appreciate the skill of the writer.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes mystery, journalistic writing, nonfiction, or is simply curious.
Meanwhile, I’m still reading The Zero Knot by K.Z. Snow.
And just a plug – if you’ve never been to New York City…go there. The literary scene is huge, and you can’t walk down a block without stumbling into a densely packed bookstore with great deals. One of the best is The Strand, which has 18 miles of shelving for books!

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