When a friend suggested we read Truman Capote’s ‘In Cold Blood‘ for our quality two-person book club, I had never heard of it, nor was I immediately aware that it was a so-called ‘non-fiction novel’ based on the 1959 brutal murders of Herbert Clutter, a Kansas farmer, and his family, by Richard Hickock and Perry Smith.
I remember starting to read the book one morning a few weeks ago. I was on the tube on my way into Makers Academy, and Capote takes the first few pages to set the scene of the small city of Holcomb. The town had a peaceful sense about it and was portrayed to be a rather uneventful place, which made the beginning all the more chilling as you could sense the impending tragedy that would soon engulf Holcomb and its citizens.
There are two main streams in the book that Capote follows – one of the police and their investigation, and one of the movements of the killers. Sometimes the detail Capote puts in the book really slowed down the pace, and in other stories it would have really put my patience to the test, but because the book was a factual account, such details became fascinating. In particular, Capote accomplishes the spectacular feat of deep character development of the two killers without enforcing any particular bias or prejudice upon them. Whilst the reader may not be left feeling sympathetic towards them, you’re left with more than just two plain evil villains. This is part of what stirred up a confusing mix of emotions for me whilst I read. I wasn’t sure how I was meant to feel.
I have never felt so afraid when reading a book before, nor had I ever felt guilty for enjoying a book. When I found myself excited by it, I thought: wait, this actually happened! You can’t be enjoying this! Capote tells the story in such a way that the reader sometimes forgets that it’s not fictional. Particularly chilling for me was searching the web one evening after finishing the book and finding the mug shots of the Hickock and Smith, as well as other pictures of characters and places described in the book. I didn’t have to imagine what anything looked like, it was all there for me to see.
Has anyone else read this recently? Have you seen the film? What are your thoughts?