In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – Reviewed by Guy Portman
The story reconstructs the real life murders of a Kansas farmer, his wife and teenaged children. The Clutters, as they are referred to in the book, are a popular family who reside near the town of Holcombe. The father, Herb Clutter, is a devout Methodist and a bastion of the community. The mother, Bonnie, suffers from mental health problems and spends a lot of time in her room. The couple have two offspring – a popular teenage son called Kenyon, and a horse riding, cherry pie making daughter by the name of Nancy. One morning in the early hours the house is broken into and the family are tied up and then shot. Few clues are left behind and there is no obvious motive for this brutal killing.
Presented in a journalistic style, the book probes every facet of the random events surrounding the senseless slayings, including an in-depth study into the lives of the two young murderers, Perry Smith and Dick Hickock. Perry is a well read half Native American who suffered a traumatic childhood whilst Dick is an outgoing and irresponsible womaniser.
Capote’s seminal work is a blend of narrative and journalism. Its vivid characters and detailed descriptions allow the reader to be transported back in time to Holcombe, Kansas, 1959.
Despite the fact that one is aware of what is going to occur the anticipation of the events provides suspense. A minor criticism is that the insightful reporting and diligent research that is the backbone of this remarkable and innovative work could be argued on occasion to detract from the story.