Sunday, March 16, 2014

In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote has long been on my want-to-read list. Since I'm waiting for April 1 for my next free James Bond download from the Kindle lending library, and, inspired by SJ Honeywell's review of the movie Capote last month, I started reading it this week.

In Cold Blood tells the story of the Clutter Family murders. In November, 1959, an entire family of four (father, mother, teen daughter and teen son) was murdered in the middle of the night in the tiny farming town of Holcomb, Kansas. Police could find no apparent motive and only two clues, bootprints left by the killers. Author Truman Capote investigated the crime and followed the investigation and, after the killers were caught, spent the next six years writing his masterpiece, widely recognized as one of the greatest true-crime books of all time.

I am finding the reputation to be well-deserved. Capote's writing is excellent, clear, straightforward and compelling, yet poetic when needed. It's certainly not a funny book, but there are a few humorous word constructions here and there that let his sly sense of humor show through. The story details a terrible, pointless tragedy, but reveals an amazingly rich tapestry of humanity.

I especially appreciate the way Capote follows all the people involved up to the night of the murders, then skips to the next morning, waiting until the killers are caught to reveal what really happened during that dreadful night. There's never any mystery about who did it from our perspective, but waiting to reveal the details was a clever move.

Once I'm done with the book, likely in a day or two, I plan to watch Philip Seymour Hoffman's Oscar-winning performance in Capote. I'm really looking forward to it.


SJHoneywell said...

It's a damn fine book, probably one of the best five books of the last century. Your reading it makes me want to re-read it.

Glad you're liking it as much as I did.

Ipecac said...

Cross-posted to SJ Honeywell's review of Capote:

I just finished watching Capote. I agree with everything in your review, especially praise for the acting. Hoffman was great as always, and I thought Clifton Collins was incredible.

Having finished In Cold Blood earlier today, seeing the movie was a revelation. Of course, with it so fresh in my mind I could see exactly what details they changed between the book and the movie, a fascinating experience since I'm also aware of the charges that Capote made up some scenes in the book. So this movie reflected a hard reality through a window looking through another window.

But by far the biggest revelation to me was how much Capote was an actual participant in the events told in the book. In the movie, Truman becomes friends with Detective Dewey and his wife, some of the townspeople, and most notably, the killers, especially Perry, He is right there during the trial, the aftermath, up to the executions. This is the truth, as it's how he researched the book.

But Truman Capote doesn't exist in the actual book. As the author, he is the omniscient narrator only and completely erases his own existence from the story. I found that utterly fascinating. If the movie is true, Capote was one of the most important, if not the most important, figure in Perry's Smith's last days. For someone who's just read the book, that is stunning.

I think I will check out Infamous soon. If only to see Daniel Craig play a short, tiny-legged, half-cherokee.