Review: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

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In Cold Blood by Truman Capote | Rating: ★★★★☆

“Once a thing is set to happen, all you can do is hope it won't. Or will-depending. As long as you live, there’s always something waiting, and even if it’s bad, and you know it's bad, what can you do? You can’t stop living.” 

If you were to ask any reader of True Crime, a good portion of them would tell you that the first book they ever read in the genre would be In Cold Blood. Artful and chilling, it is easy to see why Truman Capote's novel shaped the way we, as readers, explore non-fiction. In Cold Blood is a classic for many reasons--viewed as the original True Crime novel--but it is not without its very obvious flaws. Like many readers, I got my start in True Crime with this book.

In this regard, In Cold Blood will always have a special place in my heart. I remember the first time I read it, a way to pass the time during a three-hour detention in high school. At the time, I wasn't much of a classic literature reader--but I had recently picked up an interest in Capote's prose due to my having read Breakfast at Tiffany's earlier that year. Something about Capote compelled me from the get-go and In Cold Blood really stuck with me. The way that he wrote the novel was stunning and full of something I, even now, can't put my finger on.




Rereading it this summer, for the first time in a decade, was an entirely new experience. One that only comes with age. Decades have passed since the initial release and the crimes at the center of the book, and the novel remains the same. Eerie, dark and thought-provoking. Capote's prose is utterly timeless and will shake you as you read of not only the Clutter family, but the two men who killed four members of one family in cold blood.

When I first read In Cold Blood, I didn't think much of the portrayal of the family. Perhaps my view of them was hazier then. Now, after watching a documentary in which members of the surviving Clutter family speak, I can't help but to grow annoyed with the way that Capote describes them. It's easy to write a non-fiction book, and not hit the right mark, when the victims are unable to speak for themselves.

And you had no contact with them when they could.

On that note, it leaves this feeling of guilt on the reader when reading statements family members said of the novel and Capote himself.  There is this undeniable sense that the Clutter family is seen as victims, not people, in In Cold Blood, and the killers are humanized to a disappointing degree.

That imbalance makes reading it a little more tense.

While we view this as a classic novel, they view it as something else entirely. In that sense--while the novel is brilliant in its way--I can't help but tell myself that, when I finish my own True Crime novel, I don't want it to be like In Cold Blood. Although the novel will forever be a classic, and rightfully so, the older I grow... the more frustrating certain elements can be.

That being said, In Cold Blood is crafted beautifully and reads timelessly. While it has flaws of its accuracy, and turning away from those flaws can be difficult, the humanizing and portrayal of the murderers, it's still a solid read that will continue to shape readers through years to come.

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