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Product Description

The most famous true crime novel of all time, In Cold Blood is the bestseller that haunted its author long after he finished writing it.

"Chills the blood and exercises the intelligence ... harrowing." —The New York Review of Books

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues. 

In one of the first non-fiction novels ever written, Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, generating both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.

Amazon.com Review

"Until one morning in mid-November of 1959, few Americans--in fact, few Kansans--had ever heard of Holcomb. Like the waters of the river, like the motorists on the highway, and like the yellow trains streaking down the Santa Fe tracks, drama, in the shape of exceptional happenings, had never stopped there." If all Truman Capote did was invent a new genre--journalism written with the language and structure of literature--this "nonfiction novel" about the brutal slaying of the Clutter family by two would-be robbers would be remembered as a trail-blazing experiment that has influenced countless writers. But Capote achieved more than that. He wrote a true masterpiece of creative nonfiction. The images of this tale continue to resonate in our minds: 16-year-old Nancy Clutter teaching a friend how to bake a cherry pie, Dick Hickock''s black ''49 Chevrolet sedan, Perry Smith''s Gibson guitar and his dreams of gold in a tropical paradise--the blood on the walls and the final "thud-snap" of the rope-broken necks.

Review

"A masterpiece ... a spellbinding work." —Life

"A remarkable, tensely exciting, superbly written ''true account.'' " —The New York Times
 
"The best documentary account of an American crime ever written ... The book chills the blood and exercises the intelligence ... harrowing." —The New York Review of Books

From the Inside Flap

With the publication of this book, Capote permanently ripped through the barrier separating crime reportage from serious literature. As he reconstructs the 1959 murder of a Kansas farm family and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, Capote generates suspense and empathy.

About the Author

Truman Capote was born September 30, 1924, in New Orleans. After his parents’ divorce, he was sent to live with relatives in Monroeville, Alabama. It was here he would meet his lifelong friend, the author Harper Lee. Capote rose to international prominence in 1948 with the publication of his debut novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms. Among his celebrated works are Breakfast at Tiffany’s, A Tree of Night, The Grass Harp, Summer Crossing, A Christmas Memory, and In Cold Blood, widely considered one of the greatest books of the twentieth century. Twice awarded the O. Henry Short Story Prize, Capote was also the recipient of a National Institute of Arts and Letters Creative Writing Award and an Edgar Award. He died August 25, 1984, shortly before his sixtieth birthday.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

I

The Last to See Them Alive

THE village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call "out there." Some seventy miles east of the Colorado border, the countryside, with its hard blue skies and desert-clear air, has an atmosphere that is rather more Far West than Middle West. The local accent is barbed with a prairie twang, a ranch-hand nasalness, and the men, many of them, wear narrow frontier trousers, Stetsons, and high-heeled boots with pointed toes. The land is flat, and the views are awesomely extensive; horses, herds of cattle, a white cluster of grain elevators rising as gracefully as Greek temples are visible long before a traveler reaches them.

Holcomb, too, can be seen from great distances. Not that there is much to see--simply an aimless congregation of buildings divided in the center by the main-line tracks of the Santa Fe Railroad, a haphazard hamlet bounded on the south by a brown stretch of the Arkansas (pronounced "Ar-kan-sas") River, on the north by a highway, Route 50, and on the east and west by prairie lands and wheat fields. After rain, or when snowfalls thaw, the streets, unnamed, unshaded, unpaved, turn from the thickest dust into the direst mud. At one end of the town stands a stark old stucco structure, the roof of which supports an electric sign--DANCE--but the dancing has ceased and the advertisement has been dark for several years. Nearby is another building with an irrelevant sign, this one in flaking gold on a dirty window--HOLCOMB BANK. The bank closed in 1933, and its former counting rooms have been converted into apartments. It is one of the town''s two "apartment houses," the second being a ramshackle mansion known, because a good part of the local school''s faculty lives there, as the Teacherage. But the majority of Holcomb''s homes are one-story frame affairs, with front porches.

Down by the depot, the postmistress, a gaunt woman who wears a rawhide jacket and denims and cowboy boots, presides over a falling-apart post office. The depot itself, with its peeling sulphur-colored paint, is equally melancholy; the Chief, the Super-Chief, the El Capitan go by every day, but these celebrated expresses never pause there. No passenger trains do--only an occasional freight. Up on the highway, there are two filling stations, one of which doubles as a meagerly supplied grocery store, while the other does extra duty as a café--Hartman''s Café, where Mrs. Hartman, the proprietress, dispenses sandwiches, coffee, soft drinks, and 3.2 beer. (Holcomb, like all the rest of Kansas, is "dry.")

And that, really, is all. Unless you include, as one must, the Holcomb School, a good-looking establishment, which reveals a circumstance that the appearance of the community otherwise camouflages: that the parents who send their children to this modern and ably staffed "consolidated" school--the grades go from kindergarten through senior high, and a fleet of buses transport the students, of which there are usually around three hundred and sixty, from as far as sixteen miles away--are, in general, a prosperous people. Farm ranchers, most of them, they are outdoor folk of very varied stock--German, Irish, Norwegian, Mexican, Japanese. They raise cattle and sheep, grow wheat, milo, grass seed, and sugar beets. Farming is always a chancy business, but in western Kansas its practitioners consider themselves "born gamblers," for they must contend with an extremely shallow precipitation (the annual average is eighteen inches) and anguishing irrigation problems. However, the last seven years have been years of droughtless beneficence. The farm ranchers in Finney County, of which Holcomb is a part, have done well; money has been made not from farming alone but also from the exploitation of plentiful natural-gas resources, and its acquisition is reflected in the new school, the comfortable interiors of the farmhouses, the steep and swollen grain elevators.

Until one morning in mid-November of 1959, few Americans--in fact, few Kansans--had ever heard of Holcomb. Like the waters of the river, like the motorists on the highway, and like the yellow trains streaking down the Santa Fe tracks, drama, in the shape of exceptional happenings, had never stopped there. The inhabitants of the village, numbering two hundred and seventy, were satisfied that this should be so, quite content to exist inside ordinary life--to work, to hunt, to watch television, to attend school socials, choir practice, meetings of the 4-H Club. But then, in the earliest hours of that morning in November, a Sunday morning, certain foreign sounds impinged on the normal nightly Holcomb noises--on the keening hysteria of coyotes, the dry scrape of scuttling tumbleweed, the racing, receding wail of locomotive whistles. At the time not a soul in sleeping Holcomb heard them--four shotgun blasts that, all told, ended six human lives. But afterward the townspeople, theretofore sufficiently unfearful of each other to seldom trouble to lock their doors, found fantasy re-creating them over and again--those somber explosions that stimulated fires of mistrust in the glare of which many old neighbors viewed each other strangely, and as strangers.



THE master of River Valley Farm, Herbert William Clutter, was forty-eight years old, and as a result of a recent medical examination for an insurance policy, knew himself to be in first-rate condition. Though he wore rimless glasses and was of but average height, standing just under five feet ten, Mr. Clutter cut a man''s-man figure. His shoulders were broad, his hair had held its dark color, his square-jawed, confident face retained a healthy-hued youthfulness, and his teeth, unstained and strong enough to shatter walnuts, were still intact. He weighed a hundred and fifty-four--the same as he had the day he graduated from Kansas State University, where he had majored in agriculture. He was not as rich as the richest man in Holcomb--Mr. Taylor Jones, a neighboring rancher. He was, however, the community''s most widely known citizen, prominent both there and in Garden City, the close-by county seat, where he had headed the building committee for the newly completed First Methodist Church, an eight-hundred-thousand-dollar edifice. He was currently chairman of the Kansas Conference of Farm Organizations, and his name was everywhere respectfully recognized among Midwestern agriculturists, as it was in certain Washington offices, where he had been a member of the Federal Farm Credit Board during the Eisenhower administration.

Always certain of what he wanted from the world, Mr. Clutter had in large measure obtained it. On his left hand, on what remained of a finger once mangled by a piece of farm machinery, he wore a plain gold band, which was the symbol, a quarter-century old, of his marriage to the person he had wished to marry--the sister of a college classmate, a timid, pious, delicate girl named Bonnie Fox, who was three years younger than he. She had given him four children--a trio of daughters, then a son. The eldest daughter, Eveanna, married and the mother of a boy ten months old, lived in northern Illinois but visited Holcomb frequently. Indeed, she and her family were expected within the fortnight, for her parents planned a sizable Thanksgiving reunion of the Clutter clan (which had its beginnings in Germany; the first immigrant Clutter--or Klotter, as the name was then spelled--arrived here in 1880); fifty-odd kinfolk had been asked, several of whom would be traveling from places as far away as Palatka, Florida. Nor did Beverly, the child next in age to Eveanna, any longer reside at River Valley Farm; she was in Kansas City, Kansas, studying to be a nurse. Beverly was engaged to a young biology student, of whom her father very much approved; invitations to the wedding, scheduled for Christmas Week, were already printed. Which left, still living at home, the boy, Kenyon, who at fifteen was taller than Mr. Clutter, and one sister, a year older--the town darling, Nancy.

In regard to his family, Mr. Clutter had just one serious cause for disquiet--his wife''s health. She was "nervous," she suffered "little spells"--such were the sheltering expressions used by those close to her. Not that the truth concerning "poor Bonnie''s afflictions" was in the least a secret; everyone knew she had been an on-and-off psychiatric patient the last half-dozen years. Yet even upon this shadowed terrain sunlight had very lately sparkled. The past Wednesday, returning from two weeks of treatment at the Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, her customary place of retirement, Mrs. Clutter had brought scarcely credible tidings to tell her husband; with joy she informed him that the source of her misery, so medical opinion had at last decreed, was not in her head but in her spine--it was physical, a matter of misplaced vertebrae. Of course, she must undergo an operation, and afterward--well, she would be her "old self" again. Was it possible--the tension, the withdrawals, the pillow-muted sobbing behind locked doors, all due to an out-of-order backbone? If so, then Mr. Clutter could, when addressing his Thanksgiving table, recite a blessing of unmarred gratitude.

Ordinarily, Mr. Clutter''s mornings began at six-thirty; clanging milk pails and the whispery chatter of the boys who brought them, two sons of a hired man named Vic Irsik, usually roused him. But today he lingered, let Vic Irsik''s sons come and leave, for the previous evening, a Friday the thirteenth, had been a tiring one, though in part exhilarating. Bonnie had resurrected her "old self"; as if serving up a preview of the normality, the regained vigor, soon to be, she had rouged her lips, fussed with her hair, and, wearing a new dress, accompanied him to the Holcomb School, where they applauded a student production of Tom Sawyer, in which Nancy played Becky Thatcher. He had enjoyed it, seeing Bonnie out in public, nervous but nonetheless smiling, talking to people, and they both had been proud of Nancy; she had done so well, remembering all her lines, and looking, as he had said to her in the course of backstage congratulations, "Just beautiful, honey--a real Southern belle." Whereupon Nancy had behaved like one; curtsying in her hoop-skirted costume, she had asked if she might drive into Garden City. The State Theatre was having a special, eleven-thirty, Friday-the-thirteenth "Spook Show," and all her friends were going. In other circumstances Mr. Clutter would have refused. His laws were laws, and one of them was: Nancy--and Kenyon, too--must be home by ten on week nights, by twelve on Saturdays. But weakened by the genial events of the evening, he had consented. And Nancy had not returned home until almost two. He had heard her come in, and had called to her, for though he was not a man ever really to raise his voice, he had some plain things to say to her, statements that concerned less the lateness of the hour than the youngster who had driven her home--a school basketball hero, Bobby Rupp.

Mr. Clutter liked Bobby, and considered him, for a boy his age, which was seventeen, most dependable and gentlemanly; however, in the three years she had been permitted "dates," Nancy, popular and pretty as she was, had never gone out with anyone else, and while Mr. Clutter understood that it was the present national adolescent custom to form couples, to "go steady" and wear "engagement rings," he disapproved, particularly since he had not long ago, by accident, surprised his daughter and the Rupp boy kissing. He had then suggested that Nancy discontinue "seeing so much of Bobby," advising her that a slow retreat now would hurt less than an abrupt severance later--for, as he reminded her, it was a parting that must eventually take place. The Rupp family were Roman Catholics, the Clutters, Methodist--a fact that should in itself be sufficient to terminate whatever fancies she and this boy might have of some day marrying. Nancy had been reasonable--at any rate, she had not argued--and now, before saying good night, Mr. Clutter secured from her a promise to begin a gradual breaking off with Bobby.

Still, the incident had lamentably put off his retiring time, which was ordinarily eleven o''clock. As a consequence, it was well after seven when he awakened on Saturday, November 14, 1959. His wife always slept as late as possible. However, while Mr. Clutter was shaving, showering, and outfitting himself in whipcord trousers, a cattleman''s leather jacket, and soft stirrup boots, he had no fear of disturbing her; they did not share the same bedroom. For several years he had slept alone in the master bedroom, on the ground floor of the house--a two-story, fourteen-room frame-and-brick structure. Though Mrs. Clutter stored her clothes in the closets of this room, and kept her few cosmetics and her myriad medicines in the blue-tile-and-glass-brick bathroom adjoining it, she had taken for serious occupancy Eveanna''s former bedroom, which, like Nancy''s and Kenyon''s rooms, was on the second floor.

The house--for the most part designed by Mr. Clutter, who thereby proved himself a sensible and sedate, if not notably decorative, architect--had been built in 1948 for forty thousand dollars. (The resale value was now sixty thousand dollars.) Situated at the end of a long, lanelike driveway shaded by rows of Chinese elms, the handsome white house, standing on an ample lawn of groomed Bermuda grass, impressed Holcomb; it was a place people pointed out. As for the interior, there were spongy displays of liver-colored carpet intermittently abolishing the glare of varnished, resounding floors; an immense modernistic living-room couch covered in nubby fabric interwoven with glittery strands of silver metal; a breakfast alcove featuring a banquette upholstered in blue-and-white plastic. This sort of furnishing was what Mr. and Mrs. Clutter liked, as did the majority of their acquaintances, whose homes, by and large, were similarly furnished.

Other than a housekeeper who came in on weekdays, the Clutters employed no household help, so since his wife''s illness and the departure of the elder daughters, Mr. Clutter had of necessity learned to cook; either he or Nancy, but principally Nancy, prepared the family meals. Mr. Clutter enjoyed the chore, and was excellent at it--no woman in Kansas baked a better loaf of salt-rising bread, and his celebrated coconut cookies were the first item to go at charity cake sales--but he was not a hearty eater; unlike his fellow-ranchers, he even preferred Spartan breakfasts. That morning an apple and a glass of milk were enough for him; because he touched neither coffee or tea, he was accustomed to begin the day on a cold stomach. The truth was he opposed all stimulants, however gentle. He did not smoke, and of course he did not drink; indeed, he had never tasted spirits, and was inclined to avoid people who had--a circumstance that did not shrink his social circle as much as might be supposed, for the center of that circle was supplied by the members of Garden City''s First Methodist Church, a congregation totaling seventeen hundred, most of whom were as abstemious as Mr. Clutter could desire. While he was careful to avoid making a nuisance of his views, to adopt outside his realm an externally uncensoring manner, he enforced them within his family and among the employees at River Valley Farm. "Are you a drinking man?" was the first question he asked a job applicant, and even though the fellow gave a negative answer, he still must sign a work contract containing a clause that declared the agreement instantly void if the employee should be discovered "harboring alcohol." A friend--an old pioneer rancher, Mr. Lynn Russell--had once told him, "You''ve got no mercy. I swear, Herb, if you caught a hired man drinking, out he''d go. And you wouldn''t care if his family was starving." It was perhaps the only criticism ever made of Mr. Clutter as an employer. Otherwise, he was known for his equanimity, his charitableness, and the fact that he paid good wages and distributed frequent bonuses; the men who worked for him--and there were sometimes as many as eighteen--had small reason to complain.

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4.6 out of 54.6 out of 5
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Top reviews from the United States

Frank DonnellyTop Contributor: Poetry Books
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The Best Non Fiction Violent Crime Work That I Have Read, Although At Times Painful...
Reviewed in the United States on October 14, 2020
"In Cold Blood" is an iconic non fiction book that is authored by an iconic fiction writer, Truman Capote. The story is about a real life, hideous violent crime that occurred in the State of Kansas in 1959. Although non fiction, the book has the style of fiction and reads... See more
"In Cold Blood" is an iconic non fiction book that is authored by an iconic fiction writer, Truman Capote. The story is about a real life, hideous violent crime that occurred in the State of Kansas in 1959. Although non fiction, the book has the style of fiction and reads as a hard crime thriller, "page turner". In a case such as this, I don''t wish to say that I "enjoyed" this book. The crime is disgusting. However the writing is excellent. As a retired police investigator of violent felonies, the entire work had the ring of truth and reality for me.

I had put off reading this book up until now for numerous reasons. As a student of literature and authors, I prefer to read books by authors in order of publication so that I can study the evolution, if any, of the author. Also, in this case, I am a retired police,officer suffering from PTSD. Therefore it was with a good deal of hesitation that I decided to finally read this work. I do need to report to you that I did indeed find it personally very painful. I have worked cases like this and they have stayed with me. In some ways, the old scars were opened To some extent. It was not as bad as I was afraid it would be. (I had asked others about this prior to reading the book.)

Obviously all I know about this case is what I have read. Presuming the work is accurate, I can tell you this is what is like to arrive at the scene of a hideous violent felony in which there are no witnesses and no obvious leads, To a conscientious lead investigator, it is almost impossible to convey the feeling of near hopeless, forlorn, desolation that may descend upon "The Lead" in a case such as this. Truman Capote does a really good job in describing all of this. It proved extremely realistic to me.

Of all the books that I have ever read, if I was instructing a course on homicide investigations, I am positive I could use this book as a core text. I know exactly how I would have worked this "job" after all of the primary work and leads had been run down. Often I was assigned cases such as this after the primary work was done, and the investigation had stalled. The police "caught a break" in this case. However the break came from exactly the type of source that I would have pursued. Believe me it is a complete pain to work a case this way, but it can be done proactively rather than waiting for a break. This is not "normal aberrant" behavior. This is a subset of aberrant behavior, that I refer to as "aberrant of aberrant". the very nature of which, that makes this job solvable...

In summary, this is an excellent work of non fiction. The only hesitation I have in recommending this work is the hideous nature of the crime. This crime fits my personal definition of obscenity. However if you are a young detective assigned to violent crimes, and really want to learn and not just "Mail it in" this is the one.... Thank You for taking the time to read this review.
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Allen SmallingTop Contributor: Classical Music
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Truman Capote''s Masterpiece
Reviewed in the United States on September 24, 2017
One of the most significant non-fiction writings of the mid-1960s that still holds an honored place today in American letters. In late 1959 the entire Herbert Clutter family of rural Kansas -- Mr. and Mrs. Clutter and their two youngest children Nancy and Kenyon -- were... See more
One of the most significant non-fiction writings of the mid-1960s that still holds an honored place today in American letters. In late 1959 the entire Herbert Clutter family of rural Kansas -- Mr. and Mrs. Clutter and their two youngest children Nancy and Kenyon -- were slaughtered for no particular reason except that the two drifters who sought them out had received bad advice about the alleged riches Mr. Clutter kept in his office safe, but didn''t. What might have been merely a downcast saga of the "outs" tangling with the "ins" becomes an amazingly gripping story in author Truman Capote''s virtuoso writing, that took years to research, write and edit. In my opinion only purists quibble over whether this book should be classed as non-fiction or fiction; it IS non-fiction, but because some of Capote''s narrative techniques were new at the time, IN COLD BLOOD ever since then has straddled "best-of" lists to its overall detriment. Ignore that chatter and read this masterpiece for what it is.

Note: Capote''s research assistant out in rural Kansas was none other than (Nelle) Harper Lee, who wrote TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.
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Kerri Massey: Writer and Mom
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Prose that rings like a bell
Reviewed in the United States on May 7, 2017
I was a little worried about picking up this book- concerned that it would be lurid and make celebrities out of the killers. But I was surprised and immediately swept away- the writing is precise, clear, and lyrical. It rings like a bell calling you back for more. The depth... See more
I was a little worried about picking up this book- concerned that it would be lurid and make celebrities out of the killers. But I was surprised and immediately swept away- the writing is precise, clear, and lyrical. It rings like a bell calling you back for more. The depth of analysis, the sheer amount of work that went into this is stunning. And it is never lurid, never written to sell copy. The characters are richly drawn and fully realized. And it is the Clutter family that I remember most now that I''ve shut the book. As it should be. A secondary tragedy is that we don''t see more of this type of reporting.
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Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
he also incorporates stylistic elements to make the murders appear more like a plot rather than an actual event
Reviewed in the United States on December 11, 2017
In Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, Capote wove a tale of deception and brutal killing. The author based his story off of the real-life murders of the Clutter family in 1959. The actual Clutters were slaughtered during a robbery gone wrong, which is also portrayed in the... See more
In Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, Capote wove a tale of deception and brutal killing. The author based his story off of the real-life murders of the Clutter family in 1959. The actual Clutters were slaughtered during a robbery gone wrong, which is also portrayed in the novel. The murderers, Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, spent five years on death row until they were hanged as punishment. Capote effectively transformed a horrific robbery/murder to a page-turning novel. The author managed to captivate his audience by shifting point of views from the victims to the murderers. Not only does he accomplish this well, he also incorporates stylistic elements to make the murders appear more like a plot rather than an actual event.
Capote shifts perspective from murderers to the murdered which allows him to convert this real life event to a story plotline. As the reader, we see the murder occur from both perspectives which almost allows us to be separate from the event since it leads to a weaker emotional connection to the story when reading. However, when the reader takes a moment to recall that this actually occurred, it opens a box of emotions. Capote wrote the plot so effectively, we automatically assume it is a work of fiction and forget the harsh realities.
Capote’s well researched insight on the story lends the perspectives of both the Clutter family members and the murders, Perry and Richard, to communicate a clear plotline. He does well to tie up loose ends that may have resulted from the limited availability of knowledge about the murders-which may be the reason why this story seems so fictional. Blurred omniscience lets Capote lead the reader through the rollercoaster of both emotions and action, each page becoming another layer to the overall suspense. The book does justice not only to the victims but the murders as well. Instead of painting Perry and Richard as complete antagonists, capable of only crime , Capote add layers to their personality by explaining the background of each man. The heart wrenching pasts of the duo humanized them, creating an additional element of tension during the brutal slaying of the Clutter family.
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PBR118
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Coulda Been Shorter
Reviewed in the United States on May 25, 2018
I liked it at the start, but then it became something of a slog. The section about the Clutters themselves I found most interesting, but they were, of course, gone by the end of the first part. Also, there seemed to be quite a bit of incessant redundancy of facts, as though... See more
I liked it at the start, but then it became something of a slog. The section about the Clutters themselves I found most interesting, but they were, of course, gone by the end of the first part. Also, there seemed to be quite a bit of incessant redundancy of facts, as though Capote had forgotten that he had added these facts earlier and just entered them again, and then never went back to see that he was repeating himself. Overall, it was a good book, but not as good as I hoped.
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Melissa Wagner
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A Must Read for True Crime Fans
Reviewed in the United States on September 30, 2019
“The crime was a psychological accident, virtually an impersonal act, the victims might as well have been killed by lightning. Except for one thing: they had experienced prolonged terror, they had suffered.” In Cold Blood by Truman Capote had me captured from the... See more
“The crime was a psychological accident, virtually an impersonal act, the victims might as well have been killed by lightning. Except for one thing: they had experienced prolonged terror, they had suffered.”

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote had me captured from the first page. From what I have read about this book, it seems that this may be more based on a true story than complete true crime novel, but the writing was so enthralling and the case so interesting that I would still consider this a must read for fellow true crime readers. The way Capote delved into the psychological aspects of the crime, the investigation, and the criminals themselves was my favorite aspect of the novel. I was particularly interested in the perspectives of psychology in the criminal justice system at that time. A lot of which I was very unfamiliar with. This is not a book I will soon forget and I give it 4.5 stars and highly recommend it.
9 people found this helpful
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Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Really a wonderful book.
Reviewed in the United States on February 14, 2018
I wondered how well this would hold up after having read it many years ago. Fictionalized true crime stories are common now but not when this was published so I wondered if it''s impact on me back then was because it had substance or because it was, at the time, new. It... See more
I wondered how well this would hold up after having read it many years ago. Fictionalized true crime stories are common now but not when this was published so I wondered if it''s impact on me back then was because it had substance or because it was, at the time, new. It holds up more than well. There is grandeur in the storytelling, and a sweep of narrative that is hard to describe, epic in the way it details the arc of their lives. Really a wonderful book.
17 people found this helpful
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Darcy
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Disappointed
Reviewed in the United States on February 2, 2019
I''ve read several crime stories, personal accounts with serial killers, etc. However, this was something that honestly bored me. This has been recommended to me so many times over the years and unfortunately, I paid money to try and read it. I should have just checked it... See more
I''ve read several crime stories, personal accounts with serial killers, etc. However, this was something that honestly bored me. This has been recommended to me so many times over the years and unfortunately, I paid money to try and read it. I should have just checked it out of the library. Over descriptive and slow, this book does a good job of recounting the events, but not much else.
13 people found this helpful
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Top reviews from other countries

Lady Fancifull
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Unsettling, uncomfortable account of a real crime – The Clutter Murders of 1959
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 1, 2017
Truman Capote’s 1966 account of a notorious, barely motive-driven rural multiple murder which took place in Kansas in 1959 catapulted him into the best seller lists and celebrity status. An upstanding, hard-working family from Holcomb, a small community in the wheat-plains...See more
Truman Capote’s 1966 account of a notorious, barely motive-driven rural multiple murder which took place in Kansas in 1959 catapulted him into the best seller lists and celebrity status. An upstanding, hard-working family from Holcomb, a small community in the wheat-plains of western Kansas, were brutally murdered by person or persons unknown, in November 1959. The Clutter family, Herb, church-going, teetotal dairy cattle-farmer, his rather delicate but equally upstanding wife Bonnie, and his two children, 16 year old Nancy, vivacious, popular, responsible, admired, and her bookish 15 year old brother Kenton were all shot at point-blank range, having previously been tied up. Herb Clutter also had his throat cut before being shot. Inevitably, investigation first turned to possible personal and local motive, but there was no evidence at all to suggest this. The community was a tight-knit, respectable, co-operative one, and all the Clutters were warmly regarded by their colleagues, peers, friends, family and neighbours “The hitherto peaceful congregation of neighbours and old friends had suddenly to endure the unique experience of distrusting each other; understandably, they believed that the murderer was amongst themselves” The conclusion was that this might have been a burglary which went wrong. The idea of this definitely ruled out local involvement as everyone knew that Clutter did not keep money or valuables in the house, but banked it The crime seemed to point towards something of a growing trend – murder without any real personal motive. There have always been such, in times past, but, for obvious reasons, they were more likely to take place in crowded cities, where perpetrators could quickly vanish amongst the hordes. Such crimes in isolated areas, carried out by perpetrators completely unknown, where victim and murderer had no direct connection with each other, must have been comparatively rare before owning cars became common, so that going on the run and being able to hide anywhere, became easily possible. The perpetrators of this crime, after an intense investigation, were found to be a couple of small time crooks, who had met whilst serving time, far away from the scene of the crime. The successful solving of the crime, not to mention the capture of the pair, also depended on chance as much as skill, and the existence of mass-media (radio, TV) to highlight awareness of the crime and the search. The motive was indeed a robbery gone wrong, with the murderers, neither of whom had ever met Clutter, unaware that this rich man did not have a safe in his house (as they had assumed he would) Truman Capote’s account of the case, originally serialised in The New Yorker, was rather a literary, ground-breaking one. The book was extensively researched from documents and interviews, but Capote structured this like a converging story, rather than a linear account. The structure, the language and the shaping are that of story, not journalistic reportage. Indeed, levelled against the book was criticism (particularly locally) that some dialogue had been invented, and small human touches and potent images had been invented. Interestingly, his researcher on the book was his friend, and later, admired author, in her own right, Harper Lee. She is one of the two people Capote dedicates the book to. The crime was indeed a gory one, but Capote withholds the gory details until near the end of the book, Instead, he paints a low-key, un-histrionic , unheroic, un-villainous picture of all the individuals associated with the case – this includes the victims, the murderers and all connected in the investigation, bringing to justice, and the community in which these events happened. The author avoids operatic, overblown rhetoric. The reader (well, this one) has the sense of an author listening for a way to tell a shocking story in a simple, measured way, allowing the events themselves to be revealed in a way which suggests they have objective existence, and are not driven by authorial agenda. Nonetheless, the choices he made do of course shape the reader’s own perceptions. This is not a mere recounting of facts, but the reader is not being punched by the writer’s persona. Nonetheless, it is obvious that Capote did feel a kind of fascination with one of the perpetrators, whose status as half Cherokee, half-Irish, child of a broken marriage, whose mother was an alcoholic, and who spent part of his childhood in a brutal care home, marked his card, somewhat from the start. A classic outsider who FELT like an outsider to himself. Capote, himself an outsider, clearly felt some kind of – if not sympathy, than an identification of ‘outsiderness’ Unlike a more modern trend in some ‘true crime’ writing, Capote avoids a ramping up of the gory details of the undoubtedly gory crime. He is not trying to titillate or be gratuitous, Instead, there is a cool restraint. There is of course no ‘excuse’ for the crime, but there is a recognition that the fact that these types of crime occur shows ‘something’ about human nature. Because the writer does not go the route of ‘aberrant, demonic, despicable, bestial monsters’ the reader is uncomfortably forced to acknowledge this too is the possibility of human choice, human behaviour.
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FictionFan
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Truth is in the eye of the beholder...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 6, 2019
In November 1959, two men drove into the small Kansas farming community of Holcomb, broke into the Clutter family’s home and brutally murdered the four occupants, Herb and Bonnie Clutter and their two teenage children, Nancy and Kenyon. Before the murderers were caught,...See more
In November 1959, two men drove into the small Kansas farming community of Holcomb, broke into the Clutter family’s home and brutally murdered the four occupants, Herb and Bonnie Clutter and their two teenage children, Nancy and Kenyon. Before the murderers were caught, Truman Capote decided to write about the crime, so went to Holcomb to interview friends and neighbours of the victims, residents of the town, and the men investigating the case. It wasn’t long before the perpetrators were identified and captured, so Capote continued his project by writing about the trial and its aftermath – the imprisonment and execution of the murderers, Perry Smith and Richard “Dick” Hickock. This book, first published in 1966, is the result. Capote approaches the subject from three angles, the victims, the townspeople and the murderers, with the narrative rotating among them. The Clutters, as portrayed here, were fine people, upstanding members of their community and their church, good neighbours and well respected. The children, especially Nancy, seem almost too good to be true, and I couldn’t help but wonder how much the old adage of never speaking ill of the dead had influenced the picture Capote paints. So even at this early stage of the book, I had begun to wonder how much reliance could be placed on Capote’s account of the people involved. This feeling grew as the book progressed and Capote recounted as if they were facts things that he could only have learned from his interviews. While this may be fair enough with regards to the innocent people involved (though even then, oral testimony, especially when given not under oath, is notoriously unreliable), taking the words of Hickock and Smith at their own evaluation and drawing inferences as to their characters from this shaky evidence left me in a kind of limbo as to whether the book should be considered “true crime” or a fictionalised novel. I believe it gets categorised as a “non-fiction novel” - a description that seems deeply contradictory and problematic to me, designed to allow inaccuracies to pass unchallenged. To be clear, I found it extremely readable and, viewing it as fiction, the characterisation of the murderers is wholly credible. Capote seeks to understand them by going back through their early experiences for clues as to why they turned out as they did. Smith in particular had a terrible childhood, with an alcoholic mother who pretty much abandoned him and a father who was at best an intermittent presence and a disruptive one at that. Hickock is more difficult to pigeon-hole – his family seemed both respectable and caring. Capote ventures into psychiatry for answers, using the reports that were drawn up for the men by their defence team. He gives a relatively nuanced picture, neither seeking to whitewash them nor to wholly condemn. His portrayal of the impact of this horrific crime on the small community is equally convincing. In a place where people didn’t feel the need to lock their doors at night, the intrusion of this horror seemed incredible, and Capote shows how for the first time neighbour began to suspect and fear neighbour. The arrest and conviction of the murderers couldn’t wholly put the genie back in the bottle, as Capote describes it – the townspeople’s feelings of security would never be the same. An interesting omission is the perspective of the Clutters’ two older daughters, neither of whom lived at home. While Capote gives us some facts about them, we don’t get to know them at all nor to learn how they fared in the future. I could only assume that they refused to be interviewed for the book. Some of the later scenes felt too contrived to be true, and I later learned on looking at wikipedia that some of the people involved had indeed denied their truth. For example, the scene where the wife of Perry’s jailer holds his hand while he sobs after being sentenced to death felt like something written for a Cagney film (or perhaps copied from one). And the super convenient final scene, played out between the chief investigator and one of the friends of young Nancy, now all grown up, provides a heartwarming conclusion of the restoration of order and the rebirth of all that is good and hopeful in life, and I didn’t believe a single word of it. According to wikipedia, the investigator later denied that it ever happened. So I have very mixed feelings about the book overall. It’s not got the essential truth to be true crime, and yet it’s presented too factually to really be considered a novel. And yet, it is beautifully written and intensely readable, and while it may not have factual truth, it feels as if, with regards to the personalities of the murderers, it may have achieved some kind of emotional truth – certainly emotional credibility, at any rate. I quite understand why it has a reputation as a classic of the genre – I’m just not sure what genre it’s a classic of. Perhaps it should be viewed as a one-off, uncategorisable. And as such, I’m happy to recommend it.
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David Brookes
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Better than 2 stars, but over-rated
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 27, 2018
It was on a list of books I should read. I knew Capote could string a sentence together. So I read it. Bo-o-oring! The writing is genuinely excellent. It''s novel-like - if you like your novels painfully slow and uneventful. Lie: there''s one event, and it''s the one you...See more
It was on a list of books I should read. I knew Capote could string a sentence together. So I read it. Bo-o-oring! The writing is genuinely excellent. It''s novel-like - if you like your novels painfully slow and uneventful. Lie: there''s one event, and it''s the one you already knew about, a murder, which takes about 100 pages to reach. Yes, the victims are humanised and fleshed out enough that you feel bad for them when the time comes. But then the crucial event occurs - off the page, so you don''t know what happened! Thereby cutting out the only action that really takes place, in order to give you a reason to keep on with this terminally dreary book about straw-chewing tertiary characters feeling irrationally unsafe in their dull little town. Oh, how they''re affected! Please, tell me more about these unimportant non-characters so that I don''t have to read about the actual events. I don''t mean to say I want a grisly depiction of a real-life murder. I don''t want to belittle the trauma felt by a community. I''m saying that this book, whilst extremely good at being evocative of the time and place, whilst making every person in the story, including the villains, feel very real and ''known'' (rather like a Stephen King novel, i.e. with interminable detail), has almost nothing to say. What''s it about? It''s a newspaper article stretched out to what feels like 500 pages. It feels important but only because it happened. Only we can''t really be sure that X worried about a fruit pie or Y had a roll of mints in his pocket. Capote apparently went above and beyond to get all the details for this story (I gather there was some controversy, which is probably why this book is so rated), but it feels like there''s a layer of made-up-ness over the top of these facts, which jars a little. Not as good as a novel, nor as good as a straight non-fictional account of events. But, line by line, it''s very well written, and powerfully evocative, even if the ''plot'' is very underwhelming. I don''t regret reading it, but I find it hard to recommend. 5/10 David ''No, I couldn''t have written it better'' Brookes Author of ''Cycles of Udaipur''
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Janie U
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Felt more like fiction than non-fiction - fascinating, detailed research and well written
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 27, 2019
I heard about this book on a radio program, having only heard of Truman Capote from writing Breakfast at Tiffany''s. My curiosity was piqued by this being a "true crime" story. Before I started reading I did a little research, finding that the author heard of the crimes and...See more
I heard about this book on a radio program, having only heard of Truman Capote from writing Breakfast at Tiffany''s. My curiosity was piqued by this being a "true crime" story. Before I started reading I did a little research, finding that the author heard of the crimes and went to visit the locals. He then wrote the book which was sold as a non-fiction account but is in the style of a novel with dialogue that he could not possibly have been aware of. A book that blurs the line between fact and fiction would have been a very new concept in the 1960s but the idea has been used many times since. The first section of the book gives an amazing snapshot in time. It''s November 1959 and we are in small town Kansas, focusing in on a family called the Clutters. Their world is far from perfect but it is pretty good. We also follow the killers on their way with a plan to murder. From the start we know who will be killed, who is going to do it and that it is going to happen soon - all giving the narrative a great darkness. There are then three more sections which divide roughly into the investigation, court case and aftermath. I picked the book up to read a few years but couldn''t get into it so put it down and was never inspired to try again, until now. This time I was hooked immediately. The books is full of detail that makes the characters easy to visualise and give the surroundings great atmosphere. Everyone is just getting along with their lives but all have different opinions of normal based on their individual experiences of life so far. Looking at the murderers so carefully is very clever as the reader gets to know them and starts to empathise at the same time as learning more about the impact of their actions. Perry and Dick are complicated men who have been treated badly by life. We then move on to trying to understand the torture of the Bureau agent who is investigating the crime. The book was published just 7 years after the murders and it is clear why it was so controversial in that it made the "monsters" into human beings with sad stories and excuses (valid or not depending on your view). The book is well rounded and draws the story to a great conclusion which being back some of those involved to show the reader how life moves on. Fantastic that it says so much about the era and I would recommend it to anyone interested in crime.
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Peter - The Reading Desk
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Outstanding and Powerful
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 22, 2020
An outstanding and powerful work of literature, even more impressive because it conveyed true crimes, a profound investigative insight, the vivid sense of time and place, and the atmosphere that cloaked the evil events carried out on November 15 in 1959, in Holcomb, Kansas....See more
An outstanding and powerful work of literature, even more impressive because it conveyed true crimes, a profound investigative insight, the vivid sense of time and place, and the atmosphere that cloaked the evil events carried out on November 15 in 1959, in Holcomb, Kansas. Truman Capote is an artist that painted every detail of the story with such a detailed flow that causes us to stop and appreciate the surroundings rather than wishing the story was being pushed at a faster pace. Looking at America in the 50s from the perspective of a foreigner we often think more of a Holywood version of an innocent age, affluent, white picket fences, apple pie, and rock and roll pervading the airwaves. If anyone asked me when and where I''d liked to have lived it would have been the US in the 1950s. In Cold Blood smashes that image with the reality that cruelty can take away life, a community’s character and the idyllic vision I''d imagined above. The murders of four of the Clutter family by Dick Hickock and Perry Smith for $40, stunned not only the population of Holcomb but ultimately a world-wide audience. My vision, I so wanted to believe of the US, couldn''t have been better envisioned than by Holcomb in the 1950s, where families rarely locked their doors and the safety of the neighbourhood was never doubted. Hickock and Smith not only brutally destroyed the lives of four innocent people but destroyed the fundamental promise of safety in our own homes. The story explores the background of the murderers, what drove them, how they considered what they had done, the investigation into the crimes, and the community that became fearful and suspicious that for a long time they did not know who was responsible. To achieve this nonfiction novel with such beautiful prose is a seminal point in literature where it is arguable that Capote created a new genre. I have for a long time been fascinated by the relationship between Truman Capote and Harper Lee and how they helped each other research and draft their renowned classics. It is interesting that Harper Lee had been inspired during the ‘In Cold Blood’ collaboration with Capote to research and use the case of Robert Burns who shot dead the serial killer, Reverend Willie Maxwell, to write her own true-crime novel - which never materialised. Another relationship Capote shattered during his years of self-destruction. I do believe this is a must-read novel and is surely a classic and a powerful combination of true-crime with such beautiful writing talent.
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