[Review] In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences by Truman Capote

Publisher and Publication Date: Vintage International Edition/Knopf Doubleday. 2012. First published in 1965.
Genre: Narrative nonfiction. True crime.
Pages: 352 printed pages.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of true crime.
Rating: Very good.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Link for the book @ Barnes and Noble.

Link for the book, which is a link to Penguin Random House: In Cold Blood.

Truman Capote. 1924-1984.

Capote is pronounced Kapotee.

Links on Truman Capote:



A less than 6-minute fascinating interview.


In the wee hours of the morning, Sunday, November 15, 1959, four members of the Clutter family were murdered in their home. They lived in a farming community, and near the town of Holcomb, Kansas.

Thanksgiving would be the following week.

The older two Clutter daughters did not live at home.

The family members were Herbert “Herb” Clutter a prominent farmer. Bonnie Fox Clutter, wife to Herb and the mother of their four children. Eveanna, Beverly, Nancy, and Kenyon. Only Nancy and Kenyon were living at home.

Nancy was 16 and Kenyon 15 at the time of their deaths.

The murderers were Perry Edward Smith and Richard “Dick” Eugene Hickock.

Truman Capote shares several things in the writing of this true crime story: short bios of the Clutter family members, longer bios of Smith and Hickock, the time leading up to the murders, the night of the murders is chronologically told, the following morning after the murders-how they were found and by whom, the criminal investigation, the capture and imprisonment of Smith and Hickock, the trial, the psych evaluations of both young men, the time spent on death row, their executions, and the aftermath of the murders for the neighbors and friends of the Clutter family as well as the families of Smith and Hickock.

In Cold Blood was first published in a series of articles in the New York Magazine in 1965. The book form of the story was published in 1966.

This link is to read various articles in the New York Times about Truman Capote and his work.

This link is to read a first part article written about the crime in the New York Magazine, from the September 25, 1965, issue.

My Thoughts:

I have a library book on articles from the 1960s that New York Magazine published. Of course, not all their articles are included, but those that are pivotal and reflect that decade. I’m currently halfway through it.

In this library book is an excerpt of In Cold Blood. It is from a later point in the book, when Smith and Hickock are in the small jail that housed them until after the trial. Reading this snippet whet my appetite to read the full story.

It’s been a few summers ago that I read several true crime nonfiction books. Those books are on the Golden State Killer, Charles Manson, the Zodiac killer, Ted Bundy, the BTK killer who is Dennis Rader, and Charles Manson. What I find the most fascinating is reading their psych profiles. The methodical and devious and vile and evil planning and murders are beyond difficult to read. It is not something I can wrap my mind around. They are books I don’t forget. They are troubling and menacing.

One of the scariest books I’ve read is written by a man who was working on his doctorate in criminal behavior. He worked in a lockdown unit of the facility that housed only those considered the most violent murderers. That book is frightening!

A problem I have with In Cold Blood is that I’ve read Capote’s story is not 100% accurate. Specifically, the portrayal of the mother of the Clutter family. This makes me wonder how many of the other true crime nonfiction books I’ve read that have inaccuracies.

I watched the film, Capote, that cast Philip Seymour as Capote. Capote’s interviews and research and writing of In Cold Blood is a big part of the film, but this film shares Capote’s relationship he had with Perry. It shares how this writing project impacted Capote. It is not a film only about the murders as is the book. There is a film that was made in 1967 that is titled In Cold Blood. It is considered accurate to the book.

The background story of In Cold Blood is a story itself. I’m referring to the research and writing of it. All the interviews Capote did. His writing project partner, Harper Lee. Going out to the house where the murders took place. The several years of work on it. The impact of this experience.

If you are a true crime reader, In Cold Blood is a necessary read. It is one of the first printed stories and films about true crime.

In most, if not all, the true crime books I’ve read, there is a heavy cloud of expectancy and anxiety about the stories of murders that take place in the books. A very interesting point about In Cold Blood is Capote’s writing style is both matter of fact and calm. Think about the word calm in reference to a book about serial killers, murders, and horror. It is hard to compute. This makes the book easy to read and yet hard to read. It is the later part of the book that dissects the murderers with psych evaluation results and the impact of the people.

The book is not about Capote’s relationship with the murderers.

Capote is the voice in the story unless he lets the people who were interviewed speak.

The last point I’d like to mention is I read that after In Cold Blood was published, and after Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird won a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, their relationship ended. Harper Lee was Capote’s assistant in research and interviewing for In Cold Blood. Capote dedicated the book to her and his partner, Jack Dunphy. He did not mention Lee in the Acknowledgements section.


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