On the morning of Sunday, 15 November 1959, two teenage girls went to River Valley Farm in Holcomb, Kansas, the home of their friend Nancy Clutter. They found Nancy lying on her bed, shot in the back of the head with a shotgun, her bedroom wall spattered with blood. Her mother, Bonnie, was also dead, her hands tied together and her mouth taped with adhesive. In the basement, her father Herb’s throat had been slit; her brother, Kenyon, had been gagged and bound and shot in the face. The telephone line had been disconnected. Forty dollars in cash was missing.
His attention caught by a brief newspaper report of the murders, author Truman Capote set out for Kansas to investigate. The result was In Cold Blood, six years in the writing and probably the most influential work of true crime ever written. With a novelist’s voice and a reporter’s instinct, Capote describes the build-up to and aftermath of the murders, and the hunt for the killers, two drifters who had met in Kansas State Penitentiary. Perry Smith, whose mother was an alcoholic, had become addicted to painkillers after being maimed in a motorcycle accident. Dick Hickock was a former mechanic who conceived the plan and recruited Smith because he believed him to be ‘a natural-born killer’. In reconstructing their lives, Capote comes as close as possible to answering the unanswerable question of why they murdered the Clutters.
In Cold Blood was an immediate sensation when it was serialised in The New Yorker in 1965. A masterpiece of suspense, it is also a portrait of America: both the sleepy, small-town world of Holcomb, and the seedy underbelly from which Smith and Hickock emerged. In a brilliant introduction, novelist Rupert Thomson quotes Capote as saying that writing the book ‘scraped me right down to the marrow of my bones’. In the remaining 20 years of Capote’s life, he never published another full-length work. This edition includes rare photographs taken during Smith and Hickcock’s arrest and trial, as well as haunting images of Holcomb and the Clutter home.
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Review by MKenny on 10th May 2012
"This book has become a classic in American reportage. Capote used a novelistic style to report on this awful crime, that has since become the standard for all "true crime" books. I read this book ba..." [read more]
Review by pedro7 on 16th Mar 2012
"A good book,very well written and i found it read very much like a novel which of course it isnt.The story which is very sad at least has a happy ending (of sorts) and although the events happened in ..." [read more]