Crime fiction, eh? Except this isn’t fiction, it’s crime non-fiction. We’re not really ones for crime thrillers normally, but Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is an exceptional piece of writing. It’s the type of book that is, quite literally, a page turner. It’s a brilliant piece of investigative journalism and remains one of the greatest pieces of literature from the 20th century.
Crime is always so unpleasant. In Cold Blood spins out the story of Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock with impartial verve. In 1959, the pair murdered a Kansas family whilst robbing their house, a theft which only earned them an idiotically small amount of money. After they were arrested and put on trial, Capote gained regular access to the murderers, visiting them in prison on numerous occasions. It’s this element that allowed him to paint such a morbid picture of the two men behind this crime, making for a unique and intimate account of what played out.
In Cold Blood
Who were these men behind such a terrible murder? What were they like, what were they thinking? This is what In Cold Blood provides us with answers to – we get to know the killers. One of them turns out to be above average intelligence, but the stupid decisions they made led to the tragic circumstances that befell the family in 1959. A terrible murder, for which they received death sentences.
Capote spoke extensively with police chiefs and the local community as he pieced together In Cold Blood, gaining remarkable insights into a pointlessly brutal crime. This went on for a long time too, with Capote becoming infatuated with events – it took seven years for the story to play itself out, Capote running himself ragged waiting for its conclusion (it would also be the last full book he wrote, despite it launching him to superstardom).
The emotional drain on its writer, which drove him to considerable distress, didn’t impact on the quality of the text. An instant classic, the result is a candid exposé of a terrible crime; a disturbing look at the perpetrators and a detailed psychological examination behind a brutal event.
It’s compelling and absolutely one every single literary buff must read. From the writing style to the captivating account of two killers, plus the family they laid waste to, In Cold Blood is an essential literary masterpiece and one that will be much lauded for generations to come.
The book has become iconic in the literary world and has been subject to numerous movie adaptations. We’d like to promote here, on the anniversary of his death, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Oscar winning performance in 2005’s Capote, a film about the writer’s struggles with completing the book. Hoffman’s performance was truly remarkable and he rightly claimed an Oscar for this portrayal.
Toby Jones, however, also provided a solid performance in Infamous (2006). It’s not as good as Capote, in our opinion, but still makes for an interesting watch. Jones is another actor who completely nailed the Capote performance and actually resembles the writer more than Hoffman did, but the production isn’t as refined as the Bennett Miller directed 2005 effort.