Fact-based novel about a multiple murder broke new ground
Truman Capote was known not only for his literary style, but also for his striking personality and infamous lifestyle. After experiencing success with the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's, he blew readers and critics away with his revolutionary work In Cold Blood.
by Truman Capote
Truman Capote was known not only for his literary style, but also for his striking personality and infamous lifestyle. After experiencing success with the novella , he blew readers and critics away with his revolutionary work .
In this book, Capote pioneered a new genre - the nonfiction novel - and his research process is integral to understanding the plot. This partly fictionalised, journalistic account of the brutal murders of an affluent farm owner's family was first published in four parts in in late 1965.
The idea first came to Capote by way of a tiny 300-word article in in 1959. It was a short summary of the unexplained shootings in a small Kansas town. Herbert Clutter, a wealthy wheat farmer, was found killed by a shotgun blast along with his wife, Bonnie, and two of their children, although nothing was taken.
Capote was intrigued by this small news item and decided to visit the town of Holcomb, with Harper Lee, his childhood friend and writer of . The 1.6-metre, openly homosexual and flamboyantly dressed Capote was quickly accepted by most in the Holcomb community.
For about four years, Capote followed the police investigation, up to the trial and eventual executions. The crimes were committed by two ex-convicts, Richard "Dick" Hickock and Perry Smith, who planned to rob the Clutters and flee to Mexico. But on the fateful night of November 14 there was no money to be found and things quickly turned bloody. The two men were caught in Las Vegas.
explores the pair not just as criminals but as people too. Capote was given exclusive access to them and his book is particularly sympathetic to Smith. Capote builds suspense by exploring the contradictions between the naïveté of the two criminals and the gory details that are exposed in glimpses, with a promise of full gratification at the end.
proved to be Capote's last novel, as he spiralled deeper into alcoholism and drug abuse. His research for the book proved too much to handle, especially after witnessing Perry's execution. But forged an enduring legacy in showing that true crime can be just as vivid and interesting as fiction.