From the shelf: In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote is the most engrossing book I’ve read in a while. It’s the true story of a mass murder that took place in Kansas in 1959. After reading a blurb about the murders in a New York paper, Capote traveled to Kansas and spent the next several years following the case, conducting interviews, and writing.

This is no who-done-it, murder mystery, but it is incredibly suspenseful. Part of the suspense comes from knowing too much. There are several ominous instances that go something like “And that was the last time he saw her alive.” Capote also waits to fully disclose exactly how things happened the night of the murders.

I loved the book and thought it was really engaging. However, some others think differently.  Tom Wolfe (another fantastic writer) criticizes In Cold Blood in his essay “Pornoviolence“: “The book is neither a who-done-it nor a will-they-be-caught, since the answers to both questions are known from the outset … Instead, the book’s suspense is based largely on a totally new idea in detective stories: the promise of gory details, and the withholding of them until the end.” I wouldn’t let Tom get you down. Capote’s novel, though obviously containing some violence, tells a complicated and, at points, heart-wrenching story. Unlike those gory cop shows on TV, you get an intimate look into the lives of the murderers, murdered, and investigators involved.

Other criticism In Cold Blood has received involves its veracity. Capote categorizes it as “non-fiction.” The murders, of course, really took place, and you can look up information about them and the murderers online. I think the main issue involves several conversations in the book that must have been constructed by Capote, particularly conversations between the victims.

I should stop mentioning criticisms, though, because I thought it was excellent. My favorite aspect was how crisp the language was. Capote’s work is a pleasure to read. Another of the book’s strengths, as I’ve mentioned above, is the amount of detail given to the characters’ lives, and particularly the two murderers. Digging deeper into their psychologies makes them more and more complicated. They’re not simply evil and twisted. They have people they care about, insecurities, pains, and dreams. I constantly wanted to know more about them, the case, and Capote’s role in the whole thing. I couldn’t get it all out of my head. It’s quite good.

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