Author: Truman Capote
Genre: True Crime
“As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.”
I’m decently interested in true crime type things. I watch a lot of ID Channel, /r/unresolvedmysteries is one of my most frequented subreddits, and, I probably know more than the average adult on how to hide a body. So, In Cold Blood was right up my alley.
Capote is a good writer, obviously, and makes a book about a really horrific crime, easy to read. That’s what makes the book five stars. What makes the book four stars, is the transparent need for Capote to make the readers feel more sympathy for the murderers, Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, than the family they murdered.
I did a little research on the book (thanks, Wikipedia!) and found that Capote did personal interviews with both Smith and Hickock before their executions. Smith, even though he participated as much as Hickock in the murder, was written as someone who just got caught up in shooting four people in the face and not as a murderer, which he was.
Capote wrote Smith as a man beaten down by life and unwittingly swept up by the evil mastermind, Hickock. It was a convincing argument but I couldn’t buy it. I still don’t buy it actually. Smith did have a particularly abusive, shitty childhood but that doesn’t justify killing four people, two of them being teenagers.
The big moment that I think cemented Smith as the tragic “hero” is when he stopped Hickock from raping his sixteen-year-old female victim before murdering her. The concept of morals before murder does not absolve one from being a murderer.
My personal taste when it comes to true crime novels is for the author to have an air of objectivity towards everything. If the situation reads as sensational and fantastic, it should only be like that because the facts or history themselves are sensational and fantastic. Putting biases in a true crime novel makes the “true” part kind of weak.
I did enjoy this book but the emotion Capote held for Smith soured it a bit. I would still recommend it, though.