'But then, in the earliest hours of that morning in November, a Sunday morning, certain foreign sounds impinged on the normal nightly Holcomb noises - on the keening hysteria of the coyotes, the dry scrape of scuttling tumbleweed, the racing, receding wail of locomotive whistles. At the time not a soul in sleeping Holcomb heard them - four shotgun blasts that, all told, ended six human lives.'
Earlier last week I discovered that 10th January 2016 marks fifty years since the publication of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. As this book had been languishing on my shelves for the better part of a decade (since I'd watched the film Capote and decided I need to know more), I used this anniversary as the perfect nudge to finally pick it up. I sure am glad I did.
In Cold Blood is part journalism, part novel and writing it is said to have taken an incredible toll on Capote to the point that he never published another book again. I can truly see how that happened and I would say that this is a difficult, if phenomenally rewarding, book to read. I found myself gripped from start to finish and in a state of near anxiety from the minute the murders are committed to the capture of Dick Hickock and Perry Smith. Capote's writing style made this possible as he breathes such life into each individual and constantly reminds us that they were real and these events actually happened.
I won't say it was a comfortable read because it wasn't. Capote dives so deeply into the lives of all involved - the Clutters, the killers, the police and FBI agents, and even the neighbours and friends - that it almost breaks down the barrier of the page. This has a really powerful effect and illustrates just how immersive non-fiction can be.
Initially I struggled to keep up a little with the changes in narrative perspective and the way the book moves along and around the timeline of the case. Once I'd got a handle on who's who and what's what however, I found myself thoroughly sinking into the case.
I'm a big fan of shows like CSI and Criminal Minds and the Serial podcast and I found myself contemplating my enjoyment of such shows whilst I read In Cold Blood. There is something that draws us to crime, whether true or otherwise, that I can't quite understand. I think perhaps it's a need to know and understand humanity and why we do the things we do. Certainly with In Cold Blood part of what kept me turning the pages was a need to understand why Perry and Dick would commit such a horrible, senseless deed. As I closed the book I realised that I'm still at a loss, although the psych evaluations included in the narration were fascinating and added a lot to the case. On further consideration I wonder if it's important that I cannot understand why they did it - perhaps that's what separates them from me. If that's the case, then there is a very thin line between us and that in itself is terrifying.
Regardless of my momentary tangent into philosophical thought, I think In Cold Blood is a thought provoking and engrossing book. Capote's writing is just perfect and his handling of such a brutal crime is sensitive and deft. I would certainly recommend it.
In three words: brutal, dark, enthralling
Have you read In Cold Blood?