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About the Book
From: Recognizing the Art of Nonfiction Literary Excellence in True Crime, World Literature Today, 2012.
The Everest of true crime writing is Truman Capote's In Cold Blood (1966). It was the primary reason that nonfiction was allowed to compete for the Hammett literary award. The brilliance of its portrayal of murderers Perry Smith and Richard Hickock is still stunning. Despite the monstrous brutality of the murder of the Clutter family, the insights into the character of the killers allow a reader to understand them as deeply damaged human beings, creating the profoundly unsettling feeling that real crime elicits. The Clutters are slaughtered for no reason. The long process of hunting down the killers, convicting, and hanging them cannot undo the crime and provides little comfort. Fiction usually achieves a feeling of resolution. It is what allows most readers to enjoy a good crime novel despite the often-hideous violence and cruelty at its core. Hanging a man is a cruel thing to do, even if what he did to deserve it is even crueler. No book has ever captured these disturbing feelings as well as 'In Cold Blood'. Purists accuse Capote of taking liberties with some of the facts, but few readers do more than shrug at this. An absolute adherence to the truth is the hobgoblin of writers who are either unaware of how they inevitably reshape the facts or who cannot see the story for the trees. Though we expect a true crime writer to be fairly accurate, we also expect the writer to select, shape, and interpret the material so that it gives us what we expect from a good book. No book, no matter how attentive to accuracy, can replicate the peculiar details, odd coincidences, and utter disrespect for what satisfies us that is our world. There is a raggedy-ness on the edges of reality that has to be straightened to make an effective story.
The author examines Capote and In Cold Blood from many perspectives, not only as the crowning achievement of Capote’s career, but also as a story in itself, focusing on Capote’s artfully composed text, his extravagant claims for it as reportage, and its larger status in American popular culture.
Voss argues that Capote’s publication of In Cold Blood in 1966 forever transcended his reputation as a first-rate stylist but second-rate writer of “Southern gothic” fiction; that In Cold Blood actually is a gothic novel, a sophisticated culmination of Capote’s artistic development and interest in lurid regionalism, but one that nonetheless eclipsed him both personally and artistically. He also explores Capote’s famous claim that he created a genre called the “non-fiction novel,” and its status as a foundational work of “true crime” writing as practiced by authors ranging from Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer to James Ellroy, Joe McGinniss, and John Berendt.
Voss also examines Capote’s artful manipulation of the story’s facts and circumstances: his masking of crucial homoerotic elements to enhance its marketability; his need for the killers to remain alive long enough to get the story, and then his need for them to die so that he could complete it; and Capote’s style, his shaping of the narrative, and his selection of details–why it served him to include this and not that, and the effects of such choices―all despite confident declarations that “every word is true.”
Though it’s been nearly 50 years since the Clutter murders and far more gruesome crimes have been documented, In Cold Blood continues to resonate deeply in popular culture. Beyond questions of artistic selection and claims of truth, beyond questions about capital punishment and Capote’s own post-publication dissolution, In Cold Blood’s ongoing relevance stems, argues Voss, from its unmatched role as a touchstone for enduring issues of truth, exploitation, victimization, and the power of narrative.
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ATAR Notes: In Cold Blood
This Text guide contains: A thorough summary and analysis of the entire text; Insightful dissections of the characters, key themes, and structural features; A comprehensive quote bank; Sample essays with commentary designed to help you increase your marks; Highlighted vocabulary words to learn and integrate; Valuable advice from a high-scoring former student who shares their tips and tricks for success.
Truman Capote's in Cold Blood by
Author writes about a trip he took to Holcomb, Kansas, the site of the Clutter murders In Cold Blood claims to be about. Within the story of the trip, St. Germain talks about his obsession with Capote’s classic, and its influence on the book he was writing at the time about his mother’s murder, which became his award-winning memoir, Son of A Gun.
Truman Capote's Nonfiction Novel in Cold Blood and Bennett Miller's Biopic Capote by
When In Cold Blood was first published, critics had a hard time categorizing the book. Capote himself held that he had written a "nonfiction novel (Capote in Plimpton 1966:2)" and that he had thereby created an altogether new genre. In the subtitle, Capote stresses his central claim regarding this new genre, assuring the reader that what she is about to delve into is "true account of a multiple murder and its consequences.
A Study Guide for Truman Capote's in Cold Blood
A study guide for Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood," excerpted from Gale's acclaimed Nonfiction Classics for Students. This concise study guide includes plot summary; character analysis; author biography; study questions; historical context; and suggestions for further reading.
In Cold Blood Infographic
Character Map - In Cold Blood (Course Hero)