In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood

A True Account of A Multiple Murder and Its Consequences

Book - 2002
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Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.

Five years, four months and twenty-nine days later, on April 14, 1965, Richard Eugene Hickock, aged thirty-three, and Perry Edward Smith, aged thirty-six, were hanged from the crime on a gallows in a warehouse in the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing, Kansa.

In Cold Blood is the story of the lives and deaths of these six people. It has already been hailed as a masterpiece.
Publisher: New York : Random House, 2002.
Edition: Random House, Inc., 2002 edition
ISBN: 9780375507908
Branch Call Number: 364.1523 CAPOTE T
Characteristics: 343 pages ; 22 cm.


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From Library Staff

Truman Capote and this transcendent true crime story are known for changing the face of journalism through the advancement of what fellow author Tom Wolf coined as "New Journalism" and what Capote himself called the "nonfiction novel". In Cold Blood uses a type of first person... Read More »

The Creep & The Professor

"On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces...In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American viol... Read More »

If you like In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, then read...

2008 Kansas Reads selection. This is a true crime book that reads like good fiction. The audiobook is artfully read by Scott Brick.

From the critics

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DBRL_ReginaF May 17, 2021

I lived in Garden City from third grade to eighth grade. I've been to the largest free swimming pool. I've driven by the Clutter house with it's tree-lined drive. I have avoided reading this book forever because it was just too close to home. I have now finished it for the Read Harder 2021 book challenge. It was still hard to read but it was worth getting through.

Apr 06, 2021

The Love of money is the root of all evil: 1 Timothy 6:10. As in the time these terrible crimes took place we are living in a time of extreme economic disparity of wealth. Less than 1% of us hoarding over 50% of the wealth with their minions grateful to earn just enough paycheck to paycheck to be able to keep their families fed with a roof over their heads. While the poorest among us(and this minority is becoming closer and closer to becoming the majority every year) count themselves fortunate to find an empty doorway to curl up in at night when the rescue shelters are (all too often) full.
Why are there still poor people? Because there are still Rich people.
Perry Smith and his dad worked every bit as hard as Herbert Clutter, but one family earned wealth while the other ended up impoverished failures.
Today many of the wealthiest Americans would have us believe that they are wealthy because they deserved to be and that those that are impoverished are so because that's what they deserve too. Well, that's been the propaganda since history began.
We need an economy that works for everyone, not just the privileged few. Affordable housing, medical care, food, and basic needs with Universally Guaranteed Income for all won't put a stop to all violent crime; but it will certainly reduce -as in this case- the economic motivations for committing them.

Nov 11, 2020

You can really tell that this book was written before the term "psychopath" was well-known. Capote is clearly absolutely fascinated and horrified, and maybe confused, by the actions of these two serial killers and career criminals.

Personally, when it comes to true crime I prefer a book that gets right to the point and just tells us what happened and who did it and spends a little time exploring the why. Also, some homage to the victims' lives is greatly appreciated. I think Capote delivered everything I wanted, but in such a drawn-out fashion that frankly I got bored. I do not care what the weather was like unless it is directly relevant to the story. Every small town is shocked that this could happen to them. No family deserves to be murdered. Move on. Just tell me what happened.

However, taking into account that this book was written in the 1960s I can forgive Capote for being shocked. It was pretty new information for a lot of people back then that, hey, some people are extremely messed up and sometimes horrible things happen to really good people for absolutely no good reason.

Jul 22, 2020

Most of the time, we never really get to see a murder with the perspective of the murderer in mind. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote, allows us to do just that by telling the tragic true story of the murder of a family in Kansas by Perry Edward Smith and Richard Hickock, as well as the subsequent aftermath. The Clutter family was comprised of the well-liked Mr. Clutter, depressed Mrs. Clutter, outgoing Nancy Clutter, and intelligent Kenyon Clutter. After the family was shot and found, the leader of the investigation, Al Dewey, begins his fervent search to find the culprits of this heinous act. Meanwhile, Perry and Richard continue in their journey through life, for they left behind few clues that would give them away as the murderers. As the novel progresses, readers explore more about the two characters and their behavior after their crimes.

Although I have never been a fan of murder mysteries, I found that I thoroughly enjoyed Capote’s take on this gruesome event. Many are quick to assume that murderers deserve no mercy whatsoever, or that they only committed crimes for unthinkable reasons. However, by examining the behavior and histories of these two characters, readers are better able to understand why they made the decisions they did, as their actions and mentality stemmed from varying biological and environmental factors. The writing is compelling, and the fact that it is a true story makes it both mysterious and revealing at the same time. I highly recommend this book to those who are fans of mystery stories, but I would be cautious if you do not like violent scenes.

Age rating: 15+
Star rating: 5 stars

May 11, 2020

A real exercise in commitment. This book drug on like January 2020. The side tangents were confusing and the writing style very dull.

AndreaG_KCMO May 06, 2020

A riveting, nuanced examination of the crime and trial of Perry Smith and Richard Hickock. Capote explores issues of psychology, law, religion, and family life in his vast recreation of community upheaval. With detailed description of the ghastly murders early in the book, I wondered how Capote would achieve ample build-up through the final events of the story. I shouldn't have worried.

Feb 16, 2020

Capote's book deserves the "masterpiece" designation. I found the book to be riveting and suspenseful, despite knowing the story through two different movies ("In Cold Blood" and "Capote"). It reads like a well written novel, opening on "the high wheat plains" and ending on "the wind voices of the wind-bent wheat." In between Capote tells the unbiased, detailed story of two men who brutally murder a family of four and their respective back stories. Normally I'm a slow reader, I finished the book across two days.

Jul 19, 2019

Probably good if you are into the True Crime genre. It was on my reading list for school, I found it a little dull and a little unpleasant.

Jun 02, 2019

“Imagination of course can open any door, turn the key and let terror walk right in.”

-Truman Capote, author

The author, Truman Capote, paints a vivid picture of the scene, the times, and the people involved as he develops this story leaving the listener with just the beginning sense of foreboding as the book opens. He exercises his writer’s skills to bring a beautiful, almost fluid descriptive text of the good and bad in people.

Various people in the community had possible motivation for committing this crime – grudge holders, disgruntled employees, daughter’s boyfriend, collecting Mr. Clutter’s life insurance. Outsiders with a robbery motive were low on the list. You listen with rapt attention as the three story lines – the killers, the family, towns people – converge to the ultimate climax of this story.

How were the Clutter’s singled out by Dick Hickock and Perry Smith as their murder victims? How did the KBI (Kansas Bureau of Investigation) finally break this case? You’ll have to listen to nearly the end to find out! It’s unexpected, sad, and just a matter of unhappy chance for all concerned.

The reader, Scott Brick, keeps your attention riveted throughout this story. His vocal skills really add to the great storytelling of the author, Truman Capote. Together they take you to Holcomb, Kansas in the late 1950’s when people felt safe in their homes and strangers were friends you hadn’t met yet.

This audio book would be great as a travel companion this holiday season. The miles will fly by as you listen intently to Truman Capote’s version of the Clutter murders and subsequent clever arrest of Perry Smith/Dick Hickock. The author captures the mindset of the times – the feeling of security because you don’t live in the dangerous big city where vicious crime is common. He aptly relates the change in people’s attitude subsequent to the publicizing of the Clutter family’s murder.

This book is refreshing in that it occurs prior to DNA testing and modern forensic detecting techniques. The KBI just had a photo of boot sole patterns in the dust within the home/crime scene as their only clue. It’s considered to be a true crime novel, becoming the first in this genre. The author was able to interview townspeople and Perry Smith after his capture and conviction to delve deeper into the motivation and later reaction of those involved.

Oct 04, 2018

Top 5 True Crime book of all time. Flawless.

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Nov 04, 2016

rpavlacic thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


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Jul 10, 2020

The year is 1959. It's a quiet night in Holcomb, Kansas. November the fifteenth to be exact. The Clutter family is just finishing up watching the evening news, and getting ready to go up to bed. They have a long day tomorrow: tending to the farm, going to school, or cleaning their large house. But, unfortunately, they would not even make it to the next day. In fact, they would only live for another few hours, all snuggled up in their beds.

A little past midnight, they would be brutally murdered by blasts from a shotgun held only a few inches from their faces. When the detectives arrive to survey the scene, little motive can be found. Only between forty and fifty dollars are missing, and few significant connections can be made between the possible suspects and the Clutter family.

They were the most popular and most highly-regarded family in their town. So what did they do to give someone a reason to murder them...


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SPL_STARR Jun 16, 2015

"The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call "out there." "


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