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In Cold Blood Paperback – February 1, 1994
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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"Until one morning in mid-November of 1959, few Americans--in fact, few Kansans--had ever heard of Holcomb. Like the waters of the river, like the motorists on the highway, and like the yellow trains streaking down the Santa Fe tracks, drama, in the shape of exceptional happenings, had never stopped there." If all Truman Capote did was invent a new genre--journalism written with the language and structure of literature--this "nonfiction novel" about the brutal slaying of the Clutter family by two would-be robbers would be remembered as a trail-blazing experiment that has influenced countless writers. But Capote achieved more than that. He wrote a true masterpiece of creative nonfiction. The images of this tale continue to resonate in our minds: 16-year-old Nancy Clutter teaching a friend how to bake a cherry pie, Dick Hickock's black '49 Chevrolet sedan, Perry Smith's Gibson guitar and his dreams of gold in a tropical paradise--the blood on the walls and the final "thud-snap" of the rope-broken necks.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In the wake of the award-winning film Capote, interest in the author's 1965 true crime masterpiece has spiked. Capote's spellbinding narrative plumbs the psychological and emotional depths of a senseless quadruple murder in America's heartland. In the audio version, narrator Brick keeps up with the master storyteller every step of the way. In fact, Brick's surefooted performance is nothing short of stunning. He settles comfortably into every character on this huge stage—male and female, lawman and murderer, teen and spinster—and moves fluidly between them, generating the feel of a full-cast production. He assigns varying degrees of drawl to the citizens of Finney County, Kans., where the crimes take place, and supplements with an arsenal of tension-building cadences, hard and soft tones, regional and foreign accents, and subtle inflections, even embedding a quiver of grief in the voice of one character. This facile audio actor delivers an award-worthy performance, well-suited for a tale of such power that moves not only around the country but around the territory of the human psyche and heart. Available as a Vintage paperback. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
I see Capote's book through the lens of contrasts. Good people, kind, thoughtful, full of love, devotion, and generosity, get their heads bashed in because, two, not such good people, find themselves broke and empowered by the vulnerability of their human targets. Capote wants his readers to not just empathize with those who were murdered, but, with the perpetrators, as well. It's up to us readers to decide what significance background plays in
the etiology of mass killers. We are provided important background information on all the characters. The dialogue is more revealing than any particular fact. Who cares if these dialogues are elaborated for the dramatic effect! It's the dialogue between each with the other, that provides true insight into the motives behind the killings. Simple minded or empty of conscience, a lot of both. Getting rich quick just isn't as easy as it sounds. Fantasizing about your talents is sometimes the only way to heal a wounded soul. Did I say "soul"? Substitute gratifications are most likely to contribute to Perry and Dick's pathology. When the substitutes are habitually violent in nature, we often get, senseless, motiveless malignancy. The contrasts are clear for the reader who likes analysis. If, however, you simply want to know what all the fuss is about, read Capote's book.
Many reviews cover the story, the way Capote organized it, etc. No need to repeat that. Someone said the story lacked characterization. Well. The story struck me as precisely the opposite. It strikes me as a clinic in masterful characterization. I won't belabor it. I'll simply offer three brief examples.
1. "You go dear, I'll keep Jolene company until her mother comes for her," Mrs. Clutter said, and then, addressing the child with unconquerable timidity, added, "If Jolene doesn't mind keeping me company." As a girl she had won an elocution prize; maturity, it seemed, had reduced her voice to a single tone, that of apology, and her personality to a series of gestures blurred by the fear that she might give offense, in some way displease.
2. "Because he hates me," said Perry, whose voice was both gentle and prim--a voice that, though soft, manufactured each word exactly, ejected it like a smoke ring issuing from a parson's mouth.
3. "When Homer died, I used up all the fear I had in me, and all the grief, too. If there's somebody loose around here that wants to cut my throat, I wish him luck. What difference does it make? It's all the same in eternity. Just remember: If one bird carried every grain of sand, grain by grain, across the ocean, by the time he got them all on the other side, that would only be the beginning eternity. So blow your nose."
This is one of those rare works where, while the story is riveting, the writing is a Mozart sonata. The melody proper becomes almost irrelevant. The intricacy of the music, the seemingly effortless poetry of the writing itself, elicits wonder and astonishment. Would that Capote were still with us.