So many books, so little time.
I finally checked a few titles off of my perpetually lengthening "to read" list and managed to read a book for the Rory Gilmore challenge.
Side Note: If you are a mystery buff I recommend the movie, Murder by Death, in which Capote makes his one and only acting appearance. It is a ridiculous spoof featuring all of literature's most famous detectives (Miss Marple, Nick and Nora Charles, Charlie Chan, Philip Marlowe, etc.) brought together on a stormy night in a musty mansion to solve a mystery.
According to Capote's 1984 obituary in The New York Times '...the book that perhaps edified his claim to literary fame was In Cold Blood, his detailed, painstakingly researched and chilling account of the 1959 slaying of a Kansas farm family and the capture, trial and execution of the two killers."
When In Cold Blood was published in 1966 no one had ever read anything quite like it. Although it is considered a nonfiction book, In Cold Blood reads like a fiction novel and many literary critics consider Capote to be the pioneer of the "nonfiction novel" and the entire "true crime" genre. There are just as many critics, however, that challenge the complete veracity of In Cold Blood despite Capote's claims that his book was "immaculately factual".
In Holcomb, Kansas on November 15, 1959 two ex-convicts on parole from the Kansas State Penitentiary broke into the home of Herb Clutter and murdered him, his wife, Bonnie, and their two teenaged children; Nancy and Kenyon. One of the parolees, Dick Hickock, had learned from a former cellmate that Herb Clutter was an extremely wealthy farmer who had a safe full of cash in his home.Believing he had found "the perfect score" Hickock enlisted the aid of another former inmate, Perry Smith, to rob the Clutter home and abscond to Mexico. Tragically, Herb Clutter had never had a safe and in fact was well known for never paying for anything with cash. Hickock and Smith callously murdered four people for less than $30. Although, the two ex-cons did make it to Mexico, they returned to Kansas within weeks and were arrested in Las Vegas on December 30, 1959. After a one week trial the jury took 45 minutes to convict Hickock and Smith and the two were sentenced to death. Hickock and Smith remained on death row for five years until they were executed by hanging on April 14, 1965.
Personally, I do not doubt that Capote took some literary license with certain events and scenes in his book. Even though Capote did a tremendous amount of research and conducted countless interviews, turning those notes and facts into a compelling narrative would require some imagination.
Whether or not In Cold Blood is completely factual there is no denying that it is superbly written. I think the fact that it was such a gripping read is what made me feel so sick at heart by the time that I finished it. Because In Cold Blood reads so much like a novel the people involved in the Holcomb tragedy become characters and the events become remote and unreal.
Also there is just something salacious about taking serious and tragic events and transforming them into a best-selling, page-turner. In Cold Blood and all of the true crime novels to follow turn us into the ghoulish kind of people that stand on the side of the road watching the aftermath of a car accident.
What bothered me the most about In Cold Blood, though, was that Capote casts the Clutter family in the role of supporting characters to Hickock and Smith. Unfortunately this seems to be the case with most deplorable crimes. It is the criminals like Ted Bundy or Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris who garner the attention and interest of the public, not the victims.