In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences
In Cold Blood-Truman Capote.jpg
AuthorTruman Capote
Original titleIn Cold Blood
Cover artistS. Neil Fujita
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
GenreNonfiction/literature
PublisherRandom House
Publication date
January 17, 1966 (see Publication section for more information)
Media typePrint (hardback and paperback), e-book, audio-CD
Pages343 (paperback edition)
ISBN0-679-74558-0 (paperback edition)
28710511
364.1/523/0978144 20
LC ClassHV6533.K3 C3 1994

In Cold Blood is a non-fiction novel[1] by American author Truman Capote, first published in 1966; it details the 1959 murders of four members of the Herbert Clutter family in the small farming community of Holcomb, Kansas.

When Capote learned of the quadruple murder, before the killers were captured, he decided to travel to Kansas and write about the crime. He was accompanied by his childhood friend and fellow author Harper Lee, and together they interviewed local residents and investigators assigned to the case and took thousands of pages of notes. The killers, Richard "Dick" Hickock and Perry Smith, were arrested six weeks after the murders and later executed by the state of Kansas. Capote ultimately spent six years working on the book. When finally published, In Cold Blood was an instant success, and today is the second-biggest-selling true crime book in publishing history, behind Vincent Bugliosi's 1974 book Helter Skelter about the Charles Manson murders.[2]

Some critics consider Capote's work the original non-fiction novel, though other writers had already explored the genre, such as Rodolfo Walsh in Operación Masacre (1957). In Cold Blood has been lauded for its eloquent prose, extensive detail, and simultaneous triple narrative, which describes the lives of the murderers, the victims, and other members of the rural community in alternating sequences. The psychologies and backgrounds of Hickock and Smith are given special attention, as well as the complex relationship that existed between them during and after the murders. In Cold Blood is regarded by critics as a pioneering work in the true crime genre, though Capote was disappointed that the book failed to win the Pulitzer Prize.[3] Parts of the book, including important details, differ from the real events.[4]

Overview of the crime

The Clutter home in 2009

Herb Clutter was a prosperous farmer in western Kansas. He employed as many as 18 farmhands, who admired and respected him for his fair treatment and good wages. Two elder daughters, Eveanna and Beverly, had moved out and started their adult lives; Nancy, 16, and Kenyon, 15, were in high school. Clutter's wife Bonnie had reportedly been incapacitated by clinical depression and physical ailments since the births of her children, although this was later disputed.

Two ex-convicts recently paroled from the Kansas State Penitentiary, Richard Eugene "Dick" Hickock and Perry Edward Smith, committed the robbery and murders in the early morning hours of November 15, 1959. A former cellmate of Hickock's, Floyd Wells, had worked for Herb Clutter and told Hickock that Clutter kept large amounts of cash in a safe. Hickock soon hatched the idea to steal the safe and start a new life in Mexico. According to Capote, Hickock described his plan as "a cinch, the perfect score." Hickock later contacted Smith, another former cellmate, about committing the robbery with him.[5] In fact, Herb Clutter had no safe and did all his business by check.

After driving more than four hundred miles across the state of Kansas on the evening of November 14, Hickock and Smith arrived in Holcomb, located the Clutter home, and entered through an unlocked door while the family slept. Upon rousing the Clutters and discovering there was no safe, they bound and gagged the family and continued to search for money, but found little else of value in the house. Still determined to leave no witnesses, the pair briefly debated what to do; Smith, notoriously unstable and prone to violent acts in fits of rage, slit Herb Clutter's throat and then shot him in the head. Capote writes that Smith recounted later, "I didn't want to harm the man. I thought he was a very nice gentleman. Soft spoken. I thought so right up to the moment I cut his throat."[6] Kenyon, Nancy, and then Mrs. Clutter were also murdered, each by a single shotgun blast to the head. Hickock and Smith left the crime scene with a small portable radio, a pair of binoculars, and less than fifty dollars in cash.

Smith later claimed in his oral confession that Hickock murdered the two women. When asked to sign his confession, however, Smith refused. According to Capote, he wanted to accept responsibility for all four killings because, he said, he was "sorry for Dick's mother." Smith added, "She's a real sweet person."[7] Hickock always maintained that Smith committed all four killings.

On the basis of a tip from Wells, who contacted the prison warden after hearing of the murders, Hickock and Smith were identified as suspects and arrested in Las Vegas on December 30, 1959. Both men eventually confessed after interrogations by detectives of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. They were brought back to Kansas, where they were tried together for the murders. Their trial took place at the Finney County courthouse in Garden City, Kansas, from March 22 to March 29, 1960. They both pleaded temporary insanity at the trial, but local GPs evaluated the accused and pronounced them sane. The jury deliberated for only 45 minutes before finding both Hickock and Smith guilty of murder. Their conviction carried a mandatory death sentence at the time.

After five years on death row at the Kansas State Penitentiary (now known as Lansing Correctional Facility) in Lansing, Kansas, Smith and Hickock were executed by hanging just after midnight on April 14, 1965. Hickock was executed first and was pronounced dead at 12:41 a.m. after hanging for nearly 20 minutes. Smith followed shortly after and was pronounced dead at 1:19 a.m. Warden Official Greg Seamon presided over the executions in Lansing. The gallows used in their executions now forms part of the collections of the Kansas State Historical Society.[8]

Hickock and Smith are also suspected of involvement in the Walker family murders, a notion which is mentioned in the book, though this connection has not been proven.

Other Languages
العربية: بدم بارد
български: Хладнокръвно
Ελληνικά: Εν Ψυχρώ
euskara: Odol hotzean
עברית: בדם קר
Кыргызча: Суук кандуулук
Nederlands: In koelen bloede
日本語: 冷血
português: A Sangue Frio
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: In Cold Blood
українська: З холодним серцем