In Cold Blood

By Truman Capote,

Book cover of In Cold Blood

Book description

The chilling true crime 'non-fiction novel' that made Truman Capote's name, In Cold Blood is a seminal work of modern prose, a remarkable synthesis of journalistic skill and powerfully evocative narrative published in Penguin Modern Classics.

Controversial and compelling, In Cold Blood reconstructs the murder in 1959 of a Kansas…


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Why read it?

10 authors picked In Cold Blood as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

The grandfather of all true-crime-based fiction, this one skews close to the actual facts. It’s the terrifying story of the brutal murders of the Clutter family in Kansas by misfit criminals. Its chilling narrative remains with me to this day, largely because of how well Capote describes the killings in the deep of night in what should have been a safe space—the family home.

Always on the Top 100 Lists of Best Books Ever, Capote's masterpiece tells the story of the senseless, brutal killing of a rural Kansas farming family in 1959. It is beautifully written from start to finish, and in a somewhat understated way. He defines his book as a “nonfiction novel,” employing fictional storytelling devices based on actual facts of the murder investigation and the various colorful town characters. Gripping and unrelentingly emotional, this book will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page.

Has there ever been a better—or better-written—true crime story? I ate this up with a spoon, and it was a sensational best seller in its day, but seems nearly unknown now. In this harrowing masterpiece, Capote, annoying little dweeb that he was, shows why he was a great writer. The killing of the Clutter family in their home in 1959 may seem small stuff when we’ve become almost numb to mass shootings, but Capote weaves, with maximum skill and suspense, a beautifully-structured tale of murder, misfits, and the lost innocence of small-town America. You might want to sleep with the…

From Stephen's list on neglected mysteries.

Truman Capote’s groundbreaking “non-fiction novel” tells the story of the brutal 1959 murders of the Clutters, a farm family in Holcomb, Kansas, by two punk sociopaths, Dick Hickock and Perry Smith. The murders are transformed by his artistry—stark Hemingwayesque prose, seemingly detached but deeply humaneinto an existential tragedy played out on the American prairie. It is, I think, the only indisputable literary masterpiece in the genre it inspired. Not incidentally, Richard Brooks’s motion picture version from 1967 is a worthy companion piece. 

From Thomas' list on must-read true crime.

The seminal true crime book, Capote’s self-proclaimed “nonfiction novel” was my first true crime read, and one I return to again and again. Capote used the elements of fiction to craft a compelling story about a horrific true crime. Every true crime fan should read this book. (Bonus: for new theories of the case, see Gary McAvoy’s recent book, And Every Word is True).

There’s a reason why In Cold Blood appears on so many favourite lists six decades after it was published. It’s a brilliant, genre-smashing book that demonstrates just how true crime should be written. Capote tells the story from several perspectives. He dives into the lives of the victims and even forces us to feel empathy for their murderers. And, even though we know what happens—it’s true crime after all—it doesn’t matter, Capote builds suspense in every chapter.

I hesitated to include this book, as it's already mentioned under a couple of other headings. But, In Cold Blood is too good to leave out. Capote masterfully weaves together this true story of two murderers and their four victims –– members of a family in Holcomb, Kansas, in 1959. Then he continues his investigation through the capture, trial, and execution of the killers. The book truly is a combination of multiple murders and mid-twentieth-century history. Written on the cusp of a new genre of journalism, In Cold Blood has been an inspiration to other writers for decades.

From Silvia's list on historical true crime books.

A great read from a former special agent with the Department of Justice. The author thoroughly describes the principle roles of how the justice system works and the functions of law enforcement in America. The author emphasizes the importance of the judicial system of due process in maintaining clear and impartial legal standards for both the victim and criminal. The author's ability to focus on how each part of the judicial provides clear legal standards for both the law enforcement and the public.

From Dianne's list on true crime and corruption.

It was the first book to show you how the justice system works, from the investigation, arrests, trial, and executions of the killers. It gave the readers the opportunity to see how each part of the justice system worked through the eyes of not only the victim’s families, but even the criminals that were involved in the case. This book became the blueprint for what would become the true crime non-fiction category of books.

The 1965 title set the standard for all true crime books to come. It examines the senseless murder of a family of four in western Kansas in 1959. Capote captures the inner life of the killer, Perry Smith, in all its torment and tragedy. The subject of other books and several movies, In Cold Blood continues to fascinate contemporary audiences with its penetration of the mind and emotions of a mass killer.

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