In Cold Blood
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…
Why read it?
13 authors picked In Cold Blood as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?
This book started a new way on how this genre is written. It’s a fiction novel, where the author adds his imagined dialogue to keep the story flowing.
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.
Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, generating both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy.…
For me, Capote’s “non-fiction novel” is the beginning of the modern true crime genre.
Written in 1966 it details the 1959 murders of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas by Richard Hickock and Perry Smith. There is now criticism of some details contained within the book and how Capote went about his research – as well as his ethical stance. In particular, it might be argued that the Clutters are poorly drawn within the narrative and too much space is given over to what might have driven Hickock and Perry to kill.
However, the book is atmospheric and, above all,…
This is the ultimate crime thriller. Yes, I know it is of the true crime genre, but there is no better crime thriller than In Cold Blood, as far as I am concerned.
This book proves that true crime doesn’t have to read like it was lifted from the pages of your grandmother’s detective magazines. Nor does true crime have to be written like something from the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Capote brings the characters to life—murderers, victims, and survivors. And even though you know how it will end, In Cold Blood reads like a thriller because that is just…
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…
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 humane—into 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.
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.
Our community of 9,000+ authors has personally recommended 100 books like In Cold Blood.