Who wrote this book and when?
Truman Capote published this true crime drama in 1966.

Has there been a film version?
There has been one TV version and two movies, including the recent 2005 movie “Capote” starring Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Who are the important characters?
Perry Smith – a half Irish, half Native American man who has partially crippled legs from a motorcycle accident, a thief and a murderer
Dick Hickock – a thief and murderer, self-obsessed and one who enjoys taking advantage of others, also a rapist and a pedophile
Herb, Bonnie, Kenyon, and Nancy Clutter – a well respected farming family from Holcomb, Kansas who are brutally murdered on November 15, 1959.
Alvin Dewey – the investigator from the KBI (Kansas Bureau of Investigation) assigned to the Clutter case

What’s it about?
This is a presentation of the story of the murder of Herb, Bonnie, Kenyon, and Nancy Clutter by two men who didn’t even know them; Perry Smith and Dick Hickock who, up until now, have been just small time thieves. The two pull off the killing practically without flaw, leaving the local authorities with no leads and no direction. Capote follows both the investigators and the murderers throughout the entirety of the case.

Why is this book a classic?
It is supposedly the first in the genre of “non-fiction novel;” where an author takes a true story and adds a bit of a fictional element by guessing at characters’ thoughts and emotions where the author is unable to determine them

Do you recommend I read this book?
Yes, but I’ll warn you, it can be a little “heavy.”

Why did this book make your list?
I like Truman Capote’s writing. And I saw the book on my mom’s bedroom floor. So I added it to the list.

Has it won any awards?
No, it has not.

Favorite quotes:
“In days to come, Dewey was to spend many hours examining these photographs, hoping that he might ‘suddenly see something,’ that a meaningful detail would declare itself: ‘Like those puzzles. The ones that ask, ‘How many animals can you find in this picture?’ In a way, that’s what I’m trying to do. Find the hidden animals. I feel they must be there – if only I could see them.'” – p 83

Anything else?
Truman Capote and Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird) were best friends.

You can see pictures of the Clutters and their killers here. And you can see other pictures of Holcomb, Truman Capote, and other people and places associated with the book here.

Personal thoughts:
This is the first book in ages which has grabbed a hold of me and said “you must take your time in reading and digesting this.” Normally, a novel this size would be picked up, enjoyed, and catalogued in my memory in a few days. This one, however, simply refused to be categorized as “just another novel I’ve read.”
Possibly because it’s based on actual events. Maybe it reminds me of a similar fateful day nearly a year ago in my own hometown which affected my sister and mother and me – and is still floating around in our memories. And probably partly due to Capote’s writing style. Truman Capote has always been an author who seems very estranged, yet very close. His succinctness overwhelms me in the same manner that F. Scott Fitzgerald can dazzle me with description. For the first 13 or 14 years of my life, my mother has found some way to either read to me or induce me to read for myself, a Capote Christmas story – “A Christmas Memory.” It is vastly different from this novel. But it’s familiarity left me better prepared for Capote’s writing style. He can seem callous or obtuse in his retelling of a violent and apparently needless killing spree. And he can also seem to be oddly sympathetic to everyone – the Clutters, the detectives, the murderers themselves. He is the perfectly balanced dichotomy of entertainer and reporter. He tells the facts and the possible facts with no apologies and no effort to soften the emotional blows the facts may allow for. If only the modern news could relate a story like Capote.

Thea’s Review of this book

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