In Cold Blood by TRUMAN CAPOTEIn Cold Blood by TRUMAN CAPOTE

In Cold Blood


Paperback | February 1, 1994

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National Bestseller 

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. 

As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.

Truman Capote was born September 30, 1924, in New Orleans. After his parents’ divorce, he was sent to live with relatives in Monroeville, Alabama. It was here he would meet his lifelong friend, the author Harper Lee. Capote rose to international prominence in 1948 with the publication of his debut novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms. Amon...
Title:In Cold BloodFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:368 pages, 7.97 × 5.16 × 0.75 inShipping dimensions:7.97 × 5.16 × 0.75 inPublished:February 1, 1994Publisher:Knopf Doubleday Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0679745580

ISBN - 13:9780679745587


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Most adored book of killers! I bought this and read it about 4 or 5 times, it never gets old. I love how he built the characters up and told some truth to the story
Date published: 2018-11-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Humanizing Killers It's so well-written, it almost doesn't feel like a non-fiction. I liked how Capote managed to make me sympathize for one of the killers, despite the atrocious crime. Would recommend!
Date published: 2018-07-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Classic for a reason! Book started off slow, as true crime generally does - building up to the actual crime was well done but once the story gets going, wow!
Date published: 2018-07-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from In Cold Blood Absolutely amazing! I went into this book thinking it would be an interesting read but nothing more. Capote really manages to write this true crime book as a novel. By the end I was feeling sorry for Perry Smith in particular. I would recommend this to make than just fans of true crime.
Date published: 2018-04-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very compelling I've always had In Cold Blood on a list of true crime books to read, just never got around to it. Suddenly I had all the time in the world and I could not put it down. It really does live up to the hype.
Date published: 2018-04-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enthralled I was consumed by this book. Capote's writing was so deeply researched, it enabled him to paint a clear picture of the stories he told. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2018-04-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thrilling and Chilling I was fascinated by Truman Capote as a character and he certainly lives up to his reputation as a writer. I see why this was such a game changer in the world of non-fiction. He really gave a voice and a life to the victims and the killers. What they did was heinous and unforgivable however you can't help but see the humanity in their struggle.
Date published: 2018-04-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredible Incredible and wonderful writing. A classic. The read was well worth it.
Date published: 2018-03-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Really Enjoyed It The writing was wonderful and how the story was told was better than Ann Rule.
Date published: 2018-02-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from If you love true crime, you'll love this one Absolutely incredible. Well worth the read. I read it very quickly because it was incredibly gripping.
Date published: 2018-02-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Iconic One of the first true crime novels I read and I loved it
Date published: 2018-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really great read! I love true crime novels and this one was really amazing. Definitely recommend. #plumreview
Date published: 2018-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great book I really enjoy Truman Capote's work and this book I think really had a lot of him in it. It's sad to think that this senseless crime happened. As a criminology student I found this book wonderful as it gave a very interesting look into the mind of one of the killers.
Date published: 2017-12-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Wouldn't say it's worth the read.. As a lover of true crime, this book popped up on so many To-Read lists that I figured I'd give it a go.. it took a long time to finish. It's very dry, and very boring (which is surprising given the content). I don't understand why so many people recommended it. There are definitely much better true crime books out there - probably even ones that cover this same event.
Date published: 2017-12-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Meh It is definitely a book that you should read if you love true crime. However, it is certainly not one of the bests I have read. It was an interesting case and it was very well written but it took me awhile to finish it. Some parts drug on and I was a tad bit bored here and there. For true crime, I wasn’t roped in like I usually am. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-11-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Excellent writing True crime is not my favourite genre but I loved this story and the way it was written. Had me gripped throughout. Girl with a Pearl Earring
Date published: 2017-11-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the Greatest Books Ever! Truman Capote takes on a wild journey to western Kansas in the early sixties in the shocking true murder of an entire family by two men. The film was great and the book which it was based even better! Despite the sanguine and morbid subject matter, this true crime has not lost any of its impact in our media saturated present. The writing will remain with you for a long long time. One of the best true crime novels ever!
Date published: 2017-11-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from True Crime Classic true crime novel from Truman Capote. One of his best works. Based on a true story! You should definitely check out the film "Capote" as well starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. Really great story about when he was writing it.
Date published: 2017-11-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a classic This is one of the great ones. Capote blankets Holcomb, Kansas with his curiosity. The root of this work is a ghastly crime. Two recently released convicts, seeking a fortune that did not exist, invade the Clutter family home, tie up the four family members present and leave no witnesses. It takes some time for the perpetrators to be identified, then tracked down. Capote looks at how the townspeople react to this. Many, fearful that one of their own was responsible, become withdrawn. How do people mourn? He looks at the sequence of investigation that leads ultimately to the capture of the suspects, focusing on one of the chief investigators. He looks in depth at the criminals. What makes them tick? How could people do such awful things? In reading this I was reminded of some of the great panoramic art works of a bygone age, works by Bosch, Breughel, in which entire towns were brought together into one wide-screen image. This is what Capote has done. But even with all the territory he covers there is considerable depth. I was also reminded, for an entirely different reason of Thomas Hardy. Capote has an incredible gift for language. He writes beautifully, offering descriptions that can bring to tears anyone who truly loves language. It has the power of poetry. This is truly a classic, a book that defined a new genre of literature. If you haven’t read it, you must
Date published: 2017-09-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great! A story that will grab you from the start.
Date published: 2017-07-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Cold Blood Such an amazing book by Capote
Date published: 2017-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! This is one of the best books I've read to date. It was absolutely fascinating, and it's even more incredible to know that it was based off of a true story.
Date published: 2017-06-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Great Accomplishment This case was obviously painstakingly researched by Capote, and it really shines through in his writing. Amazing attention to detail, while remaining as neutral (as possible) as a narrator. If you are interested in this book, I also recommend the movie Capote, which shows Capote's process in collecting information and writing the book.
Date published: 2017-05-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Capote's Juggernaut This is an AMAZING book. True Crime aside, this is a well written, haunting account that reminds us how unsafe every part of the world can be at times.
Date published: 2017-04-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Capote's Best In my humble opinion this is Capote's best work (not that he has a terribly huge catalog to choose from). It's creepy, it's thrilling, it's a good brain trip. His ability to ask tough questions while painting amazing scenery of America is magnificent. In Cold Blood is the True Crime book to read when you don't necessarily like True Crime.
Date published: 2017-04-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good read! This was such a good book! I love it so much!
Date published: 2017-03-29
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Very dry I thought this book would be a page turner considering it was about a real life murder. However, it felt very long to read and finish and it just didn't captivate me at all. A masterpiece this is not.
Date published: 2017-03-22
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Long winded at times I enjoy reading or watching stories about what's in the murder's mind or how the crime was acted out, however this book felt a long read instead of a page-turner. Mind you, the author can paint a good scene with his words and description. It was an ok book
Date published: 2017-03-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from dry at times the book was well explained and sometimes even over explained and dragged on which made it hard to get through at certain points
Date published: 2017-02-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Personal Favourite Simply put - one of the most compelling books I've ever read! Capote is absolutely a brilliant writer.
Date published: 2017-01-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Meh I thought this book was OK. I didn't find it overly fun to read and it seemed like a lot of parts were very dragged out.
Date published: 2017-01-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Awesome!! One of the best non-fiction books I've ever read... Capote's writing is terrific.
Date published: 2017-01-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Spectacular If you love a murder mystery, then you must read this book. Capote digs into the human psyche like no one else can. This is by far one of my favourite books!
Date published: 2016-12-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Five Stars An AMAZING read! Truman Capote is so talented. The beauty of the story is that you already know what happened, but you get to learn more about the people in this historical fiction.
Date published: 2016-12-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing ! I read this book when i was 18 and i am still captivated by this novel. Capote takes you into a world where you question your first impressions and think in-depth about what makes humans human. Definitely a great read, i would recommend it to anyone, even if you do not like true crime it will capture your interest.
Date published: 2016-11-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating This is a marvelous true-crime book that makes it feel as though you are present every step of the way. It is thrilling, fast-paced, and very well written. I would recommend it to everyone.
Date published: 2016-11-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Work of art! Bought this Friday, finished it over the weekend. The book, although slow to the point, was written well. 'In Cold Blood' caught my interest from when I picked it up until when I put it down.
Date published: 2016-11-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Murder, most realistically told In Cold Blood, a “true account of a multiple murder and its consequences,” as its subtitle states, is about how two men – Richard ‘Dick’ Hickcock and Perry Smith – kill an entire farming family – the Clutters – in their home in the western Kansas town of Holcomb and of how they try to escape the law, were captured, tried and executed. The murder took place on Sunday, Nov. 15, 1959. The two men were hanged just after midnight on Wednesday, April 14, 1965. In between those two dates and threaded through those bare-bones details is Truman Capote’s details-rich and disturbingly profound masterpiece. Released in the same year that Hickcock and Smith were executed, In Cold Blood would become a phenomenal bestseller and classic genre-busting work – a so-called ‘non-fiction novel,’ perhaps the first such creation. It’s a book that has reached myth-like proportions through time and in its treatment on the big screen. Admittedly, I was misled by Hollywood’s portrayal of the story in movies like the excellent Capote. I had expected a confessional-style probing of the killers’ minds as told to the writer, not the seemingly straightforward, crime story of this book. The genius of Capote was in having distilled all the details of this story while reporting on the crime for The New Yorker. Its outcome is one of characters – murderers, their victims and many of the town’s bystanders and actors in this grim drama – who are richly detailed and full of life. Their lives are revealed in a work that pivots from plot post to plot post with terrifying and taut action. For instance, there is the tragic example of Mrs. Clutter. We remember her in details given of her fascination with miniature items, “assorted Lilliputian gewgaws – scissors, thimbles, crystal flower baskets, toy figurines, forks and knives,” Capote writes. “Little things really belong to you,” Mrs. Clutter says. “They don’t have to be left behind. You can carry them in a shoebox.” Detail is important to Capote, and they help the book come alive. Such as the sign in the Mexican hotel room where the killers find temporary refuge: “Su dia Termina” which translates to “Your Day Ends at 2 p.m.” A premonition if ever there was one. Perry’s memory of the killing scene is also vivid. He tells Dick at one point of his “spells of helplessness,” of “remembered things” like: blue light, exploding in a black room, the glass eyes of a big toy bear – and when voices, a particular few words, started nagging his mind: “Oh, no! Oh, please! No! No! No! No! Don’t! Oh, please don’t, please!” And certain sounds returned – a silver dollar rolling across a floor, boot steps on hardwood stairs, and the sounds of breathing, the gasps, the hysterical inhalations of a man with a severed windpipe. Perhaps the greatest achievement of In Cold Blood is how Capote was able to draw our sympathies to all the characters. Not just the victims, but the perpetrators of the crime. So we feel for Perry and his rough background and identify with his dream of being in an African jungle and reaching into a bushel of diamonds in a tree and encountering a snake that guards the tree. We put ourselves in the same cell as Dick and its single, forever-lit lightbulb with its “monotonous surveillance” and the heat in summer that makes it “so hot my skin stings.” Even Dick’s gallows’ humour – he tells one person that he believes in hanging “just as long as I’m not the one being hanged” – makes him human. And, yes, tragic. Capote was a master craftsman and it’s his you-are-there reportorial style writing that makes this work so good. Like how the hangman, impatiently adjusting his cowboy hat to resemble a “turkey buzzard huffing, then smoothing its neck feathers,” is depicted. Even how the town is brought to life. In Cold Blood opens with a description of a seemingly peaceful setting with its “high wheat plains.” It closes “the whisper of wind voices in the wind-bent wheat.” This is writing of the highest order.
Date published: 2013-10-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An AP Assignment turned interesting Usually the AP Summer work I am assigned is quite boring, and I expected just as much with this book. However after the first chapter things quickly turned for the better and I quite enjoyed it. At times it can be slow and dull, but over all Capote keeps good pace and tells the story pretty well. This book provides great insight to the criminals of the world, with many more mentioned than just Smith and Hickock. All in all this book definitely shows insight into how criminals think and the events they go through after their crime is done. In particular to this case it's a long cold journey of ineffective appeals and impending death.
Date published: 2013-08-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent In Cold Blood is a novel written by Truman Capote depicting the details surrounding the murder of a family from Holcomb, Kansas. The book starts off with the Clutter, whom are the family that end up getting murder. It also follows the sequence of events that the two murders went through before, during and after the murders. Capote spent six years writing about what happen surrounding the Clutter family's murder. I found this novel an excellent work of non-fiction. I personally had no idea about any of the details surrounding this novel. I've not seen Capote or Infamous which are to adaptations of In Cold Blood and Truman Capote's fascination with the case and its murderers. I picked this book up because it was recommended by a colleague of mine, saying that this was one of his favourite books and the best one written by Capote. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in reading about a real life murder case and the psychology of a murderer.
Date published: 2013-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! I loved this book. It was so detailed, it was as though it was a fictitious novel. I can't wait to watch the movies.
Date published: 2011-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A true classic! This novel by Truman Capote has been hailed as the best true crime story ever written, and it definately lives up to the praise. It was originally published in 1965 and delves into a homicide that took place in a small farm town in Kansas. The murder is that of the Clutter family who were brutally gunned down in the middle of the night by two career criminals, the shy Perry Smith and the more brazen Richard Hickock. Richard Hickock comes up with the scheme to rob the Clutter's after he hears that they have money hidden in a safe at their farm house. When come to get their big score in the middle of the night, they soon learn that the money does not exist and are left with a house full of witnesses. Once they have killed the family, the story then follows them as they try to outrun the law and make their way out of the country. Truman Capote soon catches wind of the story and becomes so enthralled with it, that he travels down to Kansas with his friend Harper Lee (who went on to write To Kill A Mockingbird) to follow the happenings more closely. What makes this story so well written is the fact that it did consume Capote so much. He even went on to develop a friendship with Perry Smith that last until his hanging. In Cold Blood is a compelling and suspenseful read from cover to cover. The story is full of intriguing characters who are so well written that putting the book down becomes an impossibility as you become invested in what will happen to them next. Capote is also able to achieve the difficult task of making the reader feel empathy towards the one criminal, Perry Smith. Now whether this is because he was actually a decent person led astray by Hickock, or if it was due to Capote's own feelings for Perry, that is left up to the reader. I would recommend this book to anyone who not only loves true crime stories, but anyone who has an apprecitation for a well written and enthralling story. In Cold Blood is a literary masterpiece that will continue to be relevant through the years.
Date published: 2010-02-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from intriguing crime story Got me interested by the time I got to the discoveries of the murders(1/4 way into book)...story of a couple of degenerates who senselessly murder an entire family for a mere $50.00 cash, their rebellious cross-country journey and their inevitable demise at the gallows.
Date published: 2009-05-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Gripping! This is a true story about the 1959 murders of Herb Clutter, a wealthy farmer in Holcomb, Kansas; his wife, Bonnie; his daughter, Nancy; and his son Kenyon by two ex-cons and would-be robbers - Richard Hickock and Perry Smith. Capote spent six years of his life on this book and it shows. It's compelling, engaging, great prose and a real page-turner. Capote, with this novel, created a new genre of writing -- literary journalism. It reads like a mystery novel with "clues" and "build-ups" that you often forget that it is based on actual events. Also, the characterization is just brilliant -- he gives the readers a chance to get to know the Clutter family before the murders, and even kept a non-biased opinion about their killers. Great book. Great writer. I recommend it.
Date published: 2009-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Greatest Novel Ever! I first time heard about this book was after reading a review about the movie Capote starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. Because of its acclaim I decided to watch the movie myself. I was immediately immersed into the movie, and I can totally understand why Hoffman won his academy award. Inspired to learn more, I decided to go straight to the source. I took out In Cold Blood from my local library. From the moment I read the first page, I knew this book was different from the rest. The way it was written made me feel as if I was actually there every step of the way. And all the words flowed fluently without any missteps along the way. I never felt comfortable reading a book this professionally written. By the time I finished the last page, all I could do was sit back and reminisce about everything I had read. This was the first I have ever felt satisfied with an ending of a novel. So expertly written, the ending didn't leave me crave for more or feel it was too much. It actually made me say out loud, "now that's an ending." And I still agree.
Date published: 2008-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Haunting Tale of Riveting Suspense Truman Capote was destined to do great things with his writing and ''In Cold Blood'' was not disappointing. He captured the global psyche with his character renderings, his surreal descriptions of the Kansas wheat fields and the faces he put to the monsters behind the horrible Clutter murders. If you want to read something that is out of the ordinary and completely encapsulating, then you should definitely read "In Cold Blood"
Date published: 2006-08-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best in "non"-fiction Don't be turned off by the hype--this will exceed what you expect. Brilliant.
Date published: 2006-07-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A book for the ages. This is a truly great book. I read it actually after seeing the recent film 'Capote'. I had meant to read it for years but never did. It was SO hyped and highly praised that I really felt that there was no wayit could live it to the billing. Well, I was wrong. My fear was that it may have been ground-breaking at the time but no would seem not as good. That may actually be somewhat true but the book is written in simple prose with a straight factual narration and I really loved the book. I would recommend to all - well most. Some scenes and the general subject matter may be a little much for small children but it is far from gruesome. A book for the ages.
Date published: 2006-06-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastically written Like many, the recent film Capote drew me to this book. My expectations were high, and were fulfilled as I completed the first chapter, and soon after, the entire book. Like all Truman Capote's novels, In Cold Blood was fantastically written. What stood out about this book is the creation of the genre that it is famous for: the non-fiction novel. Every character Capote writes of actually existed, and it is within the telling of this story that his talent is revealed. Everything, from the town of Holcomb, to the lives of Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, is described in minute detail, stimulating a fascination of the events and people that led to the Clutter murders almost half a century ago. In short, it is an amazing book.
Date published: 2006-05-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from IN COLD BLOOD Truman Capote's non-fiction book on a Kansas murder of a farm family has several aspects in it in which are excellent. It is of course very well written. However the aspect that I find amazing is that it is a true story. One's analysis of the book is not of a novel with fictional characters - a piece of imagination (although those can be quite interesting). The emotions one feels in reading are based on an event in the world that is quite important.
Date published: 2006-05-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A classic, not just of its genre but of all time When he wrote In Cold Blood Truman Capote set out to consciously change the world of literature. He succeeded in ways he never imagined. While his main goal - to spawn the nonfiction novel - resulted only in a handful of memorable books (the new journalism of Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe), the book gave birth to an industry of lurid true crime books, few as good as the original. Still, Capote's prose ( she was not spoiled but spared, led to suppose that life was a sequence of agreeable events) will live long after lesser books have been forgotten.
Date published: 2005-10-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Breath taking and heart pounding “In Cold Blood,” by Truman Capote is a heart-shaking thriller that left me in a cold sweat. I am an addicted fan of murder mysteries, and I have read many novels of gruesome crimes. What I have never done was read a novel of such descriptive details and personal thoughts on such a horrific crime. Truman Capote invited us into the minds of not only the family that was murdered, friends of the victims and the detectives, but he brought us into the conscience of two cold-blooded murderers by the names of Perry Smith and Dick Hickock. Truman Capote did such a fantastic job portraying every type of character. I fell in love with the murdered family and was heartbroken when the crime was committed. I was also heartbroken when I had fallen for the charm of one of the murderers, Perry. Perry Smith was such a sweet man that I sympathized for, and admired him. Dick, on the other hand, I did not sympathize for - I detested him with a passion. I suggest very much that you read this novel.
Date published: 2002-04-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from In Cold Blood Even though I knew right from the start who the killers were, I still look forward to reading the rest. I guess this was because it is really craftily constructed. I especially enjoyed the part how Capote, in order to describe Billy’s visit to the Clutter home, used Billy’s testimony to show him being there. Also Capote leaves out the murder scene and later, when the killers finally confess, Capote simply includes their description of what happened. Capote leaves the details of the murder out of the book, encouraging the reader to guess exactly what happened, as in a detective novel. He also chose not to reveal the motive of the crime until the killers confess. The best part of the book is t the end when the reader actually gets to see the execution of the killers through Dewey’s eyes. Since this is based on a true story we see that throughout the novel, he has painted detailed emotional portraits of many of his characters, making it obvious that he has interviewed them at length.I would recommend this book to readers if they enjoy a detective type book.
Date published: 2001-05-01

Read from the Book

I The Last to See Them Alive THE village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call "out there." Some seventy miles east of the Colorado border, the countryside, with its hard blue skies and desert-clear air, has an atmosphere that is rather more Far West than Middle West. The local accent is barbed with a prairie twang, a ranch-hand nasalness, and the men, many of them, wear narrow frontier trousers, Stetsons, and high-heeled boots with pointed toes. The land is flat, and the views are awesomely extensive; horses, herds of cattle, a white cluster of grain elevators rising as gracefully as Greek temples are visible long before a traveler reaches them. Holcomb, too, can be seen from great distances. Not that there is much to see--simply an aimless congregation of buildings divided in the center by the main-line tracks of the Santa Fe Railroad, a haphazard hamlet bounded on the south by a brown stretch of the Arkansas (pronounced "Ar-kan-sas") River, on the north by a highway, Route 50, and on the east and west by prairie lands and wheat fields. After rain, or when snowfalls thaw, the streets, unnamed, unshaded, unpaved, turn from the thickest dust into the direst mud. At one end of the town stands a stark old stucco structure, the roof of which supports an electric sign--DANCE--but the dancing has ceased and the advertisement has been dark for several years. Nearby is another building with an irrelevant sign, this one in flaking gold on a dirty window--HOLCOMB BANK. The bank closed in 1933, and its former counting rooms have been converted into apartments. It is one of the town's two "apartment houses," the second being a ramshackle mansion known, because a good part of the local school's faculty lives there, as the Teacherage. But the majority of Holcomb's homes are one-story frame affairs, with front porches. Down by the depot, the postmistress, a gaunt woman who wears a rawhide jacket and denims and cowboy boots, presides over a falling-apart post office. The depot itself, with its peeling sulphur-colored paint, is equally melancholy; the Chief, the Super-Chief, the El Capitan go by every day, but these celebrated expresses never pause there. No passenger trains do--only an occasional freight. Up on the highway, there are two filling stations, one of which doubles as a meagerly supplied grocery store, while the other does extra duty as a café--Hartman's Café, where Mrs. Hartman, the proprietress, dispenses sandwiches, coffee, soft drinks, and 3.2 beer. (Holcomb, like all the rest of Kansas, is "dry.") And that, really, is all. Unless you include, as one must, the Holcomb School, a good-looking establishment, which reveals a circumstance that the appearance of the community otherwise camouflages: that the parents who send their children to this modern and ably staffed "consolidated" school--the grades go from kindergarten through senior high, and a fleet of buses transport the students, of which there are usually around three hundred and sixty, from as far as sixteen miles away--are, in general, a prosperous people. Farm ranchers, most of them, they are outdoor folk of very varied stock--German, Irish, Norwegian, Mexican, Japanese. They raise cattle and sheep, grow wheat, milo, grass seed, and sugar beets. Farming is always a chancy business, but in western Kansas its practitioners consider themselves "born gamblers," for they must contend with an extremely shallow precipitation (the annual average is eighteen inches) and anguishing irrigation problems. However, the last seven years have been years of droughtless beneficence. The farm ranchers in Finney County, of which Holcomb is a part, have done well; money has been made not from farming alone but also from the exploitation of plentiful natural-gas resources, and its acquisition is reflected in the new school, the comfortable interiors of the farmhouses, the steep and swollen grain elevators. Until one morning in mid-November of 1959, few Americans--in fact, few Kansans--had ever heard of Holcomb. Like the waters of the river, like the motorists on the highway, and like the yellow trains streaking down the Santa Fe tracks, drama, in the shape of exceptional happenings, had never stopped there. The inhabitants of the village, numbering two hundred and seventy, were satisfied that this should be so, quite content to exist inside ordinary life--to work, to hunt, to watch television, to attend school socials, choir practice, meetings of the 4-H Club. But then, in the earliest hours of that morning in November, a Sunday morning, certain foreign sounds impinged on the normal nightly Holcomb noises--on the keening hysteria of coyotes, the dry scrape of scuttling tumbleweed, the racing, receding wail of locomotive whistles. At the time not a soul in sleeping Holcomb heard them--four shotgun blasts that, all told, ended six human lives. But afterward the townspeople, theretofore sufficiently unfearful of each other to seldom trouble to lock their doors, found fantasy re-creating them over and again--those somber explosions that stimulated fires of mistrust in the glare of which many old neighbors viewed each other strangely, and as strangers. THE master of River Valley Farm, Herbert William Clutter, was forty-eight years old, and as a result of a recent medical examination for an insurance policy, knew himself to be in first-rate condition. Though he wore rimless glasses and was of but average height, standing just under five feet ten, Mr. Clutter cut a man's-man figure. His shoulders were broad, his hair had held its dark color, his square-jawed, confident face retained a healthy-hued youthfulness, and his teeth, unstained and strong enough to shatter walnuts, were still intact. He weighed a hundred and fifty-four--the same as he had the day he graduated from Kansas State University, where he had majored in agriculture. He was not as rich as the richest man in Holcomb--Mr. Taylor Jones, a neighboring rancher. He was, however, the community's most widely known citizen, prominent both there and in Garden City, the close-by county seat, where he had headed the building committee for the newly completed First Methodist Church, an eight-hundred-thousand-dollar edifice. He was currently chairman of the Kansas Conference of Farm Organizations, and his name was everywhere respectfully recognized among Midwestern agriculturists, as it was in certain Washington offices, where he had been a member of the Federal Farm Credit Board during the Eisenhower administration. Always certain of what he wanted from the world, Mr. Clutter had in large measure obtained it. On his left hand, on what remained of a finger once mangled by a piece of farm machinery, he wore a plain gold band, which was the symbol, a quarter-century old, of his marriage to the person he had wished to marry--the sister of a college classmate, a timid, pious, delicate girl named Bonnie Fox, who was three years younger than he. She had given him four children--a trio of daughters, then a son. The eldest daughter, Eveanna, married and the mother of a boy ten months old, lived in northern Illinois but visited Holcomb frequently. Indeed, she and her family were expected within the fortnight, for her parents planned a sizable Thanksgiving reunion of the Clutter clan (which had its beginnings in Germany; the first immigrant Clutter--or Klotter, as the name was then spelled--arrived here in 1880); fifty-odd kinfolk had been asked, several of whom would be traveling from places as far away as Palatka, Florida. Nor did Beverly, the child next in age to Eveanna, any longer reside at River Valley Farm; she was in Kansas City, Kansas, studying to be a nurse. Beverly was engaged to a young biology student, of whom her father very much approved; invitations to the wedding, scheduled for Christmas Week, were already printed. Which left, still living at home, the boy, Kenyon, who at fifteen was taller than Mr. Clutter, and one sister, a year older--the town darling, Nancy. In regard to his family, Mr. Clutter had just one serious cause for disquiet--his wife's health. She was "nervous," she suffered "little spells"--such were the sheltering expressions used by those close to her. Not that the truth concerning "poor Bonnie's afflictions" was in the least a secret; everyone knew she had been an on-and-off psychiatric patient the last half-dozen years. Yet even upon this shadowed terrain sunlight had very lately sparkled. The past Wednesday, returning from two weeks of treatment at the Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, her customary place of retirement, Mrs. Clutter had brought scarcely credible tidings to tell her husband; with joy she informed him that the source of her misery, so medical opinion had at last decreed, was not in her head but in her spine--it was physical, a matter of misplaced vertebrae. Of course, she must undergo an operation, and afterward--well, she would be her "old self" again. Was it possible--the tension, the withdrawals, the pillow-muted sobbing behind locked doors, all due to an out-of-order backbone? If so, then Mr. Clutter could, when addressing his Thanksgiving table, recite a blessing of unmarred gratitude. Ordinarily, Mr. Clutter's mornings began at six-thirty; clanging milk pails and the whispery chatter of the boys who brought them, two sons of a hired man named Vic Irsik, usually roused him. But today he lingered, let Vic Irsik's sons come and leave, for the previous evening, a Friday the thirteenth, had been a tiring one, though in part exhilarating. Bonnie had resurrected her "old self"; as if serving up a preview of the normality, the regained vigor, soon to be, she had rouged her lips, fussed with her hair, and, wearing a new dress, accompanied him to the Holcomb School, where they applauded a student production of Tom Sawyer, in which Nancy played Becky Thatcher. He had enjoyed it, seeing Bonnie out in public, nervous but nonetheless smiling, talking to people, and they both had been proud of Nancy; she had done so well, remembering all her lines, and looking, as he had said to her in the course of backstage congratulations, "Just beautiful, honey--a real Southern belle." Whereupon Nancy had behaved like one; curtsying in her hoop-skirted costume, she had asked if she might drive into Garden City. The State Theatre was having a special, eleven-thirty, Friday-the-thirteenth "Spook Show," and all her friends were going. In other circumstances Mr. Clutter would have refused. His laws were laws, and one of them was: Nancy--and Kenyon, too--must be home by ten on week nights, by twelve on Saturdays. But weakened by the genial events of the evening, he had consented. And Nancy had not returned home until almost two. He had heard her come in, and had called to her, for though he was not a man ever really to raise his voice, he had some plain things to say to her, statements that concerned less the lateness of the hour than the youngster who had driven her home--a school basketball hero, Bobby Rupp. Mr. Clutter liked Bobby, and considered him, for a boy his age, which was seventeen, most dependable and gentlemanly; however, in the three years she had been permitted "dates," Nancy, popular and pretty as she was, had never gone out with anyone else, and while Mr. Clutter understood that it was the present national adolescent custom to form couples, to "go steady" and wear "engagement rings," he disapproved, particularly since he had not long ago, by accident, surprised his daughter and the Rupp boy kissing. He had then suggested that Nancy discontinue "seeing so much of Bobby," advising her that a slow retreat now would hurt less than an abrupt severance later--for, as he reminded her, it was a parting that must eventually take place. The Rupp family were Roman Catholics, the Clutters, Methodist--a fact that should in itself be sufficient to terminate whatever fancies she and this boy might have of some day marrying. Nancy had been reasonable--at any rate, she had not argued--and now, before saying good night, Mr. Clutter secured from her a promise to begin a gradual breaking off with Bobby. Still, the incident had lamentably put off his retiring time, which was ordinarily eleven o'clock. As a consequence, it was well after seven when he awakened on Saturday, November 14, 1959. His wife always slept as late as possible. However, while Mr. Clutter was shaving, showering, and outfitting himself in whipcord trousers, a cattleman's leather jacket, and soft stirrup boots, he had no fear of disturbing her; they did not share the same bedroom. For several years he had slept alone in the master bedroom, on the ground floor of the house--a two-story, fourteen-room frame-and-brick structure. Though Mrs. Clutter stored her clothes in the closets of this room, and kept her few cosmetics and her myriad medicines in the blue-tile-and-glass-brick bathroom adjoining it, she had taken for serious occupancy Eveanna's former bedroom, which, like Nancy's and Kenyon's rooms, was on the second floor. The house--for the most part designed by Mr. Clutter, who thereby proved himself a sensible and sedate, if not notably decorative, architect--had been built in 1948 for forty thousand dollars. (The resale value was now sixty thousand dollars.) Situated at the end of a long, lanelike driveway shaded by rows of Chinese elms, the handsome white house, standing on an ample lawn of groomed Bermuda grass, impressed Holcomb; it was a place people pointed out. As for the interior, there were spongy displays of liver-colored carpet intermittently abolishing the glare of varnished, resounding floors; an immense modernistic living-room couch covered in nubby fabric interwoven with glittery strands of silver metal; a breakfast alcove featuring a banquette upholstered in blue-and-white plastic. This sort of furnishing was what Mr. and Mrs. Clutter liked, as did the majority of their acquaintances, whose homes, by and large, were similarly furnished. Other than a housekeeper who came in on weekdays, the Clutters employed no household help, so since his wife's illness and the departure of the elder daughters, Mr. Clutter had of necessity learned to cook; either he or Nancy, but principally Nancy, prepared the family meals. Mr. Clutter enjoyed the chore, and was excellent at it--no woman in Kansas baked a better loaf of salt-rising bread, and his celebrated coconut cookies were the first item to go at charity cake sales--but he was not a hearty eater; unlike his fellow-ranchers, he even preferred Spartan breakfasts. That morning an apple and a glass of milk were enough for him; because he touched neither coffee or tea, he was accustomed to begin the day on a cold stomach. The truth was he opposed all stimulants, however gentle. He did not smoke, and of course he did not drink; indeed, he had never tasted spirits, and was inclined to avoid people who had--a circumstance that did not shrink his social circle as much as might be supposed, for the center of that circle was supplied by the members of Garden City's First Methodist Church, a congregation totaling seventeen hundred, most of whom were as abstemious as Mr. Clutter could desire. While he was careful to avoid making a nuisance of his views, to adopt outside his realm an externally uncensoring manner, he enforced them within his family and among the employees at River Valley Farm. "Are you a drinking man?" was the first question he asked a job applicant, and even though the fellow gave a negative answer, he still must sign a work contract containing a clause that declared the agreement instantly void if the employee should be discovered "harboring alcohol." A friend--an old pioneer rancher, Mr. Lynn Russell--had once told him, "You've got no mercy. I swear, Herb, if you caught a hired man drinking, out he'd go. And you wouldn't care if his family was starving." It was perhaps the only criticism ever made of Mr. Clutter as an employer. Otherwise, he was known for his equanimity, his charitableness, and the fact that he paid good wages and distributed frequent bonuses; the men who worked for him--and there were sometimes as many as eighteen--had small reason to complain.

From Our Editors

With the publication of this book, Capote permanently ripped through the barrier separating crime reportage from serious literature. As he reconstructs the 1959 murder of a Kansas farm family and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, Capote generates suspense and empathy

Editorial Reviews

"A masterpiece . . . a spellbinding work." —Life

"A remarkable, tensely exciting, superbly written 'true account.' " —The New York Times

"The best documentary account of an American crime ever written. . . . The book chills the blood and exercises the intelligence . . . harrowing." —The New York Review of Books