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Read With IBC | In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

Read With IBC | In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

As with all book clubs, a great part of the joy of our Imaginary Book Club is reading together and chatting about what we’ve read as a group. For more info on how our online book club work, and the many ways you can participate, hop over here or sign up to read with us

Each month our #ReadWithIBC post is the place for a no-holds-barred, spoilers-allowed, debate-encouraged discussion of our latest read.

Share your thoughts in the comments!

In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

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.

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31 Comments

    • Bev

      I enjoyed reading the book and especially enjoyed Capote’s writing style. I would have liked to see it wrap up sooner after the two were arrested, I felt like it dragged on a bit. Maybe Capote designed it that way on purpose to show how life drags on when one is on death row.

      Reply
      • Whitney

        I get what you mean, but I liked that Capote saw it all the way through to the very end. You see appeals and check in with some characters. I wasn’t so sure the profiles of the other death row inmates was completely necessary though…

        Reply
    • Austyn

      I really liked it! Very eerie, knowing what was going to happen but not knowing why.

      Reply
  1. Imaginary Book Club

    Have you read anything by Truman Capote before? How does this book compare?

    Reply
    • Whitney

      I’ve read two of Capote’s works – In Cold Blood (a few years back) and Breakfast At Tiffany’s. It’s such a weird sample size, but what does come through is Capote’s straightforward yet fluid use of language.

      And I liked them both enough to re-read each of them! So that’s something.

      Reply
    • AustYn

      No, I’ve only watched the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. But this book made me want to read more by him!

      Reply
  2. Imaginary Book Club

    In Cold Blood is considered a non-fiction novel. Although Capote researched extensively, much of the dialogue and characterization of events is influenced by his perspectives. Do you think that you would have interpreted the story differently if it were being shared in the local paper, rather than by a novelist?

    Reply
    • Whitney

      There are a lot of horrible things that are reported in the paper every day that don’t get this level of attraction. But there are moments that truly grab public attention – and I imagine that Capote wouldn’t have even been following the Holcomb murders unless they had been really widely publicized. There is definitely more of a detachment in journalism compared to the novelization!

      Reply
    • Bev

      I think that we have become immune to terrible news stories because there are so many. I definitely don’t think I would have had the same caring for the murdered family and I certainly would not have had the insight into the murderers through a news story.

      Reply
      • Whitney

        I wonder if there is something to be said about the quantity of information and how fast it spreads today. Because we can be exposed to murders all over the country and all over the world, we probably don’t get the same response that they did back then to the one murder everyone was talking about.

        Reply
    • Austyn

      Probably, but that being said I feel that the slaughter of an entire family in a small town would be of interest to everyone. This felt like a precursor to Making a Murderer in a way, solely because Capote tried to humanize the convicted men while never forgiving them of their crime. If that doesn’t make sense, blame it on the fact that it’s inventory week at work and I’m tired!

      Reply
  3. Imaginary Book Club

    Capote came in to Holcomb as an outsider. How do you think the story would have been told differently if it was Susan sharing her thoughts as an adult? 

    Reply
    • Whitney

      Probably not as good – I mean, I won’t discount the fact that Capote is a literary fiction hero.

      But honestly, I think it wouldn’t be as powerful. Perhaps more intimate and laced with more personal information about the victims, but part of what makes In Cold Blood so impressive is the intensity of the exploration of the character and background of the murders. I doubt that an insider would have the objectivity to really explore those elements.

      Reply
      • Kate

        I don’t know much about Capote, so I can’t say this with any authority but I felt like his writing was so detached (as an outsider would be) that it gave the story a very sinister air, which can be an appeal factor for fans of true crime. If it were an insider writing about their personal experience, that factor would probably be completely gone and the whole thing would have been from an emotional perspective.

        Reply
      • Austyn

        I couldn’t have said it any better!

        Reply
  4. Imaginary Book Club

    The Clutters are, in many ways, the ideal victims – white, prosperous, and generally well-liked. How do you think this sets the tone for the whole book? Would Capote have written about them if it had been another family with different circumstances?

    Reply
    • Whitney

      This was something that really struck me while reading In Cold Blood. Capote goes to such an extent describing the Clutters and how nearly perfect they are. Even Bonnie, who clearly has depression, is treated with so my sympathy that it gives the feeling of kicking a dog if anyone were to harm her.

      Reply
      • Austyn

        I thought he focused on Bonnie as a way of showing how “innocent” victims were killed. Whereas maybe her husband had done something to someone and angered them, Bonnie (and likewise her children) wouldn’t have been able to, so their murders were that much more shocking.

        Reply
    • Whitney

      Not to mention that the Clutters are this wealthy white family! There has been a ton said on the fact that there’s a huge race gap in the press than murders, kidnappings, disappearances, etc. receive from the media. The focus on Nancy Clutter specifically really drove this home – look at the nice, wealthy, white girl and feel all the sympathy. This was emphasized by the era-appropriate-but-not-anymore racist language throughout the book. It really drove that inequality home.

      Reply
    • Bev

      if the book were written today, I could see the perfect family as black or white or any race, but for the time I don’t think that most readers who would have bought the book would have as much empathy for the family if they had not been white. The class thing matters, too, I don’t think people would have cared enough to buy the book if it had been about a poor family. The goal for most publishers is to sell books and I don’t think that Capote could have sold the book to the publisher the family hadn’t been “perfect” by 1960’s standard.

      Reply
    • Austyn

      Well the circumstances make the case, right? It’s interesting because they don’t have any enemies and they’re wealthy but had no money on hand so the police don’t view robbery as a motive. The tone is that no one understands the motive, and without motive is there any hope of catching the murderes?
      More than any of the Clutters personal aspects, these murders were effed up. I don’t want to give too many spoilers, but the Clutters were not killed peacefully, or even quickly in some cases. There were kids that got killed, not just the adults. Who would be so terrible that they would kill an entire family?? I personally think that no matter what race or level of wealth or any other factors, the loss of a whole family would have set the same tone: sinister, eerie, and unsettling.

      Reply
  5. Imaginary Book Club

    This is a book of suspense without suspense. Even before the first page, you know how the Clutters’ story ends. You even know that the murderers are going to get caught. How did Capote manage to maintain the suspense?

    Reply
    • Bev

      I think the suspense was not in the how and who but when. When were the Clutter’s going to me murdered, when would the murderers be caught, when would the murderers be hanged.

      Reply
      • Kate

        Bev, I agree. Full disclosure, I have been so busy that I haven’t even finished the book, but I have the same feeling; even though I knew before starting how it would end, I didn’t know when, or the details of anything, so that kept up the suspense factor (thus far) for me.

        Reply
    • Austyn

      I also think that his efforts to get into the backgrounds of the guilty men made it suspenseful. When did they turn to crime? When did they decide to murder the Clutters? Why did they do it? I had so many questions!

      Reply
  6. Imaginary Book Club

    Today’s equivalent of In Cold Blood could be Making A Murderer or even Serial. Why do you think people continue to be so fascinated with true crime?

    Reply
    • kate

      I think it’s morbid curiosity combined with a “how could I avoid this happening to me” factor. I want to understand how a murderer’s brain works (because brains are cool) BUT I also want to know how to keep from being murdered. It makes no sense whatsoever, because life is random and scary, but I think that could be what keeps me coming back to true crime.

      Reply
      • Austyn

        Kate, that’s such a good explanation! I’m not sure why we’re drawn to true crime, but I sure am!

        Reply
  7. Whitney

    I want to throw out another question too – How do you think mental health care plays a role in the murders and the trial?

    Reply
    • Austyn

      Oh my gosh the trial, that was SO making a murderer! Would the men have had a different trial today? I’m not sure. I definitely think their mental states and histories would have been put front and center at the case, and I also think maybe the trial would have been moved.

      Reply

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