In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In 1966, In Cold Blood, a quasi-true crime novel about a brutal Kansas mass murder in 1959, was published as the result of six years of interviews and research by Truman Capote. While presented as fact, the novel presumes an insight that would be impossible without some fictional elements in the account.
The story is of the Clutter family from Holcomb, Kansas, and how they came to be slain in their home by two men who never even knew them. Though often long-winded in the telling, Capote successfully enables the reader to understand the crime from the point of view of its victims, perpetrators, and the community.
While this is a novel about a true crime, its purpose goes beyond telling a tale. The reader is coerced into trying to find some tangible reason as to why two men would wish to destroy an entire family. Was it for money? Sex? Revenge?...As if any of these reasons could justify or make sense of the act. Why do we ask ourselves these questions? What does it matter why someone commits an act of heinous violence, when it neither rationalizes nor excuses the act?
There are times throughout the novel when Capote tries to make the reader pity the killers. Stories of unfortunate childhoods and head trauma are spun to help the reader to better understand the killer's minds. This extensive back story almost succeeds in dulling the memory of the violent murders, until Capote shares another macabre detail to slap the reader out of their stupor.
Ultimately, this is a book about the inexplicable, irrational, incomprehensible act of murder. This is a book that dares to declare that we should not bother seeking motive or reason or logic when we examine murder. The act of taking the life of another is a separation from logic and reason. It is the ultimate act of isolation.
All murder is done in Cold Blood- because it is never about the victim. Murder is about power, control, and simultaneous narcissism and self-loathing.
Capote's message is this: The Clutter family died because...I'm sorry- but there is no answer to that question.