Jeffrey Keeten's Reviews > In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
3427339
's review
Jun 17, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: horror, true-crime, book-to-film
Recommended to Jeffrey by: On the Southern Literary Trail
Read from June 17 to 25, 2012

"How much money did you get from the Clutters?"
"Between forty and fifty dollars."


HickokSmith

Top Picture Hickock, Richard Eugene (WM)28 KBI 97 093; FBI 859 273 A. Address: Edgerton, Kansas. Birthdate 6-6-31 Birthplace K.C., Kans. Height: 5-10 Weight: 175 Hair: Blond. Eyes: Blue. Build: Stout. Comp: Ruddy. Occup: Car Painter. Crime: Cheat & Defr. & Bad Checks. Paroled: 8-13-59 By: So. K.C.K.

Bottom Picture Smith, Perry Edward (WM) 27-59. Birthplace: Nevada. Height: 5-4. Weight: 156 Hair: D. Brn. Crime: B&E. Arrested: (blank) By: (blank). Disposition: Sent KSP 3-13-56 from Phillips Co. 5-10yrs. Rec. 3-14-56. Paroled: 7-6-59.

As I write this review, I'm sitting about 60 miles from the Clutter house in Holcomb, Kansas. Holcomb is a small, farming community located just west of Garden City. The line from the long running show Cheers perfectly describes this community. Where not only does everyone in the bar know your name, but everyone in the whole county knows your name and knows your family history.

I don't own a copy of In Cold Blood. I usually avoid reading true crime books. I don't have any interest in filling my head with tragedy. I want to go about my life with a degree of caution, but not ruled by the fear I feel such books will instill.

I stopped by the Dodge City Library, and as expected, they had several copies for me to choose from. The librarian at the check out desk, a woman about mid-sixties, slender, elegant, and still attractive paused for a moment looking down at the book. She physically shivered. She looked up at me and said in a whisper, "I remember when this happened".

She can remember watching her father put locks on the doors for the first time and knowing afterwards that there was life before the Clutter murders, and then there was life after the Clutter murders. Her response surprised me. In a time when any crime anywhere in the country is broadcast out to the nation I would have thought some of the impact of the Clutter murder would have been buried under the avalanche of murder and mayhem related to us on a daily basis. For this community and for all the small communities dotting the map of Kansas, and even in the surrounding states, this was something that wasn't supposed to happen in a small town. This was big city crime right in their backyard.

As I talked to people about the Clutter murders most everybody had a physical reaction. They flinched as if they were dodging a blow. You could almost see the pages of their memories fluttering behind their eyes back to 1959. They attributed more deaths to the crime, each of them citing six deaths rather than four. This could have to do with the fact that there were six Clutters. The two older girls had already left the home and started their own lives and were not present on that fateful night when their family was murdered.

In Cold Blood was required reading in many schools in this region clear up until about the 1970s, so even people who were too young to remember the crime have still been impacted by the murders.

In the description above of Perry Edward Smith there is a reference to Phillips County. This has special significance for me because I was born and raised in Phillips County. The family farm is located in Phillips County. My Dad and I graduated from Phillipsburg High School. My Dad was a sophomore in high school in 1955 when Perry Smith decided to burglarize the Chandler Sales Company in Phillipsburg, Kansas and this seemingly insignificant act was really the beginning of this story. Smith and his accomplice, also Smith, stole typewriters, adding machines etc and got away clean. Later they ignored a traffic signal in St. Joseph, Missouri and were pulled over by a cop. All the loot was wedged into the backseat of the car eliciting the wrong kinds of questions from law enforcement. They were extradited back to Phillipsburg, where through an open window (image my embarrassment for the law enforcement of my home county)they escaped. Later Perry was caught again and sent back to Phillipsburg where the law enforcement did a better job of keeping track of him.

Perry Smith received 10 years in the Kansas Penitentiary in Leavenworth. Richard Eugene Hickock was already serving time in Leavenworth for fraud. The two met and became friends. The final piece to the puzzle that not only determined the fate of the Clutter family, but also the fates of Smith and Hickock was for them to meet Floyd Wells. Wells, serving time for some bit of stupidity, had worked for Herb Clutter back in 1948. He told Hickock and Smith that Clutter was not only a rich farmer, but kept a safe full of cash in his house.

He was absolutely full of shit.

There was no safe. There was no pile of cash. There was absolutely no reason for four people to lose their lives for $40.

ClutterFamily

After the murders they went to Mexico for a while, but even though they could live cheaply money still trickled through their fingers, after they burned through the goods they had acquired through the Clutter robbery and through defrauding retail stores, they found that working in Mexico didn't pay well either. They came back up to the United States and there was an interesting moment from the time they were in Miami that for me was really indicative of a level of detachment they were able to maintain. Perry Smith is reading the paper and sees an article about a family that was tied up and shot to death.

"Amazing!" Perry glanced through the article again. "Know what I wouldn't be surprised? If this wasn't done by a lunatic. Some nut that read about what happened out in Kansas."

WTF? Some nut? How about the original coconut heads that murdered the family in Kansas?

Perry does have a moment or two where he weighs what happened in Kansas.

"Know what I think?" said Perry. "I think there must be something wrong with us. To do what we did."
"Did what?"
"Out there."
"Deal me out, baby," Dick said. "I'm a normal."


Truman Capote had been looking for the right story for an experimental form of writing he'd been thinking about. He wanted to blend fiction and nonfiction and the Clutter murders struck him as the perfect story to launch this new form of writing. I have to admire his fortitude, for a man of his sensibilities not only spending that much time among farmbillies, but having to befriend them as well. It must have been somewhat of a painful experience.

TrumanCapoteClutterHouse
Capote in the Clutter home

Floyd Wells eventually comes forward and tells what he knows about the murders. He had always liked Herb Clutter and felt bad that what he had told, in a moment of prison bonding, had led to such a vicious conclusion. Without his statement I'm pretty sure that Smith and Hickock would have gotten away with the murders. The slender evidence tying them to the murders would have made it almost impossible to prosecute them. They are convicted with the help of their signed confessions, and the punishment is death. As they are being led back to their cells:

Smith says to Hickock, "No chicken-hearted jurors, they!" They both laughed loudly, and a cameraman photographed them. The picture appeared in a Kansas paper above a caption entitled: "The Last Laugh?"

This is a beautifully written book. I want to thank Harper Lee for her role in helping Capote bring this book to completion. I'm not sure Capote would have had the perseverance to see it through without her holding his hand. I was long overdue to read this. I'm glad that "On the Southern Literary Trail" selected to read this book. It was the right push to get me past my own reticence in avoiding this genre. I certainly have a connection to this book and that may have colored my perceptions and certainly may have elevated my rating of the book, but given the historic nature of the book, ushering in a new genre that is still vibrantly alive today; I think most anyone should put this on their reading list.
739 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read In Cold Blood.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

06/20/2012 page 30
9.0% "I've avoided this book for the simple reason that I've never liked reading true crime, but if all true crime books were written like this one I'd be knee deep in them."
06/21/2012 page 45
13.0% "I'm only 45 pages in and I'm already creeped out. I don't know these people(the Clutter family), but I KNOW PEOPLE JUST LIKE THESE PEOPLE."
06/26/2012 page 343
100.0% "I'm only 45 pages in and I'm already creeped out. I don't know these people(the Clutter family), but I KNOW PEOPLE JUST LIKE THESE PEOPLE."
01/31/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-50 of 195) (195 new)


Gary Love this book....you need to watch the two movies on dvd...that were made in the last few years...wonderful!


Jason Goodwin Not if you want to sleep at night...Is this what they call Grand Guignol? nb I just found the compare button - we're almost 80% of like minds!


Jeffrey Keeten Jason wrote: "Not if you want to sleep at night...Is this what they call Grand Guignol? nb I just found the compare button - we're almost 80% of like minds!"

Isn't that the truth. When I worked in the book business I couldn't believe the stacks and stacks of true crime books that middle aged women would come in and buy. If I filled my head with that stuff all the time I'd never leave the house.

We must have excellent taste in books. haha


Gary Jason wrote: "Not if you want to sleep at night...Is this what they call Grand Guignol? nb I just found the compare button - we're almost 80% of like minds!"

Jason, we are 74 % So....I have requested you as a friend....


Gary 82 % for Jeffrey and I .


Gary Yeah, it's creepy. Did I tell you that my inlaws live just a couple miles from the prison where they were held,and then hung for their crimes. I have pictures. I swear it felt creepy standing by the prison building. They are also buried somewhere in the area. A friend has actually been to their burial plot. I need to go there.


Jeffrey Keeten Gary wrote: "Yeah, it's creepy. Did I tell you that my inlaws live just a couple miles from the prison where they were held,and then hung for their crimes. I have pictures. I swear it felt creepy standing by th..."

I've thought about running over to Holcomb to see the Clutter place, but decided that I don't want to be that involved in the book.


message 8: by Gary (last edited Jun 23, 2012 07:29PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary You are gonna laugh....a friend of mine loved this book so much that she went to Garden City and actually stayed in Truman Capote's motel room. Then she drove to Holcomb and spent a week lurking around talking to the townspeople. She went to the sheriff's office and saw 5 binders of evidence. She was shocked to actually see the actual police photos of the murders and the blood splattered on the wall. She visited the church,and talked to the church secretary that was a friend of Mrs. Clutter. Then she called the house,and talked to the lady who lives in it now. The lady agreed to let Carleen ( my friend's name)to come inside the house to tour it,and to take pictures. They made an appointment for a couple days after the telephone conversation.

Then when Carleen went there, no one answered the door. She sat on the porch, for awhile,and then a young man opened the door and told her that the lady had left to see her daughter,and she was not allowed to come in. She asked if she could take pictures of the outside of the house,and was told yes. Turns out this young man was a grandson of the owner. After a few moments of taking photos, an older gentlemen (who explained he was the son of the lady who owned the Clutter home) walked up,and politely asked Carleen to leave & that she would need to leave now. That the family was tired of being bothered,and they wanted to be left alone.....she walked down the lane amongst the gnarled trees left there, back from the time of the murders,and drove home from there.

Isn't this wild? I am not making this up!

gary


Gary You need to read other things by Truman Capote....I truly believe he is one of the greatest southern writers that lived.....

I would be happy to suggest other titles if you are so interested.....I have read him off and on for year. I also love his connection to Harper Lee,and him being a character in her one and only book.....


Jeffrey Keeten Gary wrote: "You need to read other things by Truman Capote....I truly believe he is one of the greatest southern writers that lived.....

I would be happy to suggest other titles if you are so interested.....I..."


Breakfast at Tiffany's will be next for me, but I do plan to read all his work and the bio that Mike Sullivan is reading right now.


message 11: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary After you finish the book....you need to experience the movie with Robert Blake,and also see the two recent movies made about Capote. The one with Phillip Seymour Hoffman is quite good, playing Truman. The other with Sandra Bullock playing Harper Lee is also good, with a different twist to the story. After reading the book again for bookclub,and discussing it,and Carleen taking this trip. I watched the movies,and then read the biography that the Hoffman movie was based on. All very interesting..... I can just imagine Truman rocking Holcomb's world when he showed up in town!Harper was a "calming force",and helped him get his interviews,and the like to make the book the success it proved to be. Truly a classic book!


message 12: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary A Christmas Memory is wonderful. I bought it in a little hardback edition, with an audio done by Celeste Holms,that is quite delightful.

His first novel OTHER VOICES , OTHER ROOMS which caused the scandal with the photo of Truman on the back is quite the story. I liked it. I have read several of his short stories.I also have a copy of Breakfast....It is much more in depth then the movie, with Audrey Hepburn. I love the movie.I think it's a hoot,but Truman hated it.

I have another of his novels THE GLASS HARP, or maybe IT'S GRASS HARP. (MEMORY SUCKS!) and then another one about Summer in it's title. Not read those yet.

Anyway..... Truman was an odd duck , who had a true gift as a writer......


message 13: by Gary (last edited Jun 23, 2012 07:50PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary I just checked. Mike is reading the same bio I read. I am anxious to read his review about it. I thought it was well worth my time.I actually read it on a camping trip in the woods. I was engrossed!!!


message 14: by Kemper (last edited Jun 26, 2012 09:06AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kemper If you liked this and haven't seen it yet, the movie Capote with Phillip Seymour Hoffman playing him during the time he was writing this is excellent, too.


Jeffrey Keeten Kemper wrote: "If you liked this and haven't seen it yet, the movie Capote with Phillip Seymour Hoffman playing him during the time he was writing this is excellent, too."

I saw the movie back in 2006 and really did like it. After reading this book I think a rewatch is in order.


message 16: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary Fantastic review, Jeffrey. Maybe a visit to Leavenworth Prison,and the gravesites is in order?


message 17: by Traveller (new) - added it

Traveller Oooh! A Jeffrey review of a book that's been on my list for simply ages... i wonder if i'll ever get down to reading it. It just never seems to have moved up the list enough. It's moved up quite a few notches due to this review, at least!

Reading your very informative review was very interesting indeed, thanks Jeffrey!


message 18: by Jenn(ifer) (new)

Jenn(ifer) wait a second, weren't you only on page 45 this morning? everyone seems to read so fast around here! I need to take a speed reading course!

I didn't read the book, but I know the story from watching the film Capote. Even that account gave me the shivers! Great review.


message 19: by Diane (new)

Diane Barnes Wonderful review, Jeffrey. I read this book years ago, and every word of it is still clear in my mind. I'm not a true crime fan either, but this one is so much more than that. Capote literally created a new genre, and no one has done it better since. Although, in a different way, "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" by John Berendt is another excellently done true crime tale.


Jeffrey Keeten Gary wrote: "Fantastic review, Jeffrey. Maybe a visit to Leavenworth Prison,and the gravesites is in order?"

Thanks Gary! I'm so glad you liked it. I don't know I will have to give it some thought. I tend to try and stay away from maximum security prisons and graveyards. HAHA


Jeffrey Keeten Traveller wrote: "Oooh! A Jeffrey review of a book that's been on my list for simply ages... i wonder if i'll ever get down to reading it. It just never seems to have moved up the list enough. It's moved up quite a..."

Thank you Traveller. This was a pleasant surprise. Capote really doesn't focus on the grislier aspects of the story. I know you will enjoy the style of the writing.


Jeffrey Keeten (Jenn)ifer wrote: "wait a second, weren't you only on page 45 this morning? everyone seems to read so fast around here! I need to take a speed reading course!

I didn't read the book, but I know the story from watchi..."


I'm hit or miss on updating my status. I had about 70 pages going into last night and polished it off at about midnight. I wanted to finish because I knew I'd have time to write a review this morning. Thanks (Jenn)ifer I'm so glad you liked the review.


Jeffrey Keeten Diane wrote: "Wonderful review, Jeffrey. I read this book years ago, and every word of it is still clear in my mind. I'm not a true crime fan either, but this one is so much more than that. Capote literally c..."

Thank you Diane! I liked John Berendt's book, he as do most other true crime writers, owe a debt of gratitude for the ground breaker work Capote did with ICB. I like how Truman didn't go too deep into the unsavory aspects of the case and yet my head was buzzing with impending catastrophe for most of the book.


message 24: by Traveller (new) - added it

Traveller The John Berendt book is another one i've had sitting on my shelf for ages, which i've been pushing aside because of negative reviews. Perhaps i need to hitch that one up a few notches as well?


message 25: by Steve (new)

Steve Outstanding review, Jeffrey. I like all the background material you provided, too.

BTW, to Gary's point about Capote and Harper Lee, I never thought of Dill the same way again once I learned who he was supposed to be. For that matter, I never thought of Capote the same way either.


Jeffrey Keeten Traveller wrote: "The John Berendt book is another one i've had sitting on my shelf for ages, which i've been pushing aside because of negative reviews. Perhaps i need to hitch that one up a few notches as well?"

Very polished writing, quick read. The book may suffer somewhat by it's own popularity which sometimes in itself generates a negative backlash from certain reviewers.


message 27: by Gary (last edited Jun 26, 2012 12:06PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary Traveller wrote: "The John Berendt book is another one i've had sitting on my shelf for ages, which i've been pushing aside because of negative reviews. Perhaps i need to hitch that one up a few notches as well?"

I got the John Berendt book as a gift from someone on vacation in Savannah. When I saw it, I was like, shit, another book on the shelf I'll never read,and I can't get rid of it because of who gave it to me..... Two years afterwards, we had a horrible icestorm. No one could even get out of their driveways.....so, I was told to stay home,and not come into work.......

I picked up the book,and began to read....... I think I may have eaten the next day, maybe, I don't remember. I read in my bathrobe till the bats came back to the belfry....totally engrossed, couldn't put the book down to save my soul. Thought it was a great book,and a great story.

The movie sucked, except for Lady Chabis. She was hilarious.

gary


message 28: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary I met John Berendt at a book festival...... talking about his newer book, but everyone wanted to ask him about MIDNIGHT....including myself....


message 29: by Traveller (new) - added it

Traveller Ok, i'm convinced. The Berendt book just got a MASSIVE hike up the list! :D


message 30: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary Traveller wrote: "Ok, i'm convinced. The Berendt bo

ok just got a MASSIVE hike up the list! :D"



I think you will like it a lot.... I have my hypothesis of why the book got some negative reviews......


Jeffrey Keeten Steve wrote: "Outstanding review, Jeffrey. I like all the background material you provided, too.

BTW, to Gary's point about Capote and Harper Lee, I never thought of Dill the same way again once I learned who ..."


Thank you Steve! It was really one of those jaw dropping moments when PHILLIPSBURG jumped out of the page at me. I also benefited from living this close to ground zero.

I agree about Dill. I can't believe I was in the dark about that information for so long.


message 32: by B0nnie (new) - added it

B0nnie Gary wrote: "You are gonna laugh....a friend of mine loved this book so much that she went to Garden City and actually stayed in Truman Capote's motel room. Then she drove to Holcomb and spent a week lurking ar..."

That is a great story...Carleen has what it takes to write her own version, it seems.


message 33: by B0nnie (new) - added it

B0nnie wonderful review Jeffrey


message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

Jeffrey:
You have written the perfect true crime review worthy of Capote. It radiates with authenticity and sense of place. You make a wonderful connection with Kansas, and it is a little scary to read it to tell the truth. I'm going to double-check my locks and install more deadbolts.


message 35: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary B0nnie wrote: "Gary wrote: "You are gonna laugh....a friend of mine loved this book so much that she went to Garden City and actually stayed in Truman Capote's motel room. Then she drove to Holcomb and spent a we..."


:-) Carleen is 72 years old. One hell of a woman....


message 36: by Nandakishore (new)

Nandakishore Varma I have this book (part of my personal library back in India) but have not read it yet. I will do so this summer.

Nice review, Jeffrey.


Jeffrey Keeten B0nnie wrote: "wonderful review Jeffrey"

Thanks Bonnie!


Jeffrey Keeten Steve wrote: "Jeffrey:
You have written the perfect true crime review worthy of Capote. It radiates with authenticity and sense of place. You make a wonderful connection with Kansas, and it is a little scary t..."


I had the same reaction to reading the book. One night I abruptly stopped reading and went and checked all the doors in my house. I looked at the security of my home with a more critical eye and found it wanting. We depend so much on the security of the location of our neighborhood that I don't even have a deadbolt on the front door. I might be making a trip to the hardware store this weekend.

Thank you Steve! I'm really glad you read my review. I was so surprised to find a connection with my home town.


Jeffrey Keeten Nandakishore wrote: "I have this book (part of my personal library back in India) but have not read it yet. I will do so this summer.

Nice review, Jeffrey."


Thanks Nandakishore! The writing is superb. I hope you like it.


Jeffrey Keeten I just now realized this was my 100th review on goodreads. I'm almost legit now!


message 41: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary You have been legit all along..... :-)


Jeffrey Keeten Gary wrote: "You have been legit all along..... :-)"

Thanks Gary. 100 reviews feels like a milestone. Next milestone 500. haha


message 43: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes ICB is one of the all time greats, enhanced here by your personal reflections. Great job, J. Whatever the matter is with Kansas, it ain't you.


Jeffrey Keeten Will wrote: "ICB is one of the all time greats, enhanced here by your personal reflections. Great job, J. Whatever the matter is with Kansas, it ain't you."

Thanks Will. I'm glad you liked it. It was late at night when I read the part Phillipsburg played in this tragic event. I nearly woke everyone up with a rather loud WTH. Kansas does wear on a man, but with all these great friends on goodreads I can live anywhere.


message 45: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary McAvoy Those interested in the Clutter murder investigation might like to view the upcoming auction of Truman's letters and books, KBI investigator's notes, crime scene photos, confessions and other items at www.vintagememorabilia.com/InColdBlood.


Lawyer Thanks so much for posting this on the Southern Literary Trail Group site. I would have hated to miss it. I do think this may be the finest review you have written. I knew you were close to the scene of the Clutter murders and had meant to speak with you about it. This absolutely tells it all. I was also glad you pointed out Harper Lee's involvement in the writing of the book. It is truly sad that his jealousy over her winning the Pulitzer led to the dissolution of their friendship.

Mike


Jeffrey Keeten Mike wrote: "Thanks so much for posting this on the Southern Literary Trail Group site. I would have hated to miss it. I do think this may be the finest review you have written. I knew you were close to the s..."

Thank you Mike. I'm so glad you liked the review. I'm rarely happy with my reviews, but this one even I had to admit I liked. I'm looking forward to the reads for the club next month.


Christopher Conlon IN COLD BLOOD is one of the basic books of my life, and has been for the past 25 years. I still remember having strange uneasy dreams the night I finished it, and feeling numb for part of the next day. It's that powerful.

The Robert Blake movie is OK, but has little of the power of the book--its main attraction is the fact that the filmmakers used many of the real locations, including the actual Clutter house. CAPOTE is the better and more insightful of the two films about the writing of the book, though INFAMOUS is worth watching. I haven't read through all the comments here, but in case nobody's mentioned it, this series of articles from 2005 is also well worth looking at: http://new.ljworld.com/incoldblood/

As for Capote's other writing, Jeffrey, I'd recommend his short stories, especially the early ones collected in A TREE OF NIGHT AND OTHER STORIES. If you like his early Southern Gothic style (with its strong echoes of McCullers and Welty), then you might want to give a shot to his first novel, OTHER VOICES, OTHER ROOMS. The later BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S is worthwhile light fiction, with Capote's Holly Golightly somewhat indebted to Isherwood's Sally Bowles.

Great review!


Jeffrey Keeten Gary wrote: "Those interested in the Clutter murder investigation might like to view the upcoming auction of Truman's letters and books, KBI investigator's notes, crime scene photos, confessions and other items..."

Thanks Gary for sharing. Very cool!


Jeffrey Keeten Christopher wrote: "IN COLD BLOOD is one of the basic books of my life, and has been for the past 25 years. I still remember having strange uneasy dreams the night I finished it, and feeling numb for part of the next ..."

Thanks Christopher! This is definitely a book that gets under the skin. I had several noir inspired dreams after reading this book. One night when I was reading it late at night I just suddenly stood up and checked all the doors one more time.

I found out after I had written this review that Mr. Clutter had been one of the original investors in High Plains Journal in Dodge City where I work. The publisher at the time, Joe Berkeley, was interviewed and added to the suspect list. He is still alive and does stop by the Journal occasionally when he is in town. You can bet I will be asking him a few questions.

Thanks for the info on Capote's other work. I will certainly be reading more.


« previous 1 3 4
back to top