EVERYONE Has Read This but Me - The Catch-Up Book Club discussion

In Cold Blood
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CLASSICS READS > In Cold Blood (classic read) — *SPOILERS*

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message 1: by Joanna Loves Reading (last edited Aug 03, 2018 04:51AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joanna Loves Reading (joannalovesreading) | 1117 comments Mod
This discussion is for the August ‘18 Classics Group Read

The book selected is In Cold Blood

*Spoilers Allowed*


Joanna Loves Reading (joannalovesreading) | 1117 comments Mod
Will update when Book is selected!


Renee (elenarenee) I have to admit this confuses me. Is the book selected or not?


Joanna Loves Reading (joannalovesreading) | 1117 comments Mod
Renee wrote: "I have to admit this confuses me. Is the book selected or not?"

NOT YET! Sorry! The voting is still on-going so the book selection may change. I got off by a day and announced this the winner and created threads prematurely, fyi. So I just left it in as a placeholder. Same goes for the other thread.


Joanna Loves Reading (joannalovesreading) | 1117 comments Mod
Ok, the final result didn't change and In Cold Blood is still the selection.


Tori | 769 comments Mod
I just got done reading this. (I happened to already reading it when the voting started) I really like reading true crime and it was interesting reading it in novel-style. I liked it a lot! I thought the part where he explains how the murders took place was scarier then a typical true crime story because of this style. It seemed like most of what Capote wrote was from Perry Smith's perspective. I haven't watched the movie, but is there a reason for this? Did Dick Hickock just not want to do interviews?


Honore | 166 comments All of the pages leading up to the bodies being found really reads like a wonderful novel, rather than non-fiction.


Joanna Loves Reading (joannalovesreading) | 1117 comments Mod
Tori wrote: "I just got done reading this. (I happened to already reading it when the voting started) I really like reading true crime and it was interesting reading it in novel-style. I liked it a lot! I thoug..."

I believe Capote felt an affinity with Smith. I have not seen Infamous, but I recall it being mentioned in the movie Capote. I think he also trusted his version of events more than Hickock’s, but it may be that he didn’t want to do interviews also.


message 9: by NancyJ (last edited Aug 23, 2018 01:54PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 536 comments Joanna Loves Reading wrote: "Tori wrote: "I just got done reading this. (I happened to already reading it when the voting started) I really like reading true crime and it was interesting reading it in novel-style. I liked it a..."

Affinity is a nice word for it. Capote's friends reportedly joked that he was in love with Smith. There were also mean spirited rumors about the fact that Capote was allowed to meet privately with the men.

Capote told the men he was trying to make them appear more sympathetic, but I don't think he really helped them in any way. He was unwilling to publish the book without a good ending, and it was thought that he was impatient for the executions, so he'd have an ending to the story. I think Capote exploited the men rather than help them.


Cassie (cwalters-shantal) | 28 comments I just finished reading this book. I was supposed to have read it a few years ago in a creative nonfiction course in college, but I actually had to drop the course prior to reading the book. I owned it regardless and was looking forward to getting to make my way through my personal shelf.

I will preface my statement by saying that I have not yet watched any documentaries regarding this situation, but I intend to (I currently have Capote on hold at my local library). I may post here again after I finish watching.

Regarding the book as a whole, I can see how it is considered a masterpiece. The amount of time and attention to detail that Truman Capote put into this book is unmatched. As others here have put it, it reads like a fiction novel, as opposed to true crime. I can see why this book was included as a part of a creative nonfiction course, as I think students can take a lot from the language, writing style, and project devotion. I especially wish to comment on the structure– the going back and fourth between character plots. I thought this kept the story interesting and added to a sense of simultaneous action.

Where it falls short for me, however, is in those said details. There was absolutely so much included that it made wading through the book seem like a chore. I actually started the book 12 days ago, and just now finished and not because I'm a slow reader, but rather I wasn't enthralled enough to continue to pick up the book. The story was interesting, don't get me wrong, but because of the seemingly unnecessary amount of detail, I found myself at the end of pages without having read a single word, and having to go back.

In regards to that detail, we should then be thinking about how much of this book is truly non-fiction. I will probably learn more in Capote, but just looking at the book, one can assume it was written entirely from interviews. With that being said, especially regarding the beginning scenes with the Clutter family alive, how much of it was created for the sake of the novel? And who knows if the scenes prior to Perry and Dick's capture were accurate? I, personally, would not have minded the story to contain less detail, and therefore be easier to wade through, and presumably then being more accurate.

The next thing I would like to discuss would be the portrayal of the killers. While reading, and I assume this was intentional on Capote's part, I felt more sympathy to the killers, specifically Perry, than even the Clutter's themselves. While, like many other people, I find myself interested in people who commit crimes of these nature, I don't feel like that was the reason for this favoring. A considerable amount of more time was spent covering these men than the family, and frankly, the family being put over as essentially perfect in every way made them more unlikable. All in all, I'm not saying anything good or bad regarding how I felt toward the characters or how they were portrayed, but I am curious as to how the citizens of Holcomb reacted to this book on its release and whether or not they felt it was a fair account.

I would probably rate this book 3.5/5. Again, I can see how it is a master work, but frankly, it isn't quite as captivating as it could be. I am happy I read it, however, and may employ some of Capote's techniques into my own writing. Regarding recommending it to others, I would be very selective on that front. In general, I would only recommend it to those either very passionate about true crime, to those of upper-intelligence as the language can be quite advanced, and/or only to a very experienced reader who can remain attentive to a book saturated with detail. I absolutely would not recommend this book to a very casual reader.

I am curious to see what the rest of you thought and your takes on some of the points I brought up. Like I said before, I may post again after watching Capote, and certainly plan to continue to check up on this thread and continue the discussion.

Now, onto The Alchemist.


message 11: by NancyJ (last edited Aug 23, 2018 04:04PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 536 comments Cassie, I felt the same way about it. The amount of detail was amazing in that it reminded you that this really happened. But for me, the content didn't warrant that much detail. I should mention that I am not a big fan of true crime stories.* I don't usually want too many details about the crime. Sometimes I'm more interested in knowing WHY it happened, or in the detective story of how it was solved. I suppose that might be why so many people are more interested in reading about murderers than victims.

I think the reason you can feel more sympathy for the murderers than the victims, is because Capote helped you to get to know them better, see their vulnerability, and maybe see the world through their eyes.** That stimulates our empathy. He spent a lot of time with the murderers, to get details, and to try to answer the why question. He couldn't meet the family, and he didn't spend as much time finding out about them. Their lives seem boring to us because they were boring to him. (His life was full of glamorous parties, rich socialites, gay men, and witty banter.)

If this book came out today, I wonder if it would even get a chance to gain critical acclaim or to become a best seller. The great writing might not matter if people weren't interested enough in the case to bother reading it. The market is full of more sensational stories (even on Dateline), and stories that are more important.

We're also a lot fussier now about what we call non-fiction. When a writer makes up dialogue between people, he's fictionalizing the story. This is a big issue in memoirs and biographies.

*Surprisingly, one of the best books I read this year happened to be an historical true crime. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. It's a fascinating book, and I think everyone should know this story. The author made me care about the victims and the broader implications for any multi-cultural society.

** As a writer, you might be interested in looking at the subtle ways authors increase (or decrease) our sympathy for a character. Some authors do this better than others, and of course many authors keep us at a distance from characters that they are portraying as a villain (knowingly or unconsciously). For example, in Little Fires Everywhere, the author distanced us from the mother in some subtle ways (e.g. calling her Mrs. Richardson rather than by her first name), and made it easier for us to see her as the villain. (You can read in the comments that it worked.)


Kerri | 700 comments I stayed up late last night to finish this book as once I got to that final section I just had to finish it. I have never read any true crime books before so this was a new experience and I enjoyed it! Kind of...like, it was a horrible event, but it was told in such a mesmerizing way.

I found the details fascinating. The amount of time and effort Capote put into his research seems mind-boggling to me. I have never seen any of the movies, so maybe that would let me know it is not quite as much as I am imagining. But, it is still a Lot of work. And then to bring it all into a story like this with multiple story lines and narratives, showing the different perspectives, motives, reactions, everything. I thought it was amazingly done.

I think it is harder to comment on the personalities and actions of real people than fictional, because it is all still based on the author's portrayal but for a real person, there is so much more than that one view. The author has an agenda, an idea, a motive behind how he paints a person. I did not like Perry or Dick. They put themselves down this twisted proverbial rabbit-hole of doom and they deserved what they got. They were headed on the road of self-destruction for a long, long time, for different reasons and in different ways, and finally reached it.

They were both caught in these angry, bitter, pity-parties for themselves (I couldn't go to college, I don't have the life I want and despite never actually putting any effort into getting it that makes me mad, I was abused, the whole world sucks, etc.) A LOT of people have these same complaints but they don't go around killing people! Perry being a likely untreated paranoid schizophrenic does make him more sympathetic as he had so many barriers to overcome with no help. But I definitely feel better knowing he died.

I felt that pretty much the book after they were convicted kind of just...marked time for awhile. Introduced some new characters because they were there in real life and no other reason, and kind of stalled until the execution. Maybe Capote did that intentionally to recreate the sense of limbo Perry and Dick were caught within, that sense of spinning wheels uselessly, of the slow march of time that melds day to night to day and the deafening monotony. It seemed odd to me though, after the tone of the rest of the book. The very last bit with the KBI agent and Sue at the graveyard was like a weird epilogue type of section, but as someone said above it did give a sense of closure to the whole thing. And after thinking about it, it gave the hopeful resolution that no matter what happens, time moves forward, life moves on, wounds heal and people grow if they let themselves.


message 13: by Jiffy (new)

Jiffy | 12 comments Kerri wrote: "I stayed up late last night to finish this book as once I got to that final section I just had to finish it. I have never read any true crime books before so this was a new experience and I enjoyed..."

Capote certainly did do a lot of research for this book, but so did Harper Lee. She was a friend of his since childhood and she went with him to Holcomb, Kansas, to help gather information. She was a huge asset to him because the Kansans trusted her before they trusted him. She never got any credit for what she did, but it appears that she played a vital role in the research.


Kerri | 700 comments Jiffy wrote: "Kerri wrote: "I stayed up late last night to finish this book as once I got to that final section I just had to finish it. I have never read any true crime books before so this was a new experience..."

Thank you for sharing Jiffy, that is really cool! I had heard that they were childhood friends (and that Dill in TKAM was based off of Capote?) but I didn't know she had helped him like this.


message 15: by NancyJ (last edited Aug 23, 2018 10:52PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 536 comments Jiffy wrote: "Kerri wrote: "I stayed up late last night to finish this book as once I got to that final section I just had to finish it. I have never read any true crime books before so this was a new experience..."

I don't recall if he acknowledged her in the book, but a lot of people knew she had helped. I hope he did! She had to smooth the way for him because his loud and flamboyant style didn't sit well with the residents. She was more polite and soft-spoken. She had just finished writing To Kill a Mockingbird when she helped him with his research. Her book was published shortly thereafter, was an immediate best seller, won a Pulitzer Prize, and was made into a hit movie.

Capote was hoping he would also win a Pulitzer but he had to wait several (6?) years to publish his book to get his time in the sun. (That's one reason he expressed so much impatience about the executions. He was the type of person who said exactly what he was thinking.) His book was also made into a movie, but he was very disappointed that he didn't win a Pulitzer too. He and Harper Lee were childhood friends, and he was competitive by nature, so it had to be tough for him. It's pretty amazing that two of the most famous authors of that time had once lived in the same tiny little southern town.

It would be really hard for anyone to compete with To Kill a Mockingbird. It's still one of the most well known and beloved novels of the 20th century. I'm rooting for it to win the Great American Read. It's in the top 40 now. (Vote for your favorites.)


message 16: by NancyJ (last edited Aug 23, 2018 11:09PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 536 comments Kerri wrote: "Jiffy wrote: "Kerri wrote: "...(and that Dill in TKAM was based off of Capote. ..."

Yes, isn't that cool? I never heard if he approved of the casting for Dill or not. He didn't live there full-time. His childhood was a lot less stable than hers. I think even in TKAM he made up different stories about his father at different times.

I really enjoyed the movies about him, Capote and Infamous. I thought they were both good, and showed different parts of his story.


message 17: by aPriL does feral sometimes (last edited Aug 27, 2018 10:45PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) | 545 comments I have read several of Capote’s novels and short stories and I love him as an author because his writing is so gorgeous while yet he exposes the True underside of human behavior in all of its vivid actuality.

However he was someone who liked drama, so he intentionally. cranked up the volume in minor personal disputes, and he had a voyeur’s instinctive liking for seeing and exposing whatever people hid under rocks, no matter what the secret was or its importance. He also appeared to dislike the euphemisms people use to disguise ugly nastiness, so when he was required to use euphemisms in articles by editors or cultural expectations, it seemed to challenge him, by what I read. He would spread more detailed whispers and gossip at parties when he only hinted at secrets in some of his not-totally-fictional fictional stories. As he got older, he became more vicious from what his enemies said in articles I read in women’s magazines in the 1970’s, if memory serves. He was helped too by the disappearance of caution in magazine publishing from the early 1960’s to the late 1970’s. Feuds went from being hinted at to being openly quoted, in my memory of this time period. Of course, it turned out he was a very sick man because of his vices of drinking and drug abuse. His stories seem to reflect a fascination with how people hide their bad behavior under public customs, like drinking heavily at parties or using their money or job to cause people fear and obedience.

When I read this book, I think all of what I wrote above played into his interests. He could have his salacious cake and eat it too. He could disturb people while sticking to the Truth, and piss off those readers with pious tendencies while doing it, by writing a well-researched gory murder of a proper conservative family. He loved doing stuff like this. Criminality mirrored his own secret desire for revenge against piety.


NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 536 comments aPriL does feral sometimes wrote: "I have read several of Capote’s novels and short stories and I love him as an author because his writing is so gorgeous while yet he exposes the True underside of human behavior in all of its vivid..."

"He could have his salacious cake and eat it too>"
"Criminality mirrored his own secret desire for revenge against piety."

Well said. He was judged all his life for his voice, his dramatic demeanor, his family, his sexual orientation, etc. If we can believe the films, he sought to shock the Kansas residents with his clothing and behavior. He believed in getting out in front of things.


Tanya (tanyarwts) | 8 comments I just finished this novel. It was good, but it really don't feel it holds up well. While true crime may have been a newer genre back then, there is so much true crime now (tv shows, movies, books). The Clutter case isn't all that interesting compared to the types of stories you see now. It was a very simple murder, two very average criminals, it was solved very quickly (only a few weeks! and they were caught quickly as well!), and the case only lasted 2 weeks I think? It's obvious Capote embellished some details to make it more interesting and he did a decent job with the source material, but there are so many more interesting cases. Also the psychology in this just didn't hold up, which is an aspect of true crime I usually enjoy. Criminal psychology wasn't very advanced in the 50s/60s so it felt like the perspective on the criminals was constantly off.

To others points, Capote was obviously overly sympathetic to Perry Smith. But the person I felt the worst for were Hickock's parents. My god, I could have a read an entire book about them and their struggle with this. Smith's family had the good sense to cut him loose.


Charley Girl (charleygirl9) | 88 comments I finished it and I liked it but I was a bit bored by the end. I thought it was very sympathetic to Perry and Dick. Dick's parents were definitely heartbreaking. I felt for Nancy's boyfriend too. I thought there would be more on the two older sisters than there was.


Carly I finished it several days ago and thought it got better towards the middle and end. After the initial build up, it faltered a little for me and then retook my attention again. Of course, knowing I was heading to read something else afterwards spurred me on somewhat, but I digress.


In short, I wish there were more true tales written in this manner.


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