In Cold Blood In Cold Blood discussion


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How guilty was Hickock?

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Patricia Do you really believe he didn't have anything to do with the actual killing? I couldn't decide.


Samantha I think Capote had less sympathy for Hickock than the man who actually shot the weapons. I think it's hard not to be swayed by Capote's great writing and the side he took. However, if I try to take away that bias by the author, I still feel Hickock got the punishment he deserved. It was guts, not moral responsibility, that prevented him from firing his shotgun. There's at least no evidence to suggest otherwise.


Benoit Lelièvre I think they were both criminal scum and if anything, Smith was more dangerous and unstable and Hickock was the most criminal minded of the two. He planned the whole thing and if I remember well, he proposed to eliminate the victims.

Anyway, great read. My favorite of 2010. Read it in 24h while traveling back from Argentina to Canada. Made the flight and the layovers less tedious.


message 4: by Ana (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ana I think that if you're present during a brutal murder and your intention is on robbing a family, you're still responsible for the deaths. Plus, if he's up to raping a girl to satisfy his own urges, why wouldn't he be willing to kill people in order to take their money? He could have stopped Smith from firing, like Smith stopped him from raping 16 year old Nancy Clutter.


message 5: by Chris (last edited May 21, 2011 08:36AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chris Stanley I couldn't resist reading this book when it was assigned to my daughter as part of her AS level in English Literature. One of the exam questions was; Explore the third personality that was "Hiscock and Smith". The argument being that neither would have committed the crimes/murders without the other. An interesting point?!


David You should be glad that the USA has laws linking crimes where death occurs. Here in Australia, if somebody is killed in a crime, the prosecution has to prove it was intentional.
The defense can shoot holes in any argument of prosecution,so almost nobody gets prosecuted for murder. Liberal views try to say everybody is innocent.
If people decide to break the law, and people are killed in the process, it's always a type of murder.


Samantha Chris wrote: "I couldn't resist reading this book when it was assigned to my daughter as part of her AS level in English Literature. One of the exam questions was; Explore the third personality that was "Hiscock..."

That is interesting!! How did she do on the exam? :)


Chris Stanley She only sat it last week, and will get the results early August. Another question was about the effects of LOVE in their lives. I thinks that's a tougher question!


Samantha Chris wrote: "She only sat it last week, and will get the results early August. Another question was about the effects of LOVE in their lives. I thinks that's a tougher question!"

If you remember please share (unless she doesn't want it shared). I'd be interested in reading her responses to both questions. If memory serves me, both men were loved. One less traditionally than the other but I suppose Smith felt unloved...right?


Chris Stanley She will create an account and post here soon. But like many teenagers is having a weekend sleep! What it is to be 17!


Larry Moniz David wrote: "You should be glad that the USA has laws linking crimes where death occurs. Here in Australia, if somebody is killed in a crime, the prosecution has to prove it was intentional.
The defense can sh..."


Interesting points to which I'll add that victims are even more vulnerable since your country outlawed private firearm ownership. Glad I don't live there. From what you're saying, would a burglar who was shot in the commission of an intrusion be found not guilty because a homeowner shot the burglar? And, would the person defending his/her home be more at risk for prosecution than the burglar. That might actually be an interesting premise for a novel or short story. :-)


David I'm not an expert in Australian law, but like most places, money buys innocence.
If someone can prove they were under life threat from burglar, self defence is "permissible", still a trial for manslaughter. The term is "proportional response", so people can't just blast away at someone, like USA, for being on their property without permission.
If statistics interest you maybe have a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_...
USA is in top ten, but check out South Africa No.1. Heavy stuff going on there, way more than USA.
Australia is in top 30 countries, so it's complex comparing laws of similar Deaths per fire arm countries. I just hope you never have to use gun to defend yourself or family. Deep doo-doo whichever way that pans out. Cheers


Jennifer Samantha wrote: "I think Capote had less sympathy for Hickock than the man who actually shot the weapons. I think it's hard not to be swayed by Capote's great writing and the side he took. However, if I try to take..."


Well stated. I believe Hickock was equally guilty even if he didn't pull the trigger.


Joanne Guilty as the day is long, and I'm talking about a summer day in the northwest.


message 15: by Meb (new) - rated it 4 stars

Meb Bryant GUILTY! Whether it's murder or the rape of a child, the crime is heinous and deserves capital punishment. Hang them all.

Although I read this book years ago, it still haunts me. Capote's ability to bring the reader into the Clutter's horror speaks volumes of his talents.


Stevi This book was really the first popular "true crime" book of the day and it was chilling to read. According to the bio pics on Capote, it implies he may have had some strong emotional attachment to Smith.

Another excellent book of the same genre is The Executioners Song by Norman Mailer- a very compelling read.


Joanne Norman Mailer romanticized Jack Henry Abbott, who had no ability to live outside prison walls in a way that could keep society safe. Much too dangerous a pet for Mailer to show off at his literary parties.
He did write some powerful letters though.


Elicia Clegg If I can remember right Hickock was the (SPOIILER) man that didn't want to rape the girl...I this he was part of the entire murder...but I don't like to think he should have been killed. Killing for killing...not sure I like it. the murders were crap, I can't believe they did what they did and think they were both guilty, either one had the strength to stop the other.


message 19: by Stephen (last edited Jul 08, 2013 11:30PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Stephen I don't like to use words like guilty because of all the variation in nuance that the word carries with it.

In the sense that a jury made a finding of fact that he was responsible for the killings and should be punished, I completely agree.

As to the death penalty, while I'm not a fan of it today, I think that, in his case, at that time, it was the correct verdict and the correct sentence.

However, there is a small part of me that wonders about how folks say that Dick really only changed after the head trauma that he sustained in a car accident and that bit about a piece of glass working its way out of his head makes me wonder a bit. Has anyone else hear of Phineas Gage?

here's a link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phineas_...

I'm not sure why we don't execute the insane if we are going to execute people at all. If the death penalty is all about the economics of keeping people locked up for life, that's one thing. But if it's about morality and punishment, shouldn't we leave that to a higher power?

Btw... I'm completely against the death penalty in the present day. The cost of all the hearings and proceedings have been found to far exceed the cost of incarcerating someone with life with no parole. Plus we've somehow gotten away from having a justice system to having a legal system in this country.

While prosecutors are often-times promoted based on how many guilty please they get and it's so politically easy to smear someone with the "soft on crime" Justice is seldom the only goal of the trial system anymore. I'm uneasy with society making life and death decisions like this with so much in play.

Check this list. It's a bit sobering
http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/innoc...

Now for the really ghoulish part of this argument. If we must execute people, why not just anesthetize them and make them very generous organ donors. It's ceratinly not any more cruel than what we currently do (although it would be unusual) At least some good would come from the killing.


message 20: by One (new) - rated it 5 stars

One Flew Hickock certainly deserved the death penalty. I don't see how you read In Cold Blood and not come to that conclusion. I'm an advocate of the death penalty, if we can remove highly undesirable people from society then great. It's not like we have a shortage of people, why not get rid of the lowest of the low.


Stephen Ok... (slowly backing away)

You did see the part where I said I think that, in his case, at that time, it was the correct verdict and the correct sentence.


message 22: by One (last edited Jul 09, 2013 12:17AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

One Flew Yeah i'm not knocking what you had to say, I meant that I don't see how 'anyone' could read In Cold Blood and not come to that conclusion, it wasn't directed at you in particular. I'm just giving my opinion which is pro capital punishment.


Thomas Paul So let me ask you this question... If you were in a room with a family and you had a gun and someone else in that room pulled out a gun, told you that they were going to kill that family, and instead of stopping the murderer you held your gun on the family and told them not to move would you be guilty of murder? I certainly think you would be.


message 24: by Kressel (last edited Aug 12, 2013 11:33AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kressel Housman It's interesting to see The Executioner's Song mentioned on this thread. I've never read it, but I just read about it in the book I'm currently reading, The Psychopath Test. Evidently, Norman Mailer was quite taken in by the psychopathic killer he portrayed, and I imagine the same thing happened between Truman Capote and Perry Smith. Smith comes across as the more sympathetic of the two killers, but the verdict pronounced him a psychopath, so perhaps he was not the sensitive tortured soul Capote portrayed him as.

I recommend The Psychopath Test to anyone interested in this topic.


message 25: by One (new) - rated it 5 stars

One Flew I would highly recommend 'The Executioner's Song', it's equal in depth and quality to 'In Cold Blood'. I'm not sure how sympathetic Mailer really was to Gary Gilmore (the killer from Executioner's Song), he is portrayed throughout the book as interesting human being, but also a callous, self absorbed psychopath.

As for Thomas' question of whether defending your family is murder... I'm not sure what you're driving at. Yes it would be murder, but it would be entirely justified. It isn't even comparable to the senseless murders committed by Perry, Hickcock or Gilmore.


Kressel Housman One wrote: "I'm not sure how sympathetic Mailer really was to Gary Gilmore (the killer from Executioner's Song), he is portrayed throughout the book as interesting human being, but also a callous, self absorbed psychopath."

If I understood correctly, according to The Psychopath Test, Norman Mailer became quite charmed with his subject and introduced him to New York literati after the book was published. Psychopaths are known to be charming.


Thomas Paul I think you misread my question. I wasn't asking about defending your family. I was asking about the person who is the partner of the killer who doesn't do the killing but does nothing to stop the killing.


Joanne Jack Henry Abbott was a pet of Mailer's, and should never have been loose on the streets, no matter how much Mailer intervened for his freedom.


message 29: by One (new) - rated it 5 stars

One Flew Ah, Abbott wasn't the person portrayed in 'The Executioner's Song', that was Gilmore. Though both men seem to have a fair degree of similarity. Also, sorry misunderstanding your question Thomas.


Joanne One wrote: "Ah, Abbott wasn't the person portrayed in 'The Executioner's Song', that was Gilmore. Though both men seem to have a fair degree of similarity. Also, sorry misunderstanding your question Thomas."
Right, I was just taken by the similarity.


Janis Mills I read the "Executioner's Song" and have always felt that Gilmore was asking for "assisted suicide". I think that his every action leading to that shooting was deliberately planned. Hickock and Smith certainly deserved execution however I don't think they were thinking ahead to the outcome of their actions. They both thought they were going to get away with it. I think the 5th victim of Hickock and Smith was Capote His befriending the two of them led to his own death by alcohol and drugs. Maybe he could not stand the fact that his book would be a bestseller only if Smith and Hickock were executed. It's hard to speculate but Harper Lee and Capote parted ways during the writing of "In Cold Blood". Maybe she was aware of what Capote was doing and repelled.
I do know that "In Cold Blood" destroyed Capote.

. His pedon presnell wrote: "the nonfiction novels,In Cold Blood, by Capote, and
The Executioners Song by Mailer,
have both fasinated me and ive readboth many times
i remember where i was when i heard Gary Gilmore
had been ex..."



Anthony Janis wrote: "I read the "Executioner's Song" and have always felt that Gilmore was asking for "assisted suicide". I think that his every action leading to that shooting was deliberately planned. Hickock and Sm..."

Good points. I also agree that "In Cold Blood" destroyed Capote and in some ways affected Harper Lee and writing.


Kressel Housman Anthony wrote: "Good points. I also agree that "In Cold Blood" destroyed Capote and in some ways affected Harper Lee and writing."

Do you mean to say that his downhill spiral is what stopped her from writing more? It's an interesting theory, and it may have been a factor, but I'm more inclined to believe the statements she made: "I said what I wanted to say."


Janis Mills I think that Capote's ruthlessness (the only way for the book to be a bestseller would be the execution) may have repelled Harper Lee. I am just guessing of course and armchair psychology is not good but maybe Harper Lee thought that the price was just too high. A bestseller does necessarily bring fame but maybe instead of selling of the soul. Who knows -- it's all just speculation.


Charles Moore How guilty was Hickock? Guilty enough, I suppose. Guilt and innocence and legal and law are all kind of vague terms as they should be. That's what the jury helps to decide but even juries don't answer those questions all the time for everyone else.

I found In Cold Blood to be really interesting. We probably should also remind ourselves that things were a bit different in 1959-60.


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