Classics Challenge 2016 #2 -February

Book 2, February’s book, for the 2016 Classics Challenge (join 400+ other people reading a classic each month of 2016!) is …..


“The crime was a psychological accident, virtually an impersonal act; the victims might as well have been killed by lightning.”

Written in 1966, Truman Capote called In Cold Blood the first “non-fiction novel”. Based on the true life murder of the Clutter family which took place in Holcomb, USA in November 1959, the book goes into huge detail about the investigation, capture, trial and finally the execution of the killers. The reconstruction of the murder is chilling and detailed – Capote was said to have made approximately 8,000 pages of research notes. Not only do you feel as if you knew the neighbours and friends of the victims, but you have a huge insight into the lives of the Clutter family and indeed the killers themselves.

In Cold Blood took me a long time to read. At times its pace was fast and captivating so that you wanted to go on reading to find out more. At other times it was slow and meandering and, it seemed to me, a little irrelevant in places.

With a “traditional” work of non-fiction you are presented with facts and allowed to make your own opinions about the subjects in that book. In this book Capote plays with your emotions. His clever imagery leads you to care for the family, despite their somewhat complicated life, and you are even left with some feelings of empathy for one of the killers.

In reading the book it is sometimes hard to remember that it is a true life story, not a work of fiction. It’s lack of sensationalism puts modern day journalism to shame. Presentation of the facts is key. Capote tries to get to the heart of the matter, to understand why the killers did what they did, in a cool, calm and detailed manner with no screaming headlines. It’s a book which seems to talk to you on a “normal” level rather than trying to grip you with hype and fabrication as we have come to expect from modern tabloid journalism.

It’s not a nice book. I can’t say I liked it. But there is something about it. Capote’s NEED to find out the details, to try to understand, to follow it from the very beginning to the very end is captivating. I’ve never read anything like it in the past and I’m not completely convinced that I’d like to in the future.