I recently watched the movie "Capote
" which starred Philip Seymour Hoffman (Hoffman won the Academy Award for his role) as Capote in a very riveting telling of how in 1959 he heard of a vicious killing of a farm family in Kansas and decided to write a book about the case.
Capote's childhood friend, Harper Lee (author of To Kill a Mockingbird) accompanied Capote to Kansas and helped him with his notes and research. Killers Richard Hickock and Perry Smith were arrested six weeks after the murders and later executed by the state of Kansas. After six years of research and interviews, Capote published his masterpiece, "In Cold Blood."
The movie motivated me to read "In Cold Blood" even though I had seen the movie version starring Robert Blake years ago and I also remembered reading part of the novel when I was in high school in the 1960s. In Cold Blood is considered by many to be the first nonfiction novel written and it is "the second-best-selling true-crime book in history, behind Vincent Bugliosi's Helter Skelter" about the Manson murders.
The novel is laid out in four parts telling what happened before the murders and their discovery, questions about who could have killed them, the arrest of the murderers, and the subsequent trial and execution. Capote is a masterful writer and his prose really gets the reader into the story. He shifts between what happened in the small Kansas town of Holcomb to what happened with the killers before, during, and after the murders. Capote spent many hours interviewing the townspeople, the police and Kansas investigators, the killers themselves (especially Perry Smith), as well as family members of the victims and the killers. He was present at the trial, spent time at the prison where the killers were incarcerated, and witnessed the executions. This was really a compelling account of the events that happened in the small Kansas town as well as a psychological study of the killers and the townspeople, investigators, and family members of both the victims and killers. I would highly recommend this especially for anyone interested in true crime stories.
In Cold Blood has also been adapted into movies and even a TV miniseries. There is the 1967 movie starring Robert Blake
. This was a very disturbing adaptation that I remember seeing years ago. There is also a TV miniseries from 1996
. The copy of the book I read was a tie-in to this series which I now want to see. And of course, the movie Capote which tells of Capote's research and writing of the novel. Highly recommend Capote!