In Cold Blood, 1966

by Truman Capote

This non-fiction novel is a detailed account of the 1959 murders of four members of the Herbert Clutter family in the small farming community of Holcomb, Texas. Capote read about them in the New York times, and became interested in writing a detailed account of the story, and went to Holcomb with his friend Nelle Harper Lee, the writer of To Kill a Mockingbird, to help gain the confidence of the locals. His copious research consisted of 8000 pages of notes. After the criminals were found, tried, and convicted, Capote conducted personal interviews with both Smith and Hickock. Smith especially fascinated Capote; in the book he is portrayed as the more sensitive of the two killers.

Phillip K. Tompkins noted factual discrepancies in the book, after he traveled to Kansas and talked to some of the people whom Capote had interviewed:

Capote has, in short, achieved a work of art. He has told exceedingly well a tale of high terror in his own way. But, despite the brilliance of his self-publicizing efforts, he has made both a tactical and a moral error that will hurt him in the short run. By insisting that "every word" of his book is true he has made himself vulnerable to those readers who are prepared to examine seriously such a sweeping claim.

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