I had meant to post this last week, but with Blogger acting up I figured I’d wait until I was sure everything was fixed. This turned out to be an excellent idea, as a) Blogger ended up eating a couple of my posts and b) by waiting, I made it to the book club meeting for which I read this book AND we watched a companion movie. So I have lots to talk about!
So, the book. I’d been meaning to read this, oh, forever, so I’m glad the book club made me do it. Before reading it, though, I just knew it was an important book that people read, and also a true crime story, another thing I’ve never read. The reason it’s important is because it is a true crime story written as non-fiction but in the style of a novel, with people doing things and talking to each other and expositing their own story. This was apparently a very new thing, and the conceit does fall apart in places, like any time Capote includes an entire letter or confession or whatever that just goes on for pages and pages or when there are scenes where you know Capote had to be making some stuff up because he just couldn’t have that information.
The story itself is about the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas, who in 1959 were murdered quite unexpectedly and brutally in their own home. Capote’s novelization presents the murder and investigation in a really interesting manner, as the Clutters die fairly early on in the story and the rest of the book is spent first in figuring out the whodunnit and then in pondering about the whydunnit. The book jumps back and forth between the Kansas investigation and the murderers on the run until, of course, the two meet, and then there’s a bunch about jail and the trial, which is more intriguing than I originally thought it would be.
I quite liked this book even with its problems, and so did the rest of my book club, and after we talked about it we watched Infamous, which is a recent movie about Capote and how he managed to actually write this book. I thought it was a perfect complement to the book, as it’s structured similarly and touches on the unreliable narrator problems of In Cold Blood while taking its own liberties with Capote’s story. Brilliant, really. And it was really the unreliable narrator parts that intrigued me most — the movie brings up the fact that Capote never took notes during interviews, preferring to write things down with 99 percent accuracy later (mmhmm), and that he reworked “quotes” until they sounded better, which did not surprise me in the least. The movie even points to one bit of In Cold Blood that is just outright fabricated! I may need to go read the book that Infamous is based on.
Recommendation: For the Criminal Minds/Law and Order/other crime procedural lover in your life.