When first reading this book’s title, I thought this Truman Capote’s non-fiction story would cover about cold blooded murderer(s). In a way it was, but it was not only about murder and murderer(s); more than that, this book reminds me of how human can be cold blooded in everyday life. In short, you don’t have to kill someone to be cold blooded.
Capote wrote this story from a true case happened in a small town called Holcomb in Kansas in 1959. Two paroled ex-convicts murdered Herbert Clutter—a successful farmer—with his wife, a son and a daughter. A friend in jail has told one of the murderers—Richard Hickock—that he had once worked with Clutter family, a wealthy farmer who kept a safety box in the house. The friend told him all the details of the house, and using this, Dick invited Perry Smith—another ex-convict—to join him in a robbery plan.
When Capote heard about this murder, he went to Kansas to do interviews and researches about the case, helped by his childhood friend, author Harper Lee. Capote then wrote the story by revealing little by little every small detail of both Clutters and the murderers-to-be, simultaneously. This is one aspect that made this book very interesting. Unlike any other crime novels, you’d from the beginning who would be the victims and who would be the killers. The only question would be the motive; as from the beginning you would see that the victims and the killers didn’t have any relation whatsoever.
This detail revealing of the lives of each characters intensified my emotional involve of the story. The Clutters—especially Nancy the daughter—has had a wonderful life, full of hopes. And they all must endure a horrified experience before they were killed. I could sense how unfair it was, that you have done many good things in life and were, perhaps, about to harvest the fruits, then suddenly two robbers entered your house and killed you almost out of nothing, knowing that all your beloved ones were killed or about to be killed too at the end. There’s hollowness there….
On the other hand, it was also troubling to read how ordinary and innocent little boys could have transformed into cold blooded killers. And this part is actually the most interesting of all. Here Capote took us to realize that a cold blood killer hasn’t grown up by himself; he was created by a complex collaboration of parents, friends, relatives, neighbors, educational and religious institutions, and most of all, society. In short, all of us have our shares of responsibility in building the humanity.
Human’s mind is probably the most complicated thing in the world. Every information, sense and experience that one receives during the whole life would be kept in mind, and each combination of them would give different results. Only by breaking down one’s history of life, we can understand one’s thoughts and impulses. It’s easy to stick a ‘cold blood’ label to a killer, but it would be much more difficult to understand why he has no feeling at all while committed the murder. If a cold blood killer is a product of humanity, then we could not put the blame only on the killer, but everyone who had been related to him.
Then again, from this story, I was amazed at how easy people put death penalty verdict to the killers. People always want to take a shortcut to be released from their problems: ‘There are cold blooded killers over here, fine, just put them in death penalty, and there would be two less dangers in our neighborhood’—case closed. Do they realize, that by sentencing the death penalty, they have become cold blooded killers themselves? The only difference between Dick Hickock-Perry Smith and people in the judiciary is, that Dick and Perry committed the murder against law, while the others did it legally by the law.
In the end, an interesting question must be asked after reading this book, who is the real victim here? I must say that both the Clutters and the killers were all victims. The first were killed by the killers; the later were killed by the systems.
Four and a half stars I granted this book—I read the Indonesian translation, and despite of the good writing from Capote, the translation is poor, and this is really annoying.
I read Bentang Pustaka-Indonesian translated version
This book is counted for:
Baca Bareng BBI 2013: (May - 20th or 21st century classics)
8th book for 2013 TBR Pile Challenge
3rd book for 2013 TBRR Pile Mystery Reading Challenge
55th book for 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
6th book for New Authors Reading Challenge 2013
44th book for The Classics Club