Here you can find “In Cold Blood” summary — a brief text on Truman Capote’s documental novel that is based on the story of real crime. Although we highly recommend dedicating some time to reading this exceptional book, we understand that you may not have enough time for it exactly now. So we hope that our summary will raise your interest and will inspire you to read the novel someday. 

Some Facts about “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote

To understand the novel, you need to know the context in which it was written. We know Truman Capote by his most popular book “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” but he is also the author of many other books. What’s so interesting about this one? Let’s see below: 

  1. In Cold Blood is based on real crime
  2. Truman Capote got to know about the crime before it was publicly reported
  3. He conducted his own investigation together with his friend, also a writer, Harper Lee
  4. His draft had more than 8000 pages
  5. Although Truman Capote was sure about the facts described in his book, the later investigations prove that real events were slightly different from those that the author described. 
  6. Truman Capote was among the pioneers of the True Crime genre as before detective stories were majorly based on authors’ fantasy, not real-life events.


“In Cold Blood” Book Summary

The novel is based on the events of 1959 that took place in a small village Holcomb in Kansas. This village was not different from many ones — people there had a peaceful life, working and spending time with their families. However, one day in November changed everything: that day, all members of the Clutter family were found dead in their house. The family consisted of four people — father, who was a highly respected man in the town, his wife, and two children, one of whom was already married. 


Police could not find any clues for several months: the father of the family did not have any enemies, while the very idea of crime was wild for the people in Holcomb. However, soon investigator Dewey disclosed the details of a robbery that went wrong. The criminals, Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, were not familiar with the family: they heard about $10,000 of cash in Clutter’s house from their peer in Kansas State Penitentiary. As they decided to continue their criminal life after being released from prison, Hickock and Smith decided to rob Clutter to get money for a living. 


However, it appeared that Clutter had almost nothing in cash: all the time, Herb Clutter used only cheques. Wrathful and confused, criminals started to argue about their future actions. Smith, who was more violent and impulsive than his friend, wanted to leave no witnesses and killed Herb by cutting his throat and shooting in his head. The rest of the family was also shot. Smith first claimed that he killed only father and son but was later convinced to be responsible for all four murderers. 


The narrative in the story is quite short: the act of killing was not the major idea as there was nothing specific about it. Instead, Truman Capote raised a bunch of serious questions about the nature and morality of the crime. First of all, he depicted Smith as a very strange man who was impulsive and aggressive, yet called everyone good people. He mentioned that he did not want to kill Clutter as he considered the latter a decent gentleman. At the same time, Smith also took responsibility for all four shots because he wished all good for Hickock’s mother, who, according to his words, was a very nice lady. It seemed crazy that such a man could kill the whole family just because he could not find anything to steal from their house. 


Another question was about the cold blood with which Smith killed the family. In the book, even his friend, Hickock is surprised by the way Perry deals with his victims as he acted totally consciously and confidently. This fact referred to the portrait of a “natural killer” and raised the question of whether some people are born this way. 


As Capote also describes trials and punishment for criminals, it is interesting to see how punishment solves the problem. Is capital punishment the only way to prevent such horrifying crimes in the future? Smith and Hickock were already imprisoned, so the idea of moral change in the penitentiary fails at this point. Moreover, can the punishment relieve the pain of victims’ close ones? Would they suffer less if the criminals are sentenced to death? In his investigation, Capote tries to find answers to these questions even though they may seem to have millions of possible options. 


Further Discussions of “In Cold Blood” 


Soon after the book was published, it became extremely popular. However, many critics also appeared, especially among those who participated in real events. Many of Capote’s interviewees claimed that the author misquoted them or portrayed them in the wrong way. Other people claimed that Capote added scenes and phrases that could not appear in the real life. Al Dewey, who was the main investigator of the case, told that some scenes were not accurate even though the book was generally pretty clear in facts. 


However, Dewey himself might not have been absolutely right. Sources claim that Dewey was not a perfect investigator, as Capote tried to depict him, as he believed in a totally different version. According to Dewey’s ideas, Clutter was murdered by someone from Holcomb, so the detective was not thinking outside the box. What surprises even more, later investigations even questioned whether Smith and Hickock had robbery as their motive. Nevertheless, some details of the story will never be verified, so it is impossible to define who was right. 


“In Cold Blood” as a Perfect Story for Analysis

We insist on reading this book and recommend choosing it for your analysis as it consists of a lot of questions that can be discussed in detail. You can write about the emergence of true crime stories concerning Capote or reflect on the nature of cruelty and crimes. Regardless of your choice, we can always help with your essay — just place the order with us and get your essay crafted according to your taste and ideas. Our promo code NEW10 will give a pleasant 10% discount for your first order.