Tuesday, June 10, 2014

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Ah, Capote! Born, unbelievably, Truman Streckfus Persons in 1924 and so well characterised in the 2005 film Capote by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, he is most well known for Breakfast at Tiffany's (every girl's fave Hepburn movie) and In Cold Blood.

Described by Capote as a "nonfiction novel" and a modern "true crime" story, In Cold Blood retells the 1959 story of the murders of a Kansas family by Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, and their subsequent trial and execution. Capote uses the case to examine  American values in the 50s and 60s, but his main examination is of Hickock and Perry and what could have led them to such acts.

Capote is endlessly interesting. Born to a seventeen year old mother in 1924, his parents divorced when he was four and he was sent to relatives in Monroeville where he was a neighbour and friend of Harper Lee. His interest in trials possibly stemmed from his time in Monroeville where Lee's father was a lawyer and Capote and Lee went to trials frequently as children. At nine he went to live with his mother in New York with her second husband, Joseph Capote who adopted him and renamed him; Truman Garcia Capote. Writing seriously from the age of twelve "obsessed by it." Catapulted to fame with the publishing of Other Voices, Other Rooms the photo impressed twenty year old Andy Warhol who sent him fan letters.

Holly Golightly in Capote's 1958 Breakfast at Tiffany's became one of his best known creations. In Cold Blood was inspired by an article in The New York Times in November 1959. fascinated by the story, Capote traveled to the scene of the murder with Lee and spent the next four years researching for the novel. It became an international bestseller but was Capote's last novel. Controversy over its accuracy reminds us that it only ever was, and is now, a novel.

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