Recently I read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. One of the reviewers said Midnight was as good or maybe better than In Cold Blood. I felt rather silly since I’ve never read Capote’s book. I was surprised that this work is on my 1001 list since most of the books are fiction, but hey, who cares. Many refer to this book as a non-fiction novel, which is a genre that mixes historical facts and events with fabricated accusations. Either way it works for me. One more off the 1001 list!
In Cold Blood, published in 1966, recounts the vicious murder of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. The murder occurred in 1959. Before the killers were arrested Truman Capote was already fascinated by the event. When he heard of the incident he headed to Kansas to write about the crime. Nelle Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, joined him. They interviewed the residents and those involved in the investigation. Six weeks after the murders, the killers were arrested. I’ve heard that Capote’s notes fills thousands of pages. It shows in the book. Capote didn’t rush his book and finished it six years after that horrible night in Holcomb.
What I liked about Midnight was the quirky residents of Savannah. So when I started In Cold Blood I thought I would be disappointed. I don’t associate Kansas with quirky. I could be wrong. I’ve only driven through the state once so I’m not too familiar with it. However, since I hadn’t read Capote’s book I thought now’s as good a time as any. What I didn’t expect was to be hooked from the first page. The first day I picked up the book was a Sunday. I zipped through 100 pages. Unfortunately my reading during the work week is limited so it took me another week to finish the book. I was reading it whenever I got the chance, including the bathroom. I was right, I didn’t meet too many, if any, quirky characters. But the murder and the days after were almost hypnotic. I can’t imagine the fear the family felt. And then the manhunt. Even though I knew the police actually apprehended the killers, I thought for sure they wouldn’t catch them when I was reading the book.
And I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that this happened in Kansas in the fifties. Too often we hear about senseless murders now. But to think that the killers massacred a family in 1959 is hard to fathom. When I think of this era I think of “I Love Lucy” and “Leave it to Beaver.” I don’t think of quadruple murders in the Mid-West.
The killers, Richard “Dick” Hickock and Perry Edward Smith, drove me batty. Sometimes I felt sorry for them. Other times I thought hey maybe they didn’t do it, they seem kinda nice. Other times I hated them. It goes to show that you never know about the people you meet in this world. That’s terrifying.
I didn’t expect to enjoy this book. But I did. His writing is superb and the story is captivating. But after reading this and A Clockwork Orange before it I need a break from murders. Currently I’m reading Madame Bovary and those characters are giving me fits.
Before I go I want to give a shout out to Empty Nest, Full Stomachs. This blog chronicles the cooking adventures of two single mothers. They have been friends for more than 20 years. Since the kids are in college they are spending time together cooking fabulous meals. And they try to make all of their own stuff from scratch. I have learned much from them, including how to bid at a produce market. I didn’t know they had produce markets with an auctioneers. How cool is that!
Yesterday I popped over to their blog to see what they have been up to and I was surprised to see that they had written a post titled: Congratulations from the Empty Nest . They mentioned my blog, the 50 Year Project and the fact that I published my first novel. It was so sweet and thoughtful. Word of mouth is crucial for every writer. Seriously, every review, blog post, mention, and smoke signal (please don’t burn anything down) about the book helps me tremendously. Denise and Sandy thank you very much.