Mugshots of the murderers: Dick Hickock (bottom) and Perry Smith (top). The two ex-cons and close friends had heard about a safe filled with money on a farm in Kansas from inmate Floyd Wells, who later confessed about the plan to police, and headed to Kansas to find their fortune. The farm was owned by Clutter family and Dick and Perry held the family member hostage, locked them in the bathroom, bound them, then shot them.
Dick had told Perry they would “leave no witnesses.” Despite Dick’s dangerous intentions, Perry confessed that he liked the family and didn’t want to hurt them.
The Tightly Wound Spring
The main conflict in this novel is the real-life murders of the Clutter family as the whole story revolves around it, including the prologue, beginning, middle, end, and epilogue. The story starts out with the introduction of setting and in-depth description of both the victims and perpetrators from each of their perspectives. The plot increases ambiguity and intensity with a build-up of dread and use of foreshadowing as the character begin to suspect that they are being watched from their home.
As the plot progresses, Nancy believes she is losing her mind (page 21) and suspected that her cat Boobs—LMFAO—had died of poisoning (page 56). She tells her BFF Susan Kidwell about sensing a previous presence and the smell of smoke after entering a room, but Susan believed it was ludicrous (page 21-22). However, after reflecting on the death of her cat, Nancy continued with her midnight beauty routine, chose her church clothes for the next morning, wrote in her diary then said her prayers before going to bed (page 56).
For teenage daughter Nancy Clutter, her father had been arguing with her about her boyfriend Bobby. Susan agreed that while they were in love, they had no future and that everything who change (page 20-21). Though Mr. Clutter liked Bobby, he suggested that Nancy discontinue seeing so much of Bobby because a current slow retreat would hurt less than an abrupt break-up later. The difference in their families religions—the Clutter family was Methodist with the Rupps were Roman Catholic—terminated any possibility of them marrying (page 8). Though Nancy was reasonable and hard not argued, she was torn between love for Bobby and loyalty towards her father, which caused many detectives working on the murder investigation to consider Bobby Rupp as a suspect (page 84).
The story goes on to follow Dick and Perry as they travel through Kansas City to Mexico while police in Holcomb, Kansas continue with their investigation of the unsolved murders. At the beginning of part three, Floyd Wells, an inmate at Kansas State Penitentiary who knew both the Clutters as well as their murderers, informs police in Holcomb about Dick and Perry’s robbery scheme. Dick and Perry ended up in Las Vegas, where they were captured, and put on trial where they confessed to the murders. After five years on death row, the partners in crime were executed by hanging on April 14, 1965.
The graves of the Clutter family members remain a consistent attraction for readers of “In Cold Blood.” A few hundred people visit the grave site each year.
A school photograph of the real Nancy Clutter, a 16-year-old victim of the Clutter family murders in 1959.
The Death of Innocence
Nancy Clutter is the town sweetheart and sixteen-year-old daughter of Herbert and Bonnie Clutter, who lives with her parents and fifteen-year-old brother Kenyon in Holcomb, Kansas. Nancy dates the school basketball hero, Bobby Rupp, whose signet ring she wears constantly, and is especially close with her brother Kenyon.
She is a straight-A student, class president, leader in the 4-H program and Young Methodists League, a skilled rider and musician who plays the piano and clarinet, and a county fair winner for baking and needlepoint. Nancy is sweet, innocent, caring, cheerful, organized, and pleasant—always assisting neighbors in baking a cherry pie or giving their children music lessons—an intelligent child who adored animals, who liked to read, cook, sew, dance, ride horseback—a popular, pretty, virginal girl who thought it fun to flirt but was nevertheless only truly in love with Bobby.
She is a lean, pretty, boyishly agile girl with short bobbed chestnut hair, a freckled soap-polished complexion, and wide darkly translucent eyes that made her immediately likable. As part of her organized routine, she brushes her hair a hundred times each morning and night, chooses her clothes for the next day, makes a diary entry then says her prayers before going to bed.
Nancy is the first family member to be found murdered by her best friend, Susan Kidwell (page 60). She was in her pajamas and bathrobe, shot in the back of the head, lying on her side, facing the wall, with the bedcovers drawn up to her shoulders and her hands tied behind her. The wall was covered with blood. The night before, she had chosen a red velveteen dress, black heeled pumps, and nylon stockings to wear the next morning to church. This is the outfit she is buried in.
If Nancy Clutter were alive today, she would be 68.
Truman Capote: author, comedian, addict, etc…
The author of “In Cold Blood,” Truman Capote, is well known for that novel as well as “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” his most notable works. He was an American author and comedian who was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in September 1924. He experienced a troubled childhood of divorce and the absence of his mother but at age 11, discovered his writing ability. Capote was openly homosexual, known for his distinctive high-pitched voice, odd vocal mannerisms, offbeat manner of dress, fabrications, and travelled in an eclectic array of social circles.
He was lifelong friends with Harper Lee, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1960). Harper Lee even assisted him in writing the novel “In Cold Blood” (1966), a journalistic true-crime novel about the murder of the Clutter family in 1959 Kansas, which Capote spent four years writing.
Capote was inspired to write the novel after encountering a 1959 New York Times newspaper article about the unexplained murders in rural Holcomb, Kansas. Upon reading, Capote traveled with Harper Lee to Holcomb to visit the scene of the massacre. Over the course of four years, he became acquainted with not only those involved in the investigation, but most of the town residents. “In Cold Blood” was published in 1966, brought him literary acclaim, and became an international bestseller.
The teleplay Capote wrote for the 1967 television adaptation of the classic Otto Preminger film “Laura” received indifferent reviews and poor ratings and was his first major professional setback which was followed by repetitive writing failures. His indulgence in an aimless lifestyle and heavy drinking resulted in bitter quarreling with his life partner of nearly twenty years, Jack Dunphy, until they separated in the 1970’s. Capote also engaged in a relationship with the vice president of Marine Midland Bank, John O’Shea, which turned to an ongoing war of jealousy and manipulation for the rest of the decade.
Capote had been discreetly conducting research for a tell-all novel “Answered Prayers,” but was delayed at his insistence from 1968 to 1972. Public demand for “Answered Prayers” reached critical mass in 1975 with speculation of plagiarism. In the late 1970’s, Capote was in an out of rehab clinics and even confessed in a 1978 live-on air interview that he might commit suicide, which was followed the next year by betrayal from friend Lee Radziwill in a feud with perpetual nemesis Gore Vidal. The 1980’s reached a breaking point for Capote with his continuing alcoholism, drug addiction, and hospitalized hallucinatory seizure. Capote died in Los Angeles on August 25, 1984 from liver cancer as the result of multiple drug intoxication. After his death, rival and nemesis, writer Gore Vidal, described Capote’s demise as “a good career move.”
The Clutter home in Holcomb, Kansas where the family was murdered in 1959. The home is now privately owned and not open to the public. The lane leading up to the residence is equipped with “No Trespassing” signs because of constant visitors who wish to take pictures of the home.
In Cold Blood is the true-crime story of the murders of four members of the Clutter family in 1959 and the following investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers.
The story takes place in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas and I think it really applies to the story. The village is described as: “a lonesome area that other Kansans call “out there.” Some seventy miles east of the Colorado border, the countryside with its hard blue skies and desert-clear air has an atmosphere that is rather more Far West than Middle West.” I think this adds to the overall eerie feeling of the novel. The desolate, homey feeling adds isolation and a feeling of dread to the overall atmosphere of the story. All the town residents were in hysterics, not only over the idea of the murders of a kind, respected family, but also that such brutal, torturous murders could have been comitted in a small town.
Even the Clutter’s house is relevant to the personalities of the family members. On the outside, their home is a peaceful, cozy, handsome white house with a well-kept lawn at the end of a long, lanelike driveway. It was a house that impressed the town of Holcomb and it was place that people pointed out.
The Clutter family is known is a kind, friendly family, but they each have their own troubles: Mrs. Clutter being the worst since she suffers from post-natal syndrome and is often nervous. She and her husband don’t sleep in the same room. Mr. Clutter has slept alone in the master bedroom for several years, Nancy, the town darling, spends the nights to be selfish and vain, and the son Kenyon is misunderstood by everyone, including his closest family members. The interior of their house shows it as very plain and nubby.