Friday, May 25, 2007

In Cold Blood

While wandering the internet this morning I found video clips taken by someone who visited Holcomb, Kansas, the scene of the infamous Clutter family murders that were the basis for Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. Both the book and the film that was later made from the book have fascinated and horrified me from the beginning. I remember passing through that part of Kansas as a kid with my parents on a vacation trip from Texas to California and trying to convince them to drive through Holcomb to see the Clutter home. It must have seemed a strange request to my parents (both of whom were non-readers) because they had never heard of Capote's book despite me having carried it around the house for days while I was totally immersed in that tragedy. Needless to say, we didn't take the side trip that I requested.

I find it kind of eerie to see that all these years later I could make that visit to Holcomb and still get such a sense of what it must have been like at the time of the murders. I'm assuming that these scenes were shot recently since the video was only posted to YouTube on January 31 of this year. If anyone from Holcomb or Garden City knows differently, please let me know.

Warning: toward the end of this video clip there are some explicit crime scene photos that show the murder victims. If this kind of thing bothers you, please don't click on "play."


  1. ''In Cold Blood'' Capote established a new genre of writing. He has been much copied but never matched.
    I often wonder what the locals made of Capote.

  2. I agree with you, Nick. The book was a shocker in every sense of the word.

    After reading the Harper Lee biography, Mockingbird, I am convinced that Capote could have never written the book without having her accompany him to Kansas several times to research the project. Her Southern charm managed to open the doors that were going to stay closed to Capote. The man never gave her the credit that she deserved, typifying another of his many personal failings.

  3. I've just learnt something important: Harper Lee was the bridge. I knew Capote was no closet homosexual, and I often wondered why a very conservative farming community would talk to him.
    Capote was a first class writer but to me he seems a second class human being.

  4. Nick, it goes even further. Lee's biographer seems to believe that she did most of the "grunt work" as for as interviews went and that her lengthy, detailed notes were the basis of Capote's book; in effect, her observations served as the basis of the book, not his. I imagine that the truth is somewhere between the two of extreme viewpoints.

    Capote was actually very close to Perry Smith, one of the killers, but only one or two of the townspeople grew close to him. Take a look at Mockingbird if you want some detail; it's an interesting biography.

  5. He was close to Smith? That is interesting as I seem to recall Smith was homosexual.If I remember it rightly he dropped any interest in the two killers as soon as he had the information he needed for his book. Didn't Smith seem to think Capote would visit him prior to his execution: of course Capote did not show up.

  6. Capote was on the "witness list" put together by Smith but you're right in that he didn't show up. Capote corresponded and met with Smith while working on the book and I got the impression that Smith felt a lot closer to Capote than Capote felt to Smith.

    I always enjoyed Capote's public persona but after reading Mockingbird I came to realize just what a back-stabbing sociopath he must have been. Harper Lee was probably his oldest and closest friend in the world and he treated her extremely shabbily.