In Cold Blood Summary in Under 10 Minutes

A pic of Truman Capote with a cigarette in his hands.
Picture Credits : Google

Who should read “In Cold Blood”? And why?

If you enjoy real crime novels like John Grisham’s ‘The Innocent Man’, Michelle McNamara’s ‘I’ll Be Gone in the Dark’, and Bryan Stevenson’s ‘Just Mercy’, then In Cold Blood is the next book to add to your list of books to read.

It’s not just the first significant true crime novel, but it is, according to many reports, the most influential one regarding style and influence.

The Plot

Widely considered the best non-fiction novel ever written — and so highly regarded that it is sometimes incorrectly assumed to be the original one (though it is certainly the first major non-fiction novel, it has a few predecessors) — Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is a book that defies categorization and transcends genres.

The novel was first published in the year 1966. it retells the murders of the quadruple in 1959 committed by Richard “Dick” Hickock and Perry Smith to the members of the Clutter family but does so with such meticulous care and attention to detail that it’s difficult to determine which elements of it are fiction and what the reason for it is.

It required Truman Capote six years to study the story, which Capote did with the help of his best friend, Harper Lee — and the writing process was so exhausting for him that he could not finish another novel until the very close of his career, 18 years after!

Chapter 1 The Last to See Them Live

The novel starts on November 14, 1959, which was the last day on the earth of four people from the Clutter family, including the patriarch Herbert “Herb” Clutter as well as the wife of his son, Bonnie, and their two teenagers, Nancy (16) and Kenyon (15).

Truman Capote uses the first chapter from In Cold Blood to establish the scene for their impending death in a way that is almost cinematic that switches between normal events in the Clutter family and the plot for their murders from Perry Smith and Dick Hickock — two recently paroled ex-convicts, who are driving towards them.

While Smith and Hickock are out and about purchasing rope or rubber gloves and discussing whether or not to purchase stockings too and so on, the other Clutter family members Clutter family is carrying on their lives as if it were a normal day.

Herb is a respected farmer who is a church-goer and loved by the locals gets up early and eats breakfast before departing on the farm to complete his farm chores. His daughter Nancy speaks with Susan, her friend hers, over the phone about a man she’s been with known as Bobby Rupp. Later she teaches an acquaintance called Jolene Katz how to make a cherry pie.

In the meantime, Kenyon, who is always interested in making things and fixing cars — is making a wish chest with his sibling in his basement recreation room. In the midst of this, the insurance salesman appears and has a chat with Herb. He leaves the premises completely content has signed an important purchase of life insurance with Herb.

While Dick and Smith are moving closer close to their home on the land of Clutters, they are greeted by Bobby, the boyfriend of Nancy, who is having dinner with his family. After watching a bit of television with them later and leaving around 11 PM.

Capote cuts the story in this way and then takes readers to the following day and the day that Nancy Ewalt, an associate from Nancy Clutter, arrives at the house to pay an appearance. There is no response to her calls and knocks, so she inquires the housekeeper to tell her where the Clutters are.

Because he’s almost certain they’re in the house, He joins her to look into it. The two finally enter the house and discover the dead bodies of four members belonging to members of the Clutter family scattered across the floor.

Holcomb, Kansas, the tranquil community, is shaken to its core receiving the news. The residents begin to gather and talk (mostly in Hartman’s Cafe), discussing possible suspects, and the majority of them are worried that the perpetrator is someone they know.

The actual murderers have naturally fled the area. Perry has stayed sleeping in hotels, and Dick has been with the family members in Oklahoma and states that he’s just returned from a visit of his sisters in Fort Scott, which is the reason for the trip.

Chapter 2: Unknown Persons

Eyes of both murderers with the In Cold Blood book cover
Picture Credits : Google

The Kansas State Police (or KBI for short) is beginning the investigation with Detective Alvin Dewey acting as the head of the team. Although there aren’t many clues, Dewey suspects that the murder is committed by more than one person but cannot determine any motive since everything remains in residence.

In Olathe, the town of Oklahoma, Perry, and Dick are eating in a restaurant. Even though they are hungry, Perry cannot consume food, afflicted by the fear that they’ll be discovered. Yet, he can bribe Dick into confessing that they killed a complete family due to false information.

In other words, they hoped to find the treasure within the house that belonged to family members of the Clutter family. Still, they went home with nothing more than a pair of binoculars, a portable radio, and around 50 dollars in cash.

While Dewey is taking advice from people who are extremely concerned back to Holcomb, Perry and Dick go towards Mexico City, where they meet the German traveller named Otto and in which Perry admits to Dick that he has never killed a person previously, despite telling him the contrary.

However, they will have to quit Mexico within a short time because they cannot pay their hotel bills which they’ve paid with bad checks anyway.

Following they returned to America, A letter from the past written by Perry’s father Tex John Smith for his parole officials triggers a flood of memories in the brain of Perry and Capote utilizes this time to sketch a picture of Perry’s past life.

We find out about his parents’ divorce while as a young child, and he spent the majority of his childhood being taken care of by his mother, who was an alcoholic. He tried to get away from her once but was rejected by his father, who was able to reach him.

In the end, when his mother passed away being choked from the vomit, Perry and his siblings were taken to a Catholic orphanage. Here the story goes, Perry was frequently beaten by the nuns due to the habit of bedwetting.

At the age of 16, Perry joined the United States Merchant Marines. At the age of 16, Perry joined the Merchant Marines, and in 1948 He joined the Army. He fought during the Korean War and received an honorable discharge four years afterward. Then he bought an automobile and was nearly killed due to losing control because of the harsh conditions in the bad weather.

He stayed for six months in the hospital following this accident. He was able to recover to a certain degree: because of the injury’s seriousness, he’d endure persistent leg pains until death. Due to this, he was also addicted to painkillers.

After returning to Holcomb, Dewey cannot locate any clue to aid him, and the town becomes more and more frustrated that no one is ever arrested after a few weeks.

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Chapter 3: The Answer

In his cell, a prisoner named Floyd Wells hears the news on the radio about how the Clutter family was murdered. Clutter family. While he may be able to determine who was one of the perpetrators immediately, it’s only a few days after the event that he decides to call the police.

How can he know anything about the crime, despite being in jail for so long?

He provided false details to the former cellmate Hickock that Herbert Clutter — for who Floyd Wells has worked in the past, has a fortune of $10,000 stored in his home! Furthermore, he’s seen Hickock speaking about plots to steal from the family of Clutter, but he did not bother to stop him or correct Hickock!

The KBI immediately recognizes that this is a solid lead. Then, Harold Nye is, a KBI agent, follows it and heads straight for Hickock’s residence in Oklahoma and discovers that he was the guest of Perry’s sister on the evening of the murder.

That’s where he’ll be the next time. Likely, in San Francisco, Perry’s sister Barbara informs Perry that she hasn’t seen her brother or Dick for many, long years.

Dick and Perry return to Kansas to exchange some rotten checks for cash, and Dick also uses his name to sign the checks in a rather foolish decision. The police catch them as Harold Nye phones Al Dewey with the information. The pair escape before Dewey gets to the two and heads to Miami.

On December 30, 1959, Dewey was finally greeted with a message: Dick and Perry have been detained on the streets of Las Vegas. They, Nye, and two additional KBI agents, immediately go to Las Vegas to interrogate the suspects. Even though Kansas police are investigating them, the perpetrators are not concerned: they’re certain that they’ve been arrested because they made fraudulent checks.

After a while, in two separate rooms, the two Perry and Dick confronted with the truth behind their arrest. Although both have denied any involvement in the crime, Nye and Dewey notice that they appear shocked.

Then the next morning, Dick breaks down and confesses all of it, repeatedly saying Perry killed the four Clutters. Once he knows that Dick has confessed before, Perry tells a different version of the story, asserting Dick killed them.

Chapter 4: The Corner

Perry and Dick are inside their own Garden City jail, where psychologists question them about writing autobiographies of their lives as children. Perry takes the task seriously, while Dick is less flimsy and indifferent.

It could be because he’s planning to escape with a shiv that he made using brushes. But, as his journal exposes, the shiv is later found by the sheriff, which destroys some of Dick’s hopes. Perry’s hopes are expressed through fantasies about someone saving him suddenly, but Perry knows this won’t ever happen in his heart.

The trial begins, and Floyd Wells testifies and corroborates the evidence presented by the state. Dewey is the same, detailing in detail what transpired when the crime was committed. The details are too horrifying and shocking to be described here, but let’s mention that it involved everything that is bound, gagging with a slit throat and four .12-gauge shotguns.

The description of Dewey’s shocked everyone in the room, including the judge who refuses to permit psychologists to testify against Perry’s insaneness. If he had allowed it, Capote says, the psychologist could have probably said something similar to this:

Two characteristics of his appearance stand out as especially pathological. One is his “paranoid mentality towards the world. He is cautious and distrustful of people and is prone to believe that other people are discriminating against him and thinks that other people do not respect him and that they don’t know what he is thinking. He is extremely sensitive to the criticism that others can make about him and does not like being mocked by others. He can easily detect people’s small or offensive things and could misinterpret well-meaning communications. He has a deep need for understanding and friendship; however, he is hesitant to open up to others and, if confiding, he is likely to be misunderstood or betrayed. When it comes to assessing the intentions and motives of other people, his ability to distinguish the actual situation from his thoughts is extremely poor. He often lumps everyone as insensitive, hostile, or entitled to whatever can be done to them. Similar to the first one is the second one, uncontrollable, constant anger, easily provoked by any feeling of being deceived, humiliated, or being viewed as superior by others.

Everyone must have expected the verdict. Perry and Dick receive the death penalty and are sentenced to death row at Lansing Penitentiary.

In Cold Blood: The Conclusion

Richard “Dick” Hickock and Perry Smith prisoners pictures with their identification number strip, in black and white
Picture Credits : Google

In Lansing, Dick spends most of the time writing to various organizations asking for assistance. Perry attempts to starve himself until death when a letter from his father arrives. In contrast to Dick, Perry is passive in his isolation, lonely, and more frightened than before. According to Dick Perry, no one is a fan of Perry in the first place, but he’s not alone.

After many delays and five years after their first trials, Perry and Dick were finally executed on April 15, 1965. Before getting hanged, Dick and Perry greet 4 KBI officials and apologizes.

Dewey departs the place of execution, not feeling satisfied. He remembers meeting Susan Nancy’s friend at the cemetery in the past. Susan informed him that Bobby Rupp found a woman between them and is currently married. Susan also told him that she was doing great.

When Dewey is saying “Good luck” to her, she is thinking about how Nancy could have been her type of girl, and the breeze begins blowing through the cemetery’s grass.

I love reviewing books, If you liked the summary so far, give it a read, buy the book on Amazon, or get the Paperback here. Let me know what next book I should review in the comments. Happy Reading!

My Critical Review

Truman Capote was already a famous author before The publication of In Cold Blood. Still, following the release of this book, he was an icon in circles far beyond literary circles.

A huge success from the start, the book was deemed a “masterpiece” by various reviewers, and no one has changed his opinion to this today.

“The book is neither a who-done-it nor a will-they-be-caught,” wrote Tom Wolfe in an essay the following year, “since the answers to both questions are known from the outset… Instead, the book’s suspense is based largely on a new idea in detective stories: the promise of gory details and their withholding until the end.”

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