Thursday, July 1, 2010

Guest Post - In Cold Blood: The Bible of True Crime Writing

In Cold Blood: The Bible of Crime Writing
by Jessica Cortez

The art of crime writing is perhaps one of the most complex forms of writing there is. This is simply because it seeks to investigate and explain the more disturbing parts of human nature, the parts about which we would rather not discuss. While true crime writing has probably been around since the beginning of the written word, the one modern piece that set true crime writing in motion is Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. Anyone who is interested in true crime should be reminded of the book's significance--both in crime writing and in our popular imagination of American homicide.

Since the release of the award-winning movie Capote, based largely on In Cold Blood and the mysterious circumstances by which it was created, the crime story is now quite familiar. The story revolves around the gruesome murder of a rural family in Kansas. The perpetrators--two men, Richard Hickock and Perry Edward Smith. Both had similar rural upbringings, and both came from lives that were peppered by struggle. After a failed marriage, Hickock engaged in several petty, fraud-related crimes, while Smith spent time in orphanages as a juvenile before being reunited with his father. Smith lived through the suicide of two siblings before joining the Marines and fighting in the Korean war. Hickock and Smith met in prison.

Capote's interest in the murder emerged from the apparent lack of motive, considering the homicides committed were brutal to an astonishing degree. Although Hickock and Smith were eventually tried, found guilty, and executed, still much was left unexplained. Capote's involvement in the trial and investigation is itself a point of contention among critics. Was Capote involved in a relationship with Perry Smith? Were the details recounted in In Cold Blood even all accurate, considering Capote relied largely on his memory during interviews and other research?

We will perhaps never know the answers to these questions, but this is precisely the reason why crime interests us in the first place. Homicide and other violent crimes--in which man is pitted against one of his own species--arouse our curiosity because of their inability to be fully explained, regardless if their respective cases are closed. From this perspective, the thorough exploration of true crime is, and will always be, a fount from which to draw infinite material to explain the mystery of human nature. In Cold Blood was only the beginning.

This guest post is contributed by Jessica Cortez, who writes on the topics of online degree programs. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: cortez.jessi23 at

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