In Cold Blood: Reader Perspectives

What are your thoughts and memories of the Clutter family, the infamous murders, or Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood"?

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displacedneb 12 years, 11 months ago

Being from Kansas, I was only 5 at the time and had no memory of the murders till my cousins from Salina and a school teacher I had talked about it.

Later I discovered a long time friend from high school in Kansas City had her life turned upside down when her dad was one of the court appointed attornies who represented the killers. The man died far to young of a heart attack in 1970 and his family always felt the pressure they were under was a factor in his death. The shock factor of having your home shot at and finding your telephone has been tapped would be a sobering thing to anyone.

While there is no doubt that "In Cold Blood" is a literary masterpiece, you have to wonder about the long term effects that the book had. The main thing is that capital punishment was banned in the USA for many years afterward and I think in part still fuels that debate today.

Lastly, I wonder if the CBS documentary on executions that Capote produced will ever be shown? The film was considered far to controversial in 1965 to show and has never been seen to my knowledge in public.

charlie 12 years, 11 months ago

My folks and my older brother lived out North of Holcomb when the Clutters were killled. I hadn't been born yet. However, my dad had farmed with Mr. Clutter, and my grandparents lived just a couple of blocks from the Clutter house.

I was born after the incident and right before the convicted men were put to death. But I grew-up in the atmosphere of the shock in the community. My mom described the incident where trust was brought to a halt. Being in a farming area, you didn't lock anything - your doors at night, your vehicles, the even left your keys in the cars and trucks. And folks out there were really nice, but after the incident, they got really wary of anyone they didn't know - they were just scared.
I was born and in kindergarten by the time the movie was being made. I remember the grown-ups talking about that man from NewYork City. They did not like him coming into Holcomb to shoot the movie. It seemed to open up the wounds and everyone was re-living the Clutters getting killed.

As an adult, I would speculate that there were some underlying reasons why most folks in and around Holcomb really disliked the "In Cold Blood" movie and book. When I was in my early 30's, I got to see an interview of Truman Capote. I realized his flaming gay attributes probably did not help in presenting himself to the community at that time....folks just didn't talk or act like that out there, and his behaviors may have instilled increased anger about the "uppity New Yorker". The things I heard about was really about the feeling that instead of being left to mourn and heal, a freak show that not only continued - but seemed to build momentum.

Perhaps in this day and age, we have become more accustomed to sensationalizing tragic story and picking it apart, however, at that time in our culture, I don't think that happened as much, and that little town just was not prepared to deal with everything that happened.

tyke2002 12 years, 11 months ago

I am from Holcomb and I knew Clarence Ewalt. He refused to talk about what he saw when he took his daughter to the house to pick up Nancy Clutter for church. I'm not sure that Truman Capote's being gay had anything to do with the intense dislike of him. Maybe it did. I do know that Mr. Ewalt refused an interview with him, so he went to the courthouse and wrote down what was said in court. Then put it in his book. To me, even now, that is a violation. The man didn't want to talk about seeing people shot to death. About the scars his daughter suffered from seeing her best friend dead. Truman Capote only made it worse. Now students from Nebraska are coming to Holcomb to study the murder. Can't they study Charles Starkweather? Or maybe they would prefer students from Kansas going to Nebraska to harass his victims families. I was told that in the past few years, people from as far away as Japan came to see that house. I've been in that house. My best friend in grade school lived there, and there is nothing to see. And yes, there is a memorial to Herb Clutter besides the one in the Methodist Church. It's at the Garden City CO-OP.

av402css 12 years, 11 months ago

As an English teacher in Minnesota I am pretty far removed from the events surrounding the book "In Cold Blood" and Holcomb, KS. In my first year of teaching (this is my 2nd) I was assigned a Contemporary Literature course, in which a part of the curriculum was to teach Capote's book. I combed the Internet looking for resources that could bring the reality of the book to my students. I struggled to find anything truly substantial, until completely by accident, I happened to land on this site. The journalism and the effort put into "In Cold Blood: A Legacy" is amazing. I not only found some great information for my students, but found myself unable to stop reading all the information in this project. I was amazed at the connection and approach the students and teachers took in engaging in this project. All of the "true life" of this story is in these pages, which is often lost in Capote's book. I have often struggled with Capote's credibility in writing a "factual" account of this story. The articles in this journal raise many important points, truly recognize the people involved and affected by the events, and explore a true legacy--Not necessarily the legacy of Capote's book, but the true legacy of the crime. I can appreciate this site for what it is, the information presented, the legacy explored, and a true look into the murders that shook Holcomb on that fateful day.

hackwriter 12 years, 10 months ago

now! three cheers for these nebraskans, first for the overall job extremely well done, and second for the scoopage inre the bob rupp story and (to a lesser extent) the surviving sisters piece. the sisters have always appeared keen on getting their own p.o.v. out there, in their own way, without the aid of journalists, so their highly conditional and apparently grudging participation in this inspired and long-overdue project was perhaps not so surprising.

the conversion of bobby rupp to willing interview subject, by contrast, was quite the corker. melissa lee and her colleagues should take a well-deserved bow for succeeding where many others before them have failed. not only does bob talk, but what he has to say is well worth the long wait. dolores hope did not exaggerate in her recent gc telegram column when she appraised ms. lee's work as a masterpiece.

and, speaking of masterpieces, it was mildly surprising that, given the immense scope of this icb legacy project, no reference is made (at least, i've not spotted any) to the 1995 modern opera "failing kansas" by nyc-based composer mikel rouse. this piece of music (available on cd through utilizes a technique called 'counterpoetry' to tell the story of richard hickock and perry smith. it is without a doubt the most controversial and thought-provoking project to be directly inspired by tc's work. a review, or an interview with rouse, would have made a fine addition to the legacy project.

finally, hats off to the leonard and donna mader for being such conscientious preservationists/restorationists throughout their tenure as owners of the clutter place. though motivated by their respect and admiration for herb and bonnie rather than t.c.'s literary achievement of turning the house into icb's seventh major character, their hard work -- not to mention their seemingly infinite patience with tc/icb admirers -- should be applauded by all. in 2001, i had the honor and pleasure of visiting with the maders and being shown through their lovely home. i wrote a cover story about that experience for the 8/1/01 issue of the louisville eccentric observer (leo), an alternative newsweekly here in louisville, ky. the online version of the article may be found here:

again, many thanks to all concerned for this worthwhile and well done icb legacy project.

regards, mark besten louisville, ky

hackwriter 12 years, 10 months ago

oh, that web addy for my article (above)? the ending of that addy is article=6276 and the whole thing reads

kansas59 12 years, 4 months ago

My father was a career US Army CID Agent involved in the interrogation of two other killers referenced in Capote's book and the movie 'In Cold Blood', namely York & Latham. My interest piqued upon learning of this as a youngster, I undertook to read the book and still later as an adult visit many of the locales involving not only those two but those of Hickock & Smith. Among those I met and spoke with regarding the Clutter killers were Mssrs. Dewey, Nye and Spor, the latter being the service station attendant on duty the night Hickock & Smith stopped for gas in Garden City November 14, 1959. Cordial and gracious accurately describe all of these men; I gleaned many interesting facts which served me well in later work as investigator and writer. I also met Mr. Capote before his death, which was interesting if nothing else.

Having read the entirety of 'In Cold Blood:The Legacy' on this website, one is struck by the quality of said and by the insight provided into those quoted. To wit, here am I left with the lingering perception that some folks (with noble intent perhaps but little subtlety) are of a mind that they somehow did not receive proper 'due' as it were as relates to notoriety in this case. Considering the overall perspective of what transpired, this seems non sequitur (i.e., inferring a lifetime burden to be shouldered while on the other winking and nodding toward recognition or potential spoils for embracing said is evident if not overt.) Not for all but for some, I can't shake the spectre of proprietary interest here. Though referencing the tragedy itself is considered a bane to good taste by some, personally I find the bruised egos a bit more macabe. The sobering fact remains the suffering of the victims; they deserve the favored regard.

rothfan 12 years, 4 months ago

"In Cold Blood" was put in my thoughts once again, not long ago, once I saw the ads start up on the tv about the movie now out "Capote". The ads immediately struck my interest, though not sure who I can get to go see it with me, more likely, have to wait until it comes out on video. This is a most spectacular website containing a wealth of info. and it's fascinating all the great and tedious study and work which these students have put into it. I wasn't aware that In C. bl. was considered such a work of great writing, enough so that it's part of English classes! I became first aware of the story when sometime in the mid-80's I happened to catch an outdoor college campus showing of the 60's version. I don't think at that time, that I knew that it was a true story. Nevertheless, it was a horror story and still is. I struck it up as another "Psycho"...only much worse. I was repulsed, even though I appreciated Robert Blake's performance. Wanting to know more, I got the book and read it, and then have seen the 60's version twice since and saw the other '96 version. And now reading on this site, I really have mixed feelings. I was born a country bumpkin in a small town in tx. in '58. But I married a guy from Ok. and he was born in Lawrence in the 40's and lived a while when he was small in Dodge before moving to ok. I have been through the No Man's Land land in Ok. and visited Liberal ks. Anyway, I recall seeing Capote on tv but don't know much about him or why at that time he was popular. Anyway, I can really understand why Lawrence and the surrounding places, really want to chalk it up to being history, no disrespect for all families involved, but people are too obsessed with it I suppose. I think I can easily get that way also. I would love to go see all these things the house, the graves etc.... Overall, I think it is very important to understand what these murders meant especially then to the country. Nowadays, we are numbed by such things as awful murders, but for then it was a real bomb for the small towns and the country. I think Capote is a great writer, but i think he really exploited the whole events....

ladave 12 years, 1 month ago

I would have to dissagree that Capote exploited the events.....I believe he only wanted to write a great book, and he did. I first read the book and saw the movie in 1972, and in many ways I've never recovered from it. I had nightmares for years afterwards. As for Holcomb itself I suppose it will just have to accept its role in American history. Fair or not, the past can never be changed. Lastly for all who make the trek to Holcomb-Garden City, I suspect that the vast majority of them come not out of morbid curiosity, but I believe out of respect for the victims,and to put a face of reality on an event that has effected them so much. If I owned the house, I would open it to tours 1 day a week only, charge a hefty fee to enter and give ALL proceeds to Some Finney County charity like 4 H or assistance to victims of violent crime.

etalonabm 11 years, 12 months ago

I read the book back when I was in high school in the late 60's. I watched the movie, "Capote" which gave more insight on how the book was written.

It was interesting to see how Capote and Smith used each other to meet their needs. You almost start feeling sorry for Smith, up until the time he talks about slitting Mr. Clutter's throat.

I was saddened by the impact the murder must've had, at that time, in this small rural town and how it has affected people even up to this date.

MelAyton 11 years, 9 months ago

Pery Edward Smith had an influence on another infamous individual but didn't know it. That individual was Robert Kennedy's assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, who identified with Smith. Sirhan's fascination with Smith can be seen in this excerpt from my new book 'The Forgotten Terrorist': "If Sirhan had really been lying then how was the 'hypnotic defense' constructed in the first place? Sirhan claimed his lawyers had first put forward the idea that he had been in a 'hypnotic trance-like' state when he shot Kennedy.But there is evidence that Sirhan had foreknowledge of 'amnesiac states' before he committed the murder. Sirhan had read Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood", a book about the multiple murders of a Kansas farmer, his wife and two teenage children. The murders were committed by Perry Smith and Richard Hickock in 1959 and Capote's book of the murder, manhunt , trial and executions of the murderers was published in 1965.Sirhan identified with the short and stocky Perry Smith. In fact, he felt great empathy for the murderer.Smith, a small statured man who had suffered a deprived childhood, had bouts of shivering and trance-like states and who believed in mysticism and fate.According to Capote, Perry Smith, ":.had many methods of passing (time):.among them, MIRROR GAZING:EVERY TIME (HE SAW) A MIRROR (HE WOULD) GO INTO A TRANCE" (empahsis added) At the conclusion of the book Capote quoted the opinions of leading psychiatrists Drs Joseph Satten, Karl Menninger, Irwin Rosen and Martin Mayman, about why people like Smith and Hickock committed such crimes and what their mental states were like during the commission of the murders.The psychiatrists attempted to assess the criminal responsibility of a number of murderers - "murderers who seem rational, coherent and controlled and yet whose homicidal acts have a bizarre, apparently senseless qualities:."

In their examinations the psychiatrists found a number of similarities , including the fact that the men who they studied, "were puzzled as to why they killed their victims, who were relatively unknown to them, and in each instance the murderer appears to have lapsed into a DREAMLIKE DISSASSOCIATIVE TRANCE (Emphasis added) from which he awakened to suddenly discover himself assaulting the victim:..Two of the men reported severe dissassociative trancelike states during which violent and bizarre behaviour was seen, while the other two reported less severe and perhaps less well-organised, AMNESIAC EPISODES (emphasis added):."

mikewoodring 11 years, 6 months ago

I have read, here and there, about how Perry Smith had such a horrid life. That may very well be true, but many people have faced such adversity in life. However, they didn't go out and kill four innocent people.

Smith was not someone to be adulated or admired. It is beyond me why anyone would look up to him in any way, shape, or form.

"In Cold Blood" was a riveting book, and is my favorite book of all time. However, my favorite part is when Capote writes about Herb Clutter and what a fine man he was. Though I was not born until 1964, I mourn the loss of Herb Clutter and his family. I truly do. I would greatly have liked to have met Mr. Clutter and been able to shake his hand. However, because of Smith and Hickock so many people were deprived of that opportunity.

I understand the interest in the case, but I do hope that people will remember that the people that ought to be admired were the Clutters, and not the worthless animals that took their lives.

whizkid 11 years, 4 months ago

Nancy Clutter was planning on being an art major in college and Perry Smith was a talented artist. Who knows? Under different circumstances, she and Perry Smith may have become good friends. I wish somebody would post some pictures of Nancy Clutter's artwork. It sounds like she was very talented as well.

acone 11 years ago

I 1st read the book about 1975. Because of the recent movies about Truman Capote I recently reread in cold blood.

Obviously I am much older. I have experienced death and I have grown children of my own. I was about 20 in 1975; perspective changes.

What I realize reading the book recently is how profoundly sad it is.I don't feel sad for the killers they knew what they were doing. I feel sad for the Clutters. It was as if some monsterous all engulfing evil descended upon them.

One thing that in my opinion that has not been explored extensively is the fact that children were murdered (Kenyon and Nancy were children) and that the killers were never to my knowledge asked about it. And even the fact that they were murdered at all is still a mystery to me_ to shoot four helpless people incuding cutting Mr.Clutters throat and as mentioned before including children seems to be something more then the " no witnesses" reason.

Also the fact that they were witnesses to the execution of their own family members is such an unspeakable evil that I about as much removed from the Clutters as anyone can be so affected is an indication of how sinister and frightning the incident was.

Regarding the book.I fully understand how people immediately and intimately involved would feel. However I believe Capote got the spirit of things completely. Howmany hundreds of thousands of us now know the Clutters.Howmany of us think about what there lives could have been.Or how torturous there last moments were. Some things were embellished but the spirit was honest and accurate.

The recent movies have had the theme that Capote was sympathetic to Perry Smith.The movie infamous going as far as having physical  relations between the two. I did not feel the book reflected that as much as the directors of the movie(s) would want us to believe.But if he was sympathetic enough to want to "save" Smith then that was a flaw.Regardless it is still a moving book.

Geronimov 10 years, 11 months ago

A horrible, tragic and pointless crime. A pathetic end for two miserable criminals. A legacy of painful memories for too many families and friends. If any good could be said to come from any of this, it must be in the increased understanding that the book, film, and history of this case has generated in how such crimes can be avoided. Social services to address families in need, provide appropriate health care and education, and where appropriate, intervention, could have spared everyone grief. And a basic sense of home security and self-defense might have helped. The Clutters were good people who did everything right, and didn't deserve to die as they did or have their memories linked to that crime. It's hard to believe that people used to leave their doors unlocked as they slept. Nearly 50-years ago, people were perhaps more naive--today, such an attitude is foolhardy to the point of incomprehension.

Spartan 10 years, 11 months ago

A-1 (not really Spartan)

Dear Posters (yes, you),

Truman Capote, author of the true crime novel In Cold Blood, was by no means, in any way, shape, or form violating or desecrating the rights, privacies, or liberties of the citizens of Holcomb County. Quite the contrary, he was no different from any other reporter. Let us also not forget the KBI agents who got involved in the fascinating case. And yet people, in their utmost ignorance, dare to ostracize him from society based on a few uncommon characteristics of the time.

Mr. Capote's critics are so bold as to incoherently judge him on the grounds of doing the work required to write a fantastically mind-boggling book. Do they question the methods of Hemingway? How about Poe? Dickinson? I think not friends. Perhaps they should like him to get his information wrong and have the book reflect not that of a horrific event, but of a made up horrific event. He spent more than five years on this project, putting all of his time and energy into every handcrafted sentence.

This could hardly be said about you fellow posters, because I have read what you have posted.  Capitalization and punctuation mistakes run amuck in your so-called responses.  More than likely, the result of these ill-fated errors is the lack of devotion to what you really believe in.  This could be the underlying reason for your ignorance to Capote: because you may not understand what you have never experienced or performed.  Or you completely understand and comprehend what you have read and seen, you just lack the proper education (see "killled").

I have seen the movie, read the book, researched this independently, and have led many discussion groups, thus making me well educated on the night of November 15, 1959.  If anyone has any questions, I will be happy to answer them.

Kristen_Nahras 10 years, 11 months ago

After reading In Cold Blood, and watching Capote, I found that the fourth part of the novel was slanted towards the killers, and their emotions. I feel that Capote should have interviewed the Clutter's daughters, Beverly and Eveanna, to find out how they felt about their family being slaughtered, and also to find out their opinions about the trial. It seems that at the time of the murders, Capote went to Holcomb and interviewed everyone in the town but the two daughters. Capote had the opportunity to interview Beverly and Eveanna while they were in Holcomb for the funeral, and Beverly's wedding. It would have been interesting to have known how the daughters felt about Dick and Perry's death sentence being pushed back time after time. After watching Capote, I learned that he helped Dick and Perry get new lawyers; the best lawyers, because he could afford it, which kept them alive. I think it would be an attention-grabber to learn how the daughters felt on this issue. Another thing that I would find interesting to read about would be how Eveanna is going to explain to her son how his grandparents, aunt and uncle were killed. I think that what Capote did was just wrong. If he had gone to interview the people in the town, he should have at least gone to the Clutter's daughters.

jensmom 10 years, 9 months ago

It's entirely possible that the surviving Clutter daughters refused an interview with Capote. I'm surprised they agreed to contribute something to this project; they seem to have sought privacy all these years. Imagine living with the publicity, the remarks, the invasive questions and insensitivity of people all these years. I don't know that they experienced this, but some of their friends and acquaintances over the years doubtless knew who they were.

I'll never forget first reading "In Cold Blood." I was in college (mid 1970's) and purchased it at the bookstore. I'd heard of the book, but didn't really know what it was about. I was instantly hooked and stayed up all night to finish it. I even took the phone off the hook! I could picture each of the four Clutters in the chapter "The Last to See Them Alive". I could imagine the hushed stillness in the Clutter home that Sunday morning when their friends came by and found no one to greet them. I've re-read it periodically since, always finding something new. I always wished the book had contained photos, like most true crime books do now. My first two paperback copies fell apart and I finally got a hardback copy.

hacendero 10 years, 6 months ago

I was a KU senior in November 1959. I was born in a small town about 70 miles east of Garden City and lived in Western Kansas until age 23. I was slightly acquainted with Clarence Duntz and Andy Earhart (and members of their families), two men involved in the Clutter story. I recently reread In Cold Blood, after seeing the movie, Capote, on TV. I still think the book is one of the best I have ever read. I am wondering what ever happened to Larry Hendricks, the Holcomb teacher who was one of the first group to go to the Clutter home that Sunday morning. He supposedly had aspirations to be a writer and I wonder if he ever achieved anything in that area.

doctor_blind 9 years, 9 months ago

I have to be honest and say that i was very dissapointed when i read In Cold Blood. After reading Breakfast at Tiffany's I thought that Capote was a decent writer who seemed to incorperate an interesting lesson into that specific story. Although In Cold Blood was more like a tribute to Perry, and condoning murder if one has gone through "a bad childhood". It was almost like Capote was putting frosting over a rotten cake. I have read a more recent true murder novel called The Innocent Man by John Grisham, who is also a very sucessful and good author. This story again was taken into so much passion, the interviews with the families, the exquisite detail, it was obvious that there was a bias in this book. Although instead of the bias being towards the killer, the sympathy was aimed at a alcoholic, drug addict who was accused of a murder he did not commit and sentanced to death row. Hence the title The Innocent Man. It seems it would be so easy to write a sucessful book on murder with a bias, rather than stating the facts straight up. It seems like facts are not even facts anymore, we see it everyday in the news, on tv, and of course in literature. In a positive way it can teach us how to think for ourselves, although the negative side is that people cannot think for themselves anymore. It's easy to be persuaded by someone these days who has charisma, and knows how to cleverly put words together rather than someone who's had the life experience and knows how to state the facts. Fiction is becoming more popular than truth, because it only brings the excitment that truth cant.

idaho1970 9 years, 4 months ago

In the book 'mockingbird' a biography of Harper Lee it seems the surviving Clutter Daughters didnt leave a very good impression on many people in the immediate aftermath of the murders.I have no idea if they tried to interview them or not.This site is a treasure with so much material on the case and the book in one place.Well done.I think the book rates as one of the top ten best in the 20th century.Inspite of any novelistic liberties Capote may have indulged in.If anything I think his sanitizing of the Clutters in order to provide a striking counterpoint to the Killers sordid lives ended up being a misservice because they kind of come off two dimensional in comparison.Which is hardly fair.Im sure they were every bit as complex as people as Smith and Hickock.Does anyone know if there are any other photos of Kenyon and Nancy other then the one or two weve seen out there?Surely there are other yearbook photos ,or newspaper 4-H photos.It would be nice if they could be posted.

mikemorley1 9 years, 1 month ago

My mother grew up with the Clutter girls and use to go to there house a lot and play and visit them quite often. My Grandmother knew the Clutter Family very well and went to church with them every sunday and use to go have diner with them and have them over to her house also. She lived in Pierceville Kansas out on a farm. It is the old Porter Farm in Pierceville. My mothers cousin owns it now. They were good friends. I never knew them. I was only 7 yr old then We moved to ca in 1959.Truman Capote was almost accurate about the Clutter Family Murders.

socialite51 9 years ago

My comment on the killers of the Clutter family are: Why in the world did Truman Capote "feel sorry" for these two murderers when they were being hanged? They killed an innocent, decent family and deserved everything they got! I myself have no sorrow for those two murderers!

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