I'm a huge sucker for those real-life crime shows: Cops. 48 Hours. Cold Case. Forensic Files. Documentaries and movies based on unsolved murders, serial killers, and strange tales of almost unbelievable villainy pique my interest: Zodiac. The Imposter. I Survived BTK.
This obviously comes from my mother. We frequently sit up together until late at night on weekends to watch the newest episode of Dateline or The First 48 or whatever else is on, both of us equally engrossed.
The horrifying stories of people who seem to have no soul are so intensely interesting to me. I prefer not to hear the interviews with the police, but the interviews with the cold-blooded individuals in orange jumpsuits.
I want to understand them. I want to find a piece of them that I can relate to; something in them that is in me, too. These people were knit together by the same Creator as I. We both have some semblance of a soul within us. We are both human. What makes us different?
Truman Capote’s book In Cold Blood is an account of the events that led to the capture of the men who senselessly murdered the Clutter family in 1959. Capote spent six years working on this book, interviewing witnesses, neighbors, friends, and detectives. Then he filled in the blanks with so much detail that it is not simply a retelling of a horrific crime, but a story.
Two things I have taken away from it:
1. A deep, profound encounter with murderers that satisfies in me the desire for understanding the mind and intimate thoughts of souls in the dark.
“There’s got to be something wrong with us. To do what we did. ” – Perry Smith
2. An understanding of what a story is. This account emphasizes how life really works. A murder doesn't simply affect those who kill and those who die. The wingspan of the whole situation touch parts of the human existence outside of life and death. Capote includes seemingly arbitrary dialogues and details that express the reality that no man is an island. There are references and conversations that cover so many topics and induce a multitude of emotions: chilling or heart-warming or thought-provoking.
“Sometimes, when I come home from work – well, I’m tired. But there’s always coffee on the stove, and sometimes a steak in the icebox. The boys make a fire to cook the steak, and we talk, and tell each other our day, and by the time supper’s ready I know we have good cause to be happy and grateful. So I say, Thank you, Lord. Not just because I should – because I want to.” – Mrs. Alvin Dewey
Whether or not Capote maintained complete accuracy in every exchange and process, he captured the essence of non-fiction writing. This will be added to my bookshelf as a reference to how influential the talented telling of a true story can be.