Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Clutter Family Killings: Cold Blood


Unlike the other articles I've written for The Crime Library that garnered information from multiple narratives, this one is based almost exclusively on a novel, the only full-length account of the Clutter murders, Truman Capote's classic, In Cold Blood. But, it is a factual telling of the case done in novel format, a medium Capote created with the publication of this story in 1965.

Because it is a novel, most of the facts are related in dialogue between two or more characters. The histrionics of the case aren't always chronological, but told through a number of approaches: the scene-setting, the first-person, the second person, the flashback. From that blend of this dynamic art form, I strove to reshape the story into a chronological tension line, underscoring the main points and letting the high drama of the story speak for itself. Thus it has been rewoven for The Crime Library.

To that end, I rewrote and/or condensed much of the dialogue to drive forward only the central elements of the story, much as a screenwriter would do to keep the action moving. But, keep in mind, none of the facts are altered nor any fantasy inserted. The story that follows is a true account of the murders, the murderers, and the people who were involved, from both sides of the fence. The nuances of Mr. Capote's original tone and texture have remained intact.

Where In Cold Blood, or any other source for that matter, is quoted word for word, I, of course, indicate such.

Special attention should be paid to two other sources that I have quoted. A final chapter, called "Analysis," borrows heavily from an article written by J.J. Maloney, brilliant editor of Crime Magazine. This chapter suggests a motive for the Clutter murders beyond what Capote indicates.

As well, I had the opportunity to obtain a rare issue of a special 25-year retrospect of the crime, written for the Garden City Telegram newspaper by Alvin "Al" Dewey, the detective who helped "crack" the case. This gem of an issue is quoted throughout the following chapters.


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