In Cold Blood: The Story Behind The First True Crime Novel

In-Cold-Blood-by-Truman-Capote-Howard-Linskey

The first true crime novel almost destroyed the man who wrote it. Howard Linskey, an author featured in CBS Reality’s new true crime TV series Written In Blood, finds out why.

The story of the first true crime novel is as famous as the crime that inspired it – and the man who completed the book never wrote another.

Truman Capote was already a literary star in 1959, when he read about the Clutter killings in the quiet town of Holcomb. Capote was famous for writing Breakfast at Tiffany’s but he wanted to try something new – the first ‘non-fiction novel’ – and this felt like the ideal subject.

Herbert Clutter and his family were brutally murdered when two men broke into their farm one night, looking for money they thought was locked in a safe that did not in fact exist. Enraged, they resolved to leave no witnesses. Herbert’s throat was cut then he was blasted with a shotgun; his wife Bonnie, their fifteen-year-old son Kenyon and sixteen-year-old daughter Nancy were all gunned down before their killers fled.

Truman Capote left New York for the scene of the murders, travelling with none other than Harper Lee, his best friend since childhood and author of the recently completed, To Kill A Mockingbird, which would soon become a huge sensation. Capote and Lee arrived at a small town still reeling from the shock of the murders. The eccentric, effeminate, outspoken Capote must have stood out a mile in rural Kansas but he charmed the inhabitants of Holcomb and even the special investigator, Alvin Dewey, to get the inside information he was looking for. The one thing Capote lacked was any trace of the killers. It seemed the police trail had run cold.

Six weeks later, a former cell mate who knew of their plan to rob the safe, identified Perry Smith and Richard ‘Dick’ Hickock as the Holcomb murderers. They were arrested, tried and sentenced to death by hanging, admitting their guilt along the way.

This is where the story of In Cold Blood takes a highly unusual turn. Despite the savage and brutal nature of the crimes, Capote decided it was necessary to get the killer’s version of events, because it would humanise them and make his book more vivid. He arranged to visit the convicted men and struck up an unlikely friendship with them, bonding with Perry Smith in particular, thanks in part to the murderer’s interest in art, music and books. He kept up a correspondence with Smith for five long years, while the death sentences were repeatedly appealed and his novel remained tantalisingly incomplete.

Capote realised he had placed himself in an impossible position by getting too close to the killers. In a bitter twist worthy of any crime story, he did not want Perry to hang, yet needed the sentences to be carried out if he was ever going to have an ending for his book. The mental torment on Capote began to grow.

“I thought that Mr. Clutter was a very nice gentleman. I thought so right up to the moment that I cut his throat.” – Perry Smith by Truman Capote in In Cold Blood.

As one of ten crime authors asked to appear in CBS Reality’s new true crime series Written In Blood, which began on 3 September, I prefer to keep my distance from real-life killers. Mark Billingham, Peter James, Simon Kernick, Angela Clarke, Marnie Riches, RC Bridgestock, Luke Delaney, Elly Griffiths, Alex Marwood and myself have all written books influenced, in part or whole, by true crimes, ranging from the callous, so-called honour killing of Banaz Mahmod to the horrific James Bulger murder.

My episode covers the infamous Moors murderer, Ian Brady, who, with Myra Hindley, killed five children in the early sixties. My novel The Search features a fictional character, loosely based on Brady and in no way sympathetic to him. When young Susan Verity disappears, suspicion falls on Adrian Wicklow, who shares Brady’s sadistic desire to torment the police. My research on Brady was disturbing enough without actually having to sit down with the real killer, who ironically died, after 51 years in prison, just one week after The Search was published.

Even if I had been writing about the Moors murderers themselves, I could never imagine visiting Brady – let alone striking up a friendship with him – to gain insight into his awful crimes. Rightly or wrongly, Capote put himself through that very process to complete his novel, but it took a terrible toll on him.

Perry Smith and Richard Hickock eventually lost their final appeals and both men went to the gallows on 14 April 1965. They asked Capote to be there when they died and he reluctantly agreed, witnessing Hickock hang but running out of the room just before Perry was executed.

Truman finally had his ending, but the anguish that caused him and the six years it took to finish In Cold Blood drove Capote close to madness. He never finished another book. Instead, he was left with lifelong addictions to drink and drugs that directly contributed to his early demise from liver disease in 1984, aged just 59.

Two Hollywood films have been made about Capote’s obsession with the Clutter family murders and their killers. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman won a best actor Oscar playing him in Capote, while British actor, Toby Jones, earned rave reviews for his equally brilliant portrayal of Truman in Infamous.

The book was finally published in 1966 and was a huge success. In Cold Blood is still in print and considered something of a masterpiece. The first true crime novel has been translated into thirty languages and sold millions of copies. Whether Truman himself considered it all worth it in the end is debatable.

***

Written in Blood airs every Sunday at 10pm since 3 September, exclusively on CBS Reality. Howard Linskey’s episode on the Moors Murderers will be broadcast on 5 November.

Via: https://www.deadgoodbooks.co.uk/in-cold-blood-truman-capote-howard-linskey/amp/

Transgender teddy to girl pirate: Authors tackle gender norms

Transgender-teddy

FRANKFURT

From a transgender teddy bear to a fearless girl pirate, children’s authors are tackling gender norms like never before, as debate rages about what it means to be a boy or girl.

Visitors at this week’s Frankfurt book fair, the world’s largest publishing event, will be faced with a string of books for young readers that defy stereotypes and navigate today’s hot-button issues of transsexuality and gender fluidity.

Stories with transgender lead characters in particular have broken one of the last “taboos” left in children’s writing, said literary expert Nicola Bardola.

“Some are watching this trend nervously, these kinds of books still make critics uncomfortable,” Swiss-born Bardola said, an author himself.

One of the most headline-grabbing recent titles has been “Introducing Tilly”, a tender story about Thomas the teddy bear who tells a friend: “I’ve always known that I’m a girl teddy, not a boy teddy.”

The picture book, aimed at children aged four and older, was written by Australian Jessica Walton who was inspired by her own father’s transition to a woman.

Translated into German last year as “Teddy Tilly”, Bardola called the book “a phenomenon”.

For a slightly older audience, there is US author Alex Gino’s award-winning “George”, which is about a transgender 10-year-old determined to play a female part in the school play.

INAPPROPRIATE

The book has won widespread praise for its warm portrayal of a feisty heroine, but it has also stirred controversy.

A Kansas district last month decided not to purchase “George” for the area’s schools, deeming it inappropriate for young readers.

Gino, a self-described “genderqueer” – someone who refuses to be defined by a gender – promptly started a Twitter fundraising campaign to deliver copies to every school library in the district.

In just half an hour the money poured in.

“Sharing stories of trans people with children is key to trans acceptance. There is no age before which it is appropriate to be compassionate,” Gino told AFP.

In the young adult section, readers can find Meredith Russo’s “If I Was Your Girl”, which chronicles an American teen’s fresh start at a new school, burdened by the secret that she used to be a boy.

Children’s book expert Bardola said the trailblazing tales had triggered much earnest hand-wringing from critics wondering whether it was “appropriate” or “dangerous” to introduce young readers to such complex themes.

He said it reminded him of the stir caused in the 1980s when gay characters started appearing in young adult books.

“The debate is nearly identical. You can tell literary critics are unsure about these (transgender) themes,” he said.

“I think we can be a little more relaxed about it,” he added.

“These books should be judged by their literary quality and children should be given a chance to decide whether or not they want to read these stories.”

German literature critic Ralf Schweikert was more sceptical.

“If you want to talk about what it feels like to live in the wrong body, you are asking for a lot of self-reflection from young readers,” Schweikert told AFP.

For bookworms scouting for a more general take on the gender debate, there’s no shortage of new titles out to smash the patriarchy, reflecting a wider cultural discussion about the traditional roles pushed upon boys and girls.

“There are increasingly books for very young readers out there that deliberately challenge these gender stereotypes,” Schweikert told AFP.

He listed the German early-reading book series “Wild Wilma” as a standout example, about the buccaneering adventures of a girl sailing the high seas as captain of a pirate ship.

‘PONIES AND PRINCESSES’

Bardola said stories that turned gender roles on their head had always been around but that such titles tended to peak every few years depending on the zeitgeist.

“Of course you can still find books for girls about ponies and princesses,” Schweikert said.

“But if you want to get away from those cliches, there’s a lot of good material out there right now.”

And more titles grappling with gender issues are on their way.

Scholastic, which published “George”, will next year be releasing the young adult novel “And She Was” by Jess Verdi, about a teen coming to terms with a parent’s transgender identity.

“And we’ve seen a number of trans or gender non-binary characters in other books we are publishing,” said Scholastic’s editorial director David Levithan.

Books, he added, that “show how gender diverse our real world can be”.

Via: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/lifestyle/transgender-teddy-girl-pirate-authors-tackle-gender-norms

19 Books That Should Be On Your Radar: October 2017

 

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Every month, the Writer’s Bone crew reviews or previews books they’ve read or want to read. This series may or may not also serve as a confessional for guilty pleasures and hipster novels only the brave would attempt. Here are their recommendations for October 2017:

  1. THE LAST BALLAD BY WILEY CASH
  2. SHALLOW GRAVES: THE HUNT FOR THE NEW BEDFORD SERIAL KILLER BY MAUREEN BOYLE
  3. HAVE YOU MET NORA? BY NICOLE BLADES
  4. BONE BY YRSA DALEY-WARD
  5. MY ABSOLUTE DARLING BY GABRIEL TALLENT
  6. SING, UNBURIED, SING BY JESMYN WARD
  7. ONCE WE WERE BROTHERS BY RONALD H. BALSON
  8. HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE BY KELLYE GARRETT
  9. BLURRED LINES: RETHINKING SEX, POWER, AND CONSENT ON CAMPUS BY VANESSA GRIGORIADIS
  10. AN UNKINDNESS OF MAGICIANS BY KAT HOWARD
  11. DREAMFIELD BY ETHAN BRYAN
  12. UNCOMMON TYPE: SOME STORIES BY TOM HANKS
  13. GOOD BONES BY MAGGIE SMITH
  14. FROM THE DUST RETURNED BY RAY BRADBURY
  15. ALL OUR PRETTY SONGS BY SARAH MCCARRY
  16. ASK BABA YAGA: OTHERWORLDLY ADVICE FOR EVERYDAY TROUBLES BY TAISIA KITAISKAIA
  17. TALES OF FALLING AND FLYING BY BEN LOORY
  18. HER BODY & OTHER PARTIES BY CARMEN MARIA MACHADO
  19. MRS. FLETCHER BY TOM PERROTTA

Click on the links above for a detailed synopsis of each book, or follow the following link to see what the Writer’s Bone crew had to say: http://www.writersbone.com/book-recommendations/2017/10/9/19-books-that-should-be-on-your-radar-october-2017

 

Book News: Hodder wins new novels from Angela Clarke

angela-clarke_0A massive congratulations to my friend, Angela Clarke, on her new book deal – I can’t wait to read them. Here is what The Bookseller had to say…

Hodder & Stoughton has acquired two new novels by Angela Clarke, the author behind Follow Me, Watch Me and Trust Me (Avon), in a “hotly contested” auction.

Hodder’s Crime and Thriller publisher Ruth Tross, who acquired world English language rights from Diana Beaumont, Marjacq, said Clarke’s new novel, Inside, had hooked readers at Hodder from the first page and they had “big plans” for Clarke and her writing.

Clarke’s new novel, Inside, tells the story of Jenna Burns: framed for murder, she must prove her innocence from behind bars. When she realises she is pregnant, things take a darker turn – time is running out before she may be forced to give her baby up to the person who has ruined her life…

Wecloming, Clarke, who was previously published by Avon, Tross said: “I have loved Angela’s writing since reading her first novel – she is just amazing at combining a simple hook with page turning plots and intriguing characters.Inside displays that talent perfectly – everyone here was hooked from the first page – and we have big plans for Angela and her writing. I’m so excited to welcome her to Mulholland Books and Hodder & Stoughton.”

Beaumont said: “Angela’s first standalone novel plays to all her strengths: it’s topical, gripping, has a great hook and a strong female protagonist in a truly nightmarish situation. After a hotly contested auction we felt that the team at Hodder were the right people to take Angela to the next level in her career.”

Clarke added: “It’s a dream come true to be joining Ruth and Hodder’s roster, which includes many of my favourite crime and thriller authors writing today. I’m utterly delighted.”

Hodder & Stoughton will publish Inside on its Mullholland imprint in January 2019.

Via: https://www.thebookseller.com/tags-bookseller/angela-clarke

Kazuo Ishiguro Wins the Nobel Prize in Literature | The Guardian

Nobel Prize literature 2017

Fab article from The Guardan about this year’s amazing Nobel Prize in literature winner:

The English author Kazuo Ishiguro has been named winner of the 2017 Nobel prize in literature, praised by the Swedish Academy for his “novels of great emotional force”, which it said had “uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world”.

With names including Margaret Atwood, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o and Haruki Murakami leading the odds at the bookmakers, Ishiguro was a surprise choice. But his blue-chip literary credentials return the award to more familiar territory after last year’s controversial selection of the singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. The author of novels including The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go, Ishiguro’s writing, said the Academy, is “marked by a carefully restrained mode of expression, independent of whatever events are taking place”.

Speaking to the BBC, he called the award a “magnificent honour, mainly because it means that I’m in the footsteps of the greatest authors that have lived”.

“The world is in a very uncertain moment and I would hope all the Nobel prizes would be a force for something positive in the world as it is at the moment,” he said. “I’ll be deeply moved if I could in some way be part of some sort of climate this year in contributing to some sort of positive atmosphere at a very uncertain time.”

Ishiguro’s fellow Booker winner Salman Rushdie – who is also regularly named as a potential Nobel laureate – was one of the first to congratulate him. “Many congratulations to my old friend Ish, whose work I’ve loved and admired ever since I first read A Pale View of Hills,” Rushdie told the Guardian. “And he plays the guitar and writes sings too! Roll over Bob Dylan.”

According to the former poet laureate Andrew Motion, “Ishiguro’s imaginative world has the great virtue and value of being simultaneously highly individual and deeply familiar – a world of puzzlement, isolation, watchfulness, threat and wonder”.

“How does he do it?” asked Motion. “Among other means, by resting his stories on founding principles which combine a very fastidious kind of reserve with equally vivid indications of emotional intensity. It’s a remarkable and fascinating combination, and wonderful to see it recognised by the Nobel prize-givers.”

Permanent secretary of the academy Sara Danius described Ishiguro’s writing as a mix of the works of Jane Austen and Franz Kafka, “but you have to add a little bit of Marcel Proust into the mix, and then you stir, but not too much, and then you have his writings.

“He’s a writer of great integrity. He doesn’t look to the side, he’s developed an aesthetic universe all his own,” she said. Danius named her favourite of Ishiguro’s novels as The Buried Giant, but called The Remains of the Day “a true masterpiece [which] starts as a PG Wodehouse novel and ends as something Kafkaesque”.

“He is someone who is very interested in understanding the past, but he is not a Proustian writer, he is not out to redeem the past, he is exploring what you have to forget in order to survive in the first place as an individual or as a society,” she said, adding – in the wake of last year’s uproar – that she hoped the choice would “make the world happy”.

“That’s not for me to judge. We’ve just chosen what we think is an absolutely brilliant novelist,” she said.

Ishiguro’s publisher at Faber & Faber, Stephen Page, said the win was “absolutely extraordinary news”.

“He’s just an absolutely singular writer” said Page, who received news of Ishiguro’s win while waiting for a flight at Dublin airport. “He has an emotional force as well as an intellectual curiosity, that always finds enormous numbers of readers. His work is challenging at times, and stretching, but because of that emotional force, it so often resonates with readers. He’s a literary writer who is very widely read around the world.”

Born in Japan, Ishiguro’s family moved to the UK when he was five. He studied creative writing at the University of East Anglia, going on to publish his first novel, A Pale View of the Hills, in 1982. He has been a full time writer ever since. According to the Academy, the themes of “memory, time and self-delusion” weave through his work, particularly in The Remains of the Day, which won Ishiguro the Booker prize in 1989 and was adapted into a film starring Anthony Hopkins as the “duty-obsessed” butler Stevens.

His more recent novels have taken a turn for the fantastical: Never Let Me Go is set in a dystopic version of England, while The Buried Giant, published two years ago, sees an elderly couple on a road trip through a strange and otherworldly English landscape. “This novel explores, in a moving manner, how memory relates to oblivion, history to the present, and fantasy to reality,” said the Swedish Academy. Apart from his eight books, which include the short story collection Nocturnes, Ishiguro has written scripts for film and television.

Awarded since 1901, the 9m Swedish krona (£832,000) Nobel prize is for the writing of an author who, in the words of Alfred Nobel’s bequest, “shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”. Ishiguro becomes the 114th winner, following in the footsteps of writers including Seamus Heaney, Toni Morrison, Mo Yan and Pablo Neruda.

The award is judged by the secretive members of the Swedish Academy, who last year plumped for the American musician Dylan “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. He proved an elusive winner and was described as “impolite and arrogant” by academy member Per Wastberg after initially failing to acknowledge the honour.

Some members of the literary community were also less than impressed: “This feels like the lamest Nobel win since they gave it to Obama for not being Bush,” said Hari Kunzru at the time. The choice of a writer who has won awards including the Man Booker prize should pour oil on at least some of the troubled waters ruffled by Dylan’s win, though Will Self reacted to Ishiguro’s win in characteristically lugubrious fashion.

“He’s a fairly good writer,” Self declared, “and surely doesn’t deserve the dread ossification and disregard that garnishes such laurels.”

Via: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/oct/05/kazuo-ishiguro-wins-the-nobel-prize-in-literature