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Truman Capote

True Crime

Ever since there have been criminals, there has been public interest in their crimes. People want to know why other people behave as they do, especially when it involves murder. There is widespread interest in what motivates killers to act, as well as curiosity about the details of what happens to the victims. The public will follow a case from the initial investigation by law enforcement officials, to the resulting trial and ultimate sentencing of the accused.

In the early twenty-first century, several television programs feature reenactments of actual criminal cases that have been solved. On these shows participating law enforcement officials and survivors are interviewed to show how criminals are brought to justice. Some programs give details of unsolved cases, asking viewers for help in apprehending offenders, while other television programs present fictionalized accounts of how modern technology is used in real crime scene investigations, especially for homicides.

Internet web sites and daily newspaper accounts follow current cases of true crime that capture the public's attention because they are either close to home or sensational in nature. During the 1990s, media coverage of the latest killing by a celebrity,or one that was especially gruesome, created such public interest that a new type of book emerged. These written accounts give instant gratification to people who want to read about existing true crimes, but are often published before trial results are even in.

In 1965 Truman Capote helped introduce a new style of writing, which is now called "literary nonfiction." His novel, In Cold Blood, was based on facts, but he did not deliver them in a journalistic fashion. Instead he used a storytelling technique that made the book read like suspense fiction. Capote spent six years studying the 1959 murder of the Clutter family of Holcomb, Kansas. He lived with the townspeople, interviewing them over the years, while he recorded how they coped with the loss of four members of their community.

Capote maintained the suspense of his story by first talking about the community's response to the murders. He kept the details about how the Clutters died until after the killers were captured. Capote interviewed the two young drifters who confessed and were tried for the murders. He devoted the final chapter of his book to giving extensive details about their trial and prison life. Capote developed an emotional attachment to the criminals during his time interviewing them, and he witnessed their hanging at the Kansas state penitentiary in April 1965. Capote's in-depth novel was a great success and the popularity of true crime stories increased as a result.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawTruman Capote - Persons To Capote, Breakfast At Tiffany's, In Cold Blood, True Crime, Fall From Grace