Tag Archives: Truman Capote

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In Cold Blood | II

Capote, Truman. In Cold Blood. New York, New York: Signet,  1965.

“She was seventy-four years old, but in Nye’s opinion, “looked younger–maybe ten minutes younger.”” p. 200

“Uh-huh. Came all the way from Kansas on a parole case. Well, I’m just a dizzy blonde. I believe you. but I wouldn’t tell that tale to any brunettes.” p. 202

“”Little punk tried to sweet-talk me out of paying rent the last week he was here.” She chuckled, presumably at the absurdity of such an ambition.” p. 202

“Then he wrote ‘For Sale’ on the windshield. One day I heard a sucker stop and offer him forty bucks–that’s forty more than it was worth.” p. 202-203

“Beyond one door, a drunken tenant wailed and sang in the firm grip of either gladness or grief. “Boil down, Dutch! Turn it off or out you go!” the woman yelled.” p. 203

Circle City, Alaska

“Here was a picture of the two together bathing naked in a diamond-watered Colorado creek, the brother, a pot-bellied, sun-blackened cupid, clutching his sister’s hand and giggling, as though the tumbling stream contained ghostly tickling fingers.” p. 210

“Neither one had ever before referred to the ultimate penalty in the State of Kansas–the gallows, or death in The Corner, as the inmates of Kansas State Penitentiary have named the shed that houses the equipment required to hand a man.” p. 215

“Valley View Cemetery, that gray-and-green island of tombs and trees and flowered paths, a restful, leafy, whispering oasis lying like a cool piece of cloud shade on the luminous wheat plains north of town.” p. 224

“Envy was constantly with him; the Enemy was anyone who was someone he wanted to be or who had anything he wanted to have.” p. 228

“Hot islands and buried gold, diving deep in fire-blue seas toward sunken treasure–such dreams were gone.” p. 230

“Once Nancy had said to him, “One summer, when we were in Colorado, I saw where the Arkansas begins. The exact place. You wouldn’t believe it though. That it was our river. It’s not the same color. But pure as drinking water. And fast. And full of rocks. Whirlpools. Daddy caught a trout.”” p. 233

“Perry soon developed his own personal gift for spying bottles. At first he merely indicated to the boy the whereabouts of his finds; he thought it too undignified to scurry about collecting them himself. It was all “pretty silly,” just “kids stuff.” Nevertheless, the game generated a treasure-hunt excitement, and presently he, too, succumbed to the fun, the fervor of this quest for refundable empties.” p. 238-239

“On an Arizona highway, a two-car caravan is flashing across sagebrush country–the mesa country of hawks and rattlesnakes and towering red rocks.” p. 262

“He continues to contemplate the scenery, to read Burma-Shave doggerel, and to count the carcasses of shotgunned coyotes festooning ranch fences.” p. 263

“He carried the knife and a flashlight. I had the gun.The house looked tremendous in the moonlight. Looked empty. I remember hoping there was nobody home–” p. 267

“The one window was curtained with Venetian blinds, but moonlight was coming through.” p. 267

“Among Garden City’s animals are two gray tomcats who are always together–thin, dirty strays with strange and clever habits. The chief ceremony of their day is performed at twilight. First they trot the length of Main Street, stopping to scrutinize the engine grilles of parked automobiles, particularly those stationed in front of the two hotels, the Windsor and Warren, for these cars, usually the property of travelers from afar, often yield what the bony, methodical creatures are hunting: slaughtered birds–crows, chickadees, and sparrows foolhardy enough to have flown into the path of oncoming motorists. Using their paws as though they are surgical instruments, the cats extract from the grilles every feathery particle.” p. 278

“Late at night, when the only noises were snores and coughs and the mournful whistle-wailings of Santa Fe trains rumbling through the darkened town, he honed the wire against the cell’s concrete floor. And while he worked he schemed.” p. 296

“a notion that he “might not be normal, maybe insane” had troubled him “even when I was little, and my sisters laughed because I liked moonlight. To hide in the shadows and watch the moon” p. 299

“the M’Naghten Rule, the ancient British importation which contends that if the accused knew the nature of his act, and knew it was wrong, then he is mentally competent and responsible for his actions.” p. 301

“The fine lawn surrounding the Clutter house was also newly green, and trespassers upon it, women anxious to have a closer look at the uninhabited home, crept across the grass and peered through the windows as though hopeful but fearful of discerning, in the gloom beyond the pleasant flower-print curtains, grim apparitions.” p. 304

“”In exodus Twenty, Verse Thirteen, we have one of the Ten Commandments: ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ This refers to unlawful killing. Of course it does, because in the next chapter, Verse Twelve, the penalty for disobedience of that Commandment reads: ‘He that smiteth a man, so that he die, share be surely put to death.’ Now, Mr. Fleming would have you believe that all this was changed by the coming of Christ. Not so. For Christ says, ‘Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.’ And finally–” Green fumbled, and seemed to accidentally shut the Bible, whereupon the visiting legal dignitaries grinned and nudged each other, for this was a venerable courtroom ploy–the lawyer who while reading from the Scriptures pretends to lose his place, and then remarks, as Green now did, “Never mind. I think I can quote from memory. Genesis Nine, Verses Six: ‘Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.'”

“soft slippers (in most American prisons such slippers are a condemned man’s customary footwear)” p. 347

“For this is the state’s execution chamber; when a man is brought here to be hanged, the prisoners say he has “gone to The Corner,” or, alternatively, “paid a visit to the warehouse.” p. 348

Alvin Karpis. Via Wikimedia.

Alvin “Old Creepy” Karpis, Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, Clyde Barrow and his homicidal sweetheart, Bonnie Parker” p. 348
“Andrews suffered no delusions, no false perceptions, no hallucinations, but the primary illness of separation of thinking from feeling. He understood the nature of his acts, and that they were prohibited, and that he was subject to punishment. “But,” to quote Dr. Joseph Satten, one of the examiners, “Lowell Lee Andrews felt no emotions whatsoever. He considered himself the only important, only significant person in the world. And in his own seclusive world it seemed to him just as right to kill his mother as to kill an animal or a fly.” p. 354

“The doors wide open. We could see the witnesses, a lot of guards, the doctor and the warden–every damn thing but the gallows. It was off at an angle, but we could see its shadow. A shadow on the wall like the shadow of a boxing ring.” p. 371

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Gray 

“The boats of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Await alike the inevitable hour:
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.” p. 372

Andrews “He liked to imagine himself roaming around Chicago or Los Angeles with a machine gun inside a violin case. Cooling guys. Said he’d charge a thousand bucks per stiff.” p. 373

“I couldn’t rest in peace till the ones responsible had taken that ride on the Big Swing.” p. 376

“I believe in hanging. Just so long as I’m not the one being hanged.” p. 376

“A hearse, its blazing headlights beaded with rain, drove into the warehouse, and the body, placed on a litter and shrouded under a blanket, was carried to the hearse and out into the night.” p. 380

“”Gosh, I didn’t know he was such a shrimp.”
“Yeah, he’s little. But so is a tarantula.”” p. 381

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In Cold Blood | I

Capote, Truman. In Cold Blood. New York, New York: Signet,  1965.

“The depot itself, with its peeling sulphur colored paint, is equally melancholy; the Chief, the Super Chief, the El Capitan go by every day, but these celebrated expresses never pause there. No passenger trains do–only an occasional freight. p. 14

AT&SF “Drumhead” logos from the El Capitan passenger trains. Via wikimedia.

This reproduction of a cabinet card tacked to corkboard shows a map of the Grand Canyon Route of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway. The map title reads: “Through car lines between Chicago, Kansas City and Pacific Coast. Grand Canon Line.” Other notes read: “2731. Poole Bros. Chicago.” Between 1900 and 1905? Via Wikimedia.

Holcomb, Kansas

Chinese elms

“ACAPULCO connoted deep-sea fishing, casinos, anxious rich women; and SIERRA MADRE meant gold, meant Treasure of the Sierra Madre, a movie he had seen eight times.” p. 25

“Since childhood, for more than half his thirty-one years, he had been sending off for literature (“FORTUNES IN DIVING! Train at Home in Your Spare Time. Make Big Money Fast in Skin and Lung Diving. FREE BOOKLETS…”), answering advertisements (“SUNKEN TREASURE! Fifty Genuine Maps! Amazing Offer…”) that stoked a longing to realize an adventure his imagination swiftly and over and over enabled him to experience: the dream of drifting downward through strange waters, of plunging toward a green sea-dusk, sliding past the scaly, savage-eyed protectors of a ship’s hulk that loomed ahead, a Spanish galleon –a drowned cargo of diamonds and pearls, heaping casket of gold.
A car horn honked. At last–Dick.” p. 27-28

“”Anybody wearing the fraternity pin,” he added, and touched a blue dot tattooed under his left eye–an insigne, a visible password, by which certain former prison inmates could identify him.” p. 35

“she had taken an apartment, then found a job–as a file clerk at the Y.W.C.A. Her husband, entirely sympathetic, had encouraged the adventure, but she had liked it too well, so much that it seemed to her unchristian, and the sense of guilt she i consequence developed ultimately outweighed the experiment’s therapeutic value.” p. 39

“A bookmark lay between its pages, a stiff piece of watered silk upon which an admonition had been embroidered: “Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.”” p. 42

Dick “The tattooed face of a cat, blue and grinning, covered his right hand; on one shoulder a blue rose blossomed. More markings, self-designed and self-executed, ornamented his arms and torso: the head of a dragon with a human skull between its open jaws; bosomy nudes; a gremlin brandishing a pitchfork; the word PEACE accompanied by a cross radiating, in the form of crude strokes, rays of holy light; and two sentimental concoctions–one a bouquet of flowers dedicated to MOTHER-DAD, the other a heart that celebrated the romance of DICK and CAROL,” p. 42

Dick “his eyes not only situated at uneven levels but of uneven size, the left eye being truly serpentine, with a venomous, sickly-blue squint that although it was involuntarily acquired, seemed nevertheless to warn of bitter sediment at the bottom of his nature.” p. 43

Perry “Blue-furred, orange-eyed, red-fanged, a tiger snarled upon his left biceps; a spitting snake, coiled around a dagger, slithered down his arm; and elsewhere skulls gleamed, a tombstone loomed, a chrysanthemum flourished.” p. 44

Dodge City, Kansas

“A hundred miles west and one would be out of the “Bible Belt,” that gospel-haunted strip of American territory in which a man must, if only for business reasons, take his religion with the straightest of faces, but in Finney County one is still within the Bible Belt borders, and therefore a person’s church affiliation is the most important factor influencing his class status.” p. 46

Mr. Clutter “he had no use for card games, golf, cocktails, or buffet suppers served at ten–or, indeed, for any pastime that he felt did not “accomplish something.” p. 47

“Not far from River Valley Farm there is a mysterious stretch of countryside known as the Sand Hills; it is like a beach without an ocean, and at night coyotes slink among the dunes, assembling in hordes to howl. On moonlit evening the boys would descend upon them, set them running, and try to outrace them in the wagon; they seldom did, for the scrawniest coyote can hit fifty miles an hour, whereas the wagon’s tip speed was thirty-five, but it was a wild and beautiful kind of fun, the wagon skidding across the sand, the fleeing coyotes framed against the moon–as Bob said, it sure made your heart hurry.” p. 51-52

“nuns, and anything pertaining to them, were bad luck, and Perry was most respectful of his superstitions. (Some other were the number 15, red hair, white flowers, priests crossing a road, snakes appearing in a dream.)” p. 55

“You are strong, but there is a flaw in your strength, and unless you learn to control it the flaw will prove stronger than your strength and defeat you.” p. 57

“Moreover, unlike Willie-Jay, he was not critical of Perry’s exotic aspirations; he was willing to listen, catch fire, share with him those visions of “guaranteed treasure” lurking in Mexican seas, Brazilian jungles.” p. 58

“A full moon was forming at the edge of the sky.” p. 63

****Susan “But when we got there–I didn’t want to do it. Go inside the house. I was frightened, and I don’t know why, because it never occurred to me…We walked in, and I saw right away that the Clutters hadn’t eaten breakfast; there were no dishes, nothing on the stove. Then I noticed something funny: Nancy’s purse. It was lying on the floor, sort of open. We passed on through the dining room, and stopped at the bottom of the stairs. Nancy’s room is just at the top. I called her name, and started up the stairs, and Nancy Ewalt followed. The sound of our footsteps frightened me more than anything, they were so loud and everything else was so silent. Nancy’s door was open. The curtains hadn’t been drawn, and the room was full of sunlight. I don’t remember screaming. Nancy Ewalt says I did–screamed and screamed. I only remember Nancy’s Teddy bear staring at me. And Nancy. And running…”” p. 75

“There’s been some kind of accident.’ Then we went in the house, the three of us. Went through the kitchen and saw a lady’s purse laying on the floor, and the phone to Nancy’s room, I noticed he kept his hand on it, ready to draw.” p. 78

***”We stepped back into the hall, and looked around. All the other doors were closed. We opened, and that turned out to be a bathroom. Something about it seemed wrong. I decided it was because of the chair–a sort of dining-room chair, that looked out of place in a bathroom.” p. 78

“I remember the sheriff searched around to see if he could find the discharged cartridge. But whoever had done it was much too smart and cool to have left behind any clues like that.” p. 79

“‘Where the devil can Herb be?’ About then we heard footsteps Coming up the stairs from the basement. ‘Who’s that?’ said the sheriff, like he was ready to shoot. And a voice said, ‘It’s me. Wendle.’ Turned out to be Wendle Meier, the undersheriff. Seems he had come to the house and hadn’t seen us, so he’d gone investigating down in the basement.” p. 79-80

“Well, I took one look at Mr. Clutter, and it was hard to look again. I knew plain shooting couldn’t account for that much blood. And I wasn’t wrong.” p. 80

“What he was pointing at was a bloodstained footprint. On the mattress box. A half-sole footprint with circles–two holes in the center like a pair of eyes.” p. 81

“A stocky, weathered widow who wears babushka bandannas and cowboy boots (“Most comfortable things you can put on your feet, soft as a loon feather”), Mother Truitt is the oldest native-born Holcombite.” p. 82

“For, feeling it their duty, a Christian task, these men had volunteered to clean certain of the fourteen rooms in the main house at River Valley Farm: rooms in which four members of the Clutter family have been murdered by, as their death certificates declared, “a person or persons unknown.”” p. 93

“not the slightest echo of gun thunder” p. 94

****”But the diary notation that most tantalized Dewey was unrelated to the Clutter-Rupp, Methodist-Catholic impasse. Rather, it concerned a cat, the mysterious demise of Nancy’s favorite pet, Boobs, whom, according to an entry dated two weeks prior to her own death, she’d found “lying in the barn,” the victim, or so she suspected (without saying why), of a poisoner: “Poor Boobs. I buried him in a special place.” On reading this… He determined to find the “special place” where Nancy had buried her pet, even though it meant combing the vast whole of River Valley Farm.” p. 101

“Outside, Dick said, “So you’re getting married next week? Well, you’ll need a ring.” … Perry was sorry to see them go. He’d began to half credit the make-believe bride, though in his conception of her, as opposed to Dick’s, she was not rich, nor beautiful; rather, she was nicely groomed, gently spoken, was conceivably “a college graduate,” in any event “a very intellectual type.”–a sort of girl he’d always wanted to meet but in fact never had.” p. 116

Perry “had lost his mother as well, learned to “despise” her; liquor had blurred the face, swollen the figure of the once sinewy, limber Cherokee girl, had “soured her soul,” honed her tongue to the wickedest point,” 153-154

“In Alaska, Tex taught his son to dream of gold, to hunt for it in the sandy beds of snow-water streams, and there, too, Perry learned to use a gun, skin a bear, track wolves and deer.” p. 155

“It would have been O.K. if only I hadn’t grown up; the older I got, the less I was able to appreciate Dad.” p. 155

“I had this great natural musical ability. Which Dad didn’t recognized. Or care about. I liked to read, too. Improve my vocabulary. Make up songs. And I could draw. but I never got any encouragement–from him or anybody else.” p. 155

“Well, while I was still in the Army, stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, I’d bought a motorcycle (murdercycle, they ought to call them), and as soon as I got discharged I headed for Alaska. Got as far as Bellingham. Up there on the border. It was raining. My bike went into a skid.” p. 156

Letter from Perry’s sister Barbara “”Now, first, & most important–Dad is not responsible for your wrong doings or your good deeds. What you have done, whether right or wrong, is your own doing… Your letter implies that the blame of all your problems is that of someone else, but never you.” p. 163

Courthouse Pete “Pete, a tiger-striped tom weighing fifteen pounds, is a well-known character around Garden City, famous for his pugnacity, which was the cause of his current hospitalization; a battle lost to a boxer dog had left him with wounds necessitating both stitches and antibiotics.” p. 172

***”During this visit Dewey paused at an upstairs window, his attention caught by something seen in the near distance–a scarecrow amid the wheat stubble. The scarecrow wore a man’s hunting cap and a dress of weather-faded flowered calico. (Surely an old dress of Bonnie Clutter’s?) Wind frolicked the skirt and made the scarecrow sway–make it seem a creature forlornly dancing in the cold December field.” p. 177

“And listening to Dick’s conceited chatter, hearing him start to describe his Mexican “amorous conquests,” he thought how “queer” it was, “egomaniacal.” Imagine going all out to impress a man you were going to kill, a man who wouldn’t be alive ten minutes from now” p. 198

to read:

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi

to watch:

In Cold Blood (1967) dir. Richard Brooks. DP: Conrad Hall

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