Literature: In Cold Blood

Considered by somenote  the Trope Codifier for the Non-Fiction Novel, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote was published in 1966.

It told the story of Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, two recently parolled convicts. One day, in 1959, they hear from a fellow con named Floyd Wells about a farmer he worked for named Herb Clutter. According to Wells, Clutter kept a safe in his house with lots of cash inside. So, the two decide to rob the place, Leave No Witnesses and head for Mexico with the cash. And that's what they do. Except for one small thing: there was no safe.

Capote originally started the book as an article on the massacre. He was able to interview both Smith and Hickock for the project shortly after their arrest. The huge amount of info he got led him to change course during development.

This was adapted into a 1967 movie directed by Richard Brooks and staring Robert Blake as Smith and Scott Wilson as Hickock. It was also made into a TV Miniseries in 1996 starring Anthony Edwards as Hickock and Eric Roberts as Smith.The story of its creation was told twice within a year: first as Capote in 2005, and then as Infamous in 2006.


This work contains examples of:

  • Epigraph: An excerpt from La Ballade des Pendus (the Ballad of the Hanged) by François Villon.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Clutter and his family are killed.
  • Instant Mystery, Just Delete Scene: It starts with the killers arriving at the Clutter farmhouse, and then goes to the aftermath. It goes back in time to explain why it happened.
  • The Perfect Crime: In Hickock's words, they thought their plan would be "a cinch, the perfect score."
  • True Crime: Credited with establishing the modern form of the Genre.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Floyd Wells. It all wouldn't have happened if he had kept his mouth shut about the safe.