Tuesday, September 04, 2007

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote: an audibook review

A couple of years ago I mentioned here that I was hoping to begin reading those books which I had long wanted to read but had never gotten to, or to re-read old favorites. Between the ‘professional’ reading I do for my job and the Joe Bob Briggs review stuff I haven’t gotten the chance to do as much of that as I have wanted. A way around this has been to borrow audio adaptations of these books from the Library and listen on the way to and from work. It’s also a great way to sample authors that I have never read to see if I might be interested. If you don’t do this yourself you might give it a try.

Truman Capote’s non-fiction book on the murder of a family in Kansas has been made into two films and is considered one of the classics of ‘true crime’ writing. The original film featured Robert Blake in an intense performance as Perry Smith one of the killers. The story of Capote’s work on the book, assisted by Harper Lee, was also been made into the film CAPOTE, for which actor Philip Seymour Hoffman won an Oscar for his portrayal of the author. As a fan of ‘true crime’ books and television programs I have meant to pick up the book for several years, but have never gotten beyond skimming a few chapters.

In November of 1959, Perry Smith and his fellow ex-con, Richard “Dick” Hickcock drove to a farm outside Holcomb, Kansas owned by Herbert Clutter. There they tied up the four members of the Clutter family: Herbert, his wife Bonnie, and the two of the four Clutter children, Nancy (16 yrs old) & Kenyon (15 yrs old) who were home. Discovering that Mr. Clutter did not have a safe filled with money, as they had suspected, Smith and Hickcock murdered all four of the Clutters, taking what little money they could find and some merchandise they could later sell.

The book is based on Capote’s research and interviews with both killers, detectives involved in the case and dozens of Clutter family friends and surviving relatives. With the help of Lee, Capote was able to write about the history of Herbert Clutter, Smith, Hickcock, their families and the town of Holcomb itself. Aided here by Scott Brick’s reading, the book brings to life the dozens of characters whose very different lives came together on that fateful night.

The adaptation I chose is from Random House Audio. It was an unabridged edition on 12-CDs, which lasted 14 hrs, 25 minutes. Scott Brick, an actor and screenwriter (his adapted screenplay of Arthur C. Clarke’s RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA is scheduled for a 2009 release) who has made a name for himself as an audio book narrator, reads the book. Brick has worked on over 250 audio adaptations and won over thirty awards for his efforts since 2000. It is amazing what a talented reader can bring to a book, rather fiction or non-fiction, as it is her or his performance, which brings the story alive through only their voice. A very good reader, and Brick is one of the best, can make you forget that there is only one person doing everything.
While I’m on the topic, I also want to recommend readings by David McCallum (who you can hear reading books by Anne Perry and Jack Higgins), Joe Mantegna (Jerry Deaver, Mario Puzo and some of Robert Parker’s Spenser novels) and Mary Peiffer (Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series and others).

Highly recommended. (The link in the headline will take you to the Wikipedia essay on the book)
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