"The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call "out there." Until one morning in mid-November of 1959, few Americans--in fact, few Kansans--had ever heard of Holcomb. With these lines of the book the reader is introduced to middle America in a classic book about a true crime. This book serves many purposes as a classic. First it gives the reader a great glimpse of midwestern life in the late 1950s. The process Mr. Capote uses to tell this story creates a whole atmosphere of the era and not just, what I would call, a Jack Webb, "Just the facts, ma'am" reading.
Another purpose served with the writing of this book is that Truman Capote invented a new genre--journalism written with the language and structure of literature--this "nonfiction novel" about the brutal slaying of the Clutter family by two would-be robbers would be remembered as "something new" that has influenced countless writers and created what is now an entire genre called "True Crime."
During the first section of the book the life of the Clutter family and the life of Dick Hickock and Perry Smith (the murderers) is unrolled to create a great feeling of who these characters are. Not only do you get to know the good guys in the story but the bad guys are understood as well. If you saw the movie "Capote" (the movie was based on the section of Truman Capote's life that was spent on writing this book) you may remember a saying that the story explores the underbelly of society in which Hickock and Smith are a product of and that any normal citizen is not that far from touching. It is haunting how guys like Hickock and Smith can be that close to you in normal life and even more so in today's times.
Most of the second section of this book is spent on trying to track down the killers (identity's unknown at this point) by the KBI and other authorities. Also the reader is taken on the road with Dick and Perry, this is a very dark version of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road." But it is similar.
This is a classic that should be read by all...but be warned, even if you live in a small town, you may start locking all your doors and windows after reading this one.