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5 Books like In Cold Blood: A Chill Through Your Spine

Kedar Prasana itcherWith ‘In Cold Blood’, Truman Capote managed to cover a mass-murder mystery that rocked sleepy, idyllic, rural America in the late 50’s. Books like ‘In Cold Blood’ are sure to disturb you more than entertain you, and the following selections will help you get an insider’s view of how twisted minds droop to heinous criminal levels: ‘Helter Skelter’, ‘For the Thrill of It’, ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’, ‘The Right Stuff’, ‘Operation Massacre’. ~ Kedar Prasana

Unravelled Minds and Unscrewed Reality

I thought that Mr. Clutter was a very nice gentleman. I thought so right up to the moment that I cut his throat.

‘In Cold Blood’, published in 1966, is unlike any Truman Capote book you’ll ever get to read.

It is a truly chilling account of the mass-murders of Holcomb, Kansas in 1959. These murders probably slashed the idea of idyllic, small-town American life for good, with far more bitter implications than what Sinclair Lewis did via ‘Main Street’.

It also presents a glimpse into the existence of Capote-the-man, and his friendship with Harper Lee.

Despite being aware of Capote’s literary legacy, I had never actually taken a liking to his style. Through a strange chain of coincidences, I was being recommended ‘In Cold Blood’ in 2008 by friends and colleagues, in the wake of the ghastly Noida double murders that shook India, just like Holcomb murders shook America.

Much time has passed since then, but yet, I – like thousands of other readers – cannot read a single page of ‘In Cold Blood’, without feeling the weight of horror and that intense desire to leave the book in cold blood (pun intended).

Perhaps, that is the only yardstick of quality for a book like ‘In Cold Blood’.


Books Similar to ‘In Cold Blood’…

‘Helter Skelter’ (Vincent Bugliosi, 1974)

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….been shot four times, four fuckin’ times…

Vincent Bugliosi, part author, part journalist and chiefly a lawyer, added another dimension to the genre of True Fiction with this Clockwork Orange-esque, but far too real, tale of Charles Manson’s dirty deeds and the silence of his influential friends.

Manson saga has been documented intensely as a part of pop culture, at times folklore, throughout the last forty years. Bugliosi, however, had a great view of it all as the tale unravelled, since he himself was the prosecutor of the charge.

Fraught with compromising details, scandalous cult rituals and above all, blood curdling bloodshed – the book is more than likely to rob you of sleep for a night or two.

Similarity Match: 95%
‘Helter Skelter’ and ‘In Cold Blood’ are quite similar in that they present two of the most iconic true stories of American Horror. However, not being a man of letters, Bugliosi cannot really reach the heights of prose that Capote manages in ‘In Cold Blood’.

‘For the Thrill of It’ (Simon Baatz, 2008)

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It will be a thrill, you know, to kill a human – any human, it will be such a thrill!

The Leopold and Loeb scandal of the 1920’s is marked in the history of the weird with block letters. Simon Baatz, in this tome of a text, recounts the events surrounding the case – the events that led to two promising young students from Chicago to commit a gory crime for no apparent reason whatsoever.

The book, at some points, fails to reach the promised heights, but nonetheless, it’s still a worthy read if you are interested in peeking into the workings of a criminal mind.

Similarity Match: 90%
‘For the Thrill of It’, like ‘In Cold Blood’, focuses more on the criminals than the crime itself. However, unlike ‘In Cold Blood’, it reads more like a documentary text than a gripping tale.

‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’ (John Berendt, 1994)

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The South is One Big Drag Show, honey…

Published in 1994, ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’ had to go through manifold editions because of its New York Times Bestseller reputation.

The book recounts the story – a real event, however hard to believe – of James Williams and Danny Hansford, and a strange murder mystery that went through four trials and innumerable conspiracy theories.

It was made into a movie by Clint Eastwood in 1997, starring Kevin Spacey and John Cusack.

Similarity Match: 80%
‘Midnight in the….’ and ‘In Cold Blood’ are both set in the south and in a way, entirely dictated by the Southern culture. However, Berendt relies more on documents, while Capote on his own experiences and personal interviews with the murderers.


If You Like ‘In Cold Blood’, You Will Like…

‘In Cold Blood’ is one of those books that will make you question your sanity. If you are curious enough to understand how criminal minds operate, two more books like ‘In Cold Blood’ that you can turn to are listed below.

They are not entirely about murders, but yet, they possess the same doom spell that Capote wields.

‘The Right Stuff’ (Tom Wolfe, 1979)

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Night landings were a routine part of carrier operations—and perhaps the best of all examples of how a man’s accumulated good works did him no good whatsoever at each new step up the great pyramid, of how each new step was an absolute test, and of how each bright new day’s absolutes—chosen or damned—were built into the routine.

‘The Right Stuff’ established Tom Wolfe as one of the premier American novelists of the 20th century. This was his first foray into the non-fiction fiction genre. This also, in my personal opinion, happens to be the most underrated book penned by Tom Wolfe.

The story itself is a montage of incoherently connected events that span from post-Cold War strategy rooms to NASA headquarters. The crime being committed here is negligence, and it is – in no way – less stupefying than the Holcomb murders in ‘In Cold Blood’.    

Being non-contemporaries, Capote and Wolfe had very different styles. Capote was charismatic, while Wolfe pragmatic and sarcastic. Their attention to details and a penchant for dissecting human mind, however, make these two titles very similar.

‘Operation Massacre’ (Rodolfo Walsh, 1957)

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There was a tinge of hope in his eyes, a dash of life, a touch of future. But it wasn’t to last long.

Rodolfo Walsh – considered by many to be the Argentine Hunter S. Thompson – covered in excruciating details the world-famous Suarez massacre that followed a military coup in Argentina in 1955.

The book has a bigger purpose than the plot. It tries to dissect the minds of those who were instrumental in the unfolding of these ghastly events, and those who were affected forever by them.

Capote was a literary man turned journalist for a while. Walsh was a journalist turned author for a while. Apart from this striking difference, the way of narrating events in an absolutely unbiased manner makes both these books honest and sincere reads.


Beyond the Blood and Gore

Books like ‘In Cold Blood’ signify a lot more than a crime or a criminal. They are about how human minds operate and what pushes them over the edge, into an abyss, hurtling towards certain obliteration.

If you are still on the lookout for more such books, ‘Hell’s Angles’, ‘Queeny’ and ‘Fatal Vision’ can be worth scouring.

Please do feel free to post your comments, remarks and suggestions in the interaction box below –every rightful comment helps us get better!

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