For the reader of the twenty-first century, Truman Capote's In Cold Blood is probably not as spine-chilling as it was in 1965 when it was first published. For, then, serial killers were unheard of in the United States; now, of course, there are many on record.
Capote's innovative journalistic novel was first serialized in The New Yorker, for whom Capote worked; however, shortly thereafter it was serialized in major newspapers across the country, one of which was the Chicago Tribune. Certainly, the book was compelling, and the readers waited anxiously for their latest installment. The wanton and emotionless slaying of the family members of the Clutters was horrifying, much more horrifying and shocking than modern readers would, perhaps, feel as sympathies today often lean toward the killers. However, in the late 1960s, people were not as sympathetic. Their horror stemmed from the fact that Perry Smith coldiy killed the Clutters; he said nothing to them. While Capote's closely documented and "evocatively written account of the Clutter killings" points to the question of whether a man alone can be held responsible for his action when his environment has relentlessly neglected him, audiences in 1965 were not especially receptive to this message.
Nevertheless, In Cold Blood is extremely suspenseful, and, as such it sells many a copy. Whether the contemporary readers accepted it on their campuses is dubious indeed.