In Cold Blood

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You would never know it from my blog postings, but I’ve been mowing through the Eclectic Reader Challenge.  I now have five genres completed and sixth one started.  This translates into three books waiting patiently for their moment in the spotlight here at Whimsey Pie.  Over the next few days, I’m going to try to highlight all of them; I have a brief break in classes and want to mentally tidy up before diving back into school.  Besides, I am refusing myself permission to read any more books related to the Challenge until I catch up with my reviews.  Because I want to get reading, I need to get writing.

Let’s get things started with In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote, my choice for the True Crime category of the challenge.

 In Cold Blood

 { via goodreads }

The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call “out there”.  Some seventy miles east of the Colorado border, the countryside, with its hard blue skies and desert-clear air, has an atmosphere that is rather more Far West than Middle West.  The local accent is barbed with a prairie twang, a ranch-hand nasalness, and the men, many of them, wear narrow frontier trousers, Stetsons, and high-heeled boots with pointed toes.  The land is flat and awesomely extensive; horses, herds of cattle, a cluster of grain elevators rising gracefully as Greek temples are visible long before a traveler reaches them.

In this small western town, on the evening of November 15, 1956, Richard”Dick” Hickock and Perry Edward Smith enter the of home of Herbert Clutter, with the anticipation of finding a large chunk of money waiting for them in Herbert’s office safe.  When they realize the safe is empty (Herbert never kept large amounts of cash at home) they tie him up, along with his wife, and his two children still living at home and shoot each of them in the head with a shotgun.  The murderers flee to Mexico and then Florida before they are finally arrested six weeks later.  At their trials, they are convicted of mass murder even though they both plead temporary insanity and are executed by hanging five years later at the Kansas State Penitentiary.

It is this seemingly senseless crime that propels Truman Capote to Holcomb where he takes the quadruple murder and its consequences and turns it into one of the very first (and very best) true crime novels in existence. To research the crime, he (with the help of his friend Harper Lee) interviewed townspeople from Holcomb, policemen and investigators and even Hickock and Smith; it is believed that he wrote over eight thousand pages of notes.  The end result is a book six years in the making that paints a thorough and sympathetic picture of the crime, its setting, the events that surround it and its participants – victims and criminals alike.

In Cold Blood is dark and disturbing, yet I really enjoyed reading it.  Capote’s meticulous research is obvious, his detailed portraits of the killers are thought provoking and his writing is superb (as you can see for yourself above).  I highly recommend this book for readers of all kinds.

My progress in The Eclectic Reader Challenge:

  • Award Winning
  • True Crime (Non Fiction) – In Cold Blood by Truman Capote 4.5/5 stars
  • Romantic ComedyBridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding  3/5 stars
  • Alternate History Fiction
  • Graphic NovelPersepolis by Marjane Satrapi  5/5 stars
  • Cozy Mystery Fiction
  • Gothic Fiction
  • War/Military Fiction
  • Anthology
  • Medical Thriller Fiction
  • Travel (Non Fiction)
  • Published in 2014

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

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Before I get to the good stuff (i.e., the book review), I feel compelled to offer a brief disclaimer about my reviews.  When I discuss a book, I make no effort whatsoever to be highbrow and intellectual.  Whimsey Pie is too light-hearted and chill for that kind of nonsense.  Ultimately, I read for pleasure and emotional satisfaction.  Cognitive stimulation is always appreciated but is not usually my primary motivation for picking up a book.  As you can guess, then, my reviews are fluffy and based on my feelings about and reactions to the style of writing and the story itself.  There will be no in-depth discussions of theme(s), setting, character development, symbolism, etc., etc., etc. This is meant to be fun! You’ve been warned – no whining allowed.

Now, let’s get down to business.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (Persepolis, #1-2)

{via goodreads }

For the first book of The Eclectic Reader Challenge, I chose Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi.  This book fulfills the Graphic Novel requirement of the reading challenge.  Even though it is my first experience with a graphic novel, I have a feeling it may be a bit unusual for the genre.  It is a witty, poignant, and often disturbing memoir of Marjane’s life in Tehran, Iran during the Islamic Revolution and war with Iraq in the early 1980’s.  (Marjane is 12 to 14 years old at the time.)  Minimalist black and white drawings, also created by Marjane, accompany the text and perfectly compliment the content and feel of the book.

It took me less than an hour to read Persepolis – deceptively easy reading that dishes out heavy stuff to digest.  I consider the return on my investment of time to be quite substantial.  As equal parts history lesson, autobiography, and commentary on the dark side of human nature and existence, this little powerhouse packs quite an unexpected wallop.  Marjane’s voice is so authentic and original.  I laughed out loud, became so angry I wanted to throw the book across the room, and cried. That’s covering a lot of ground in an hour, don’t you think?  I couldn’t help rooting for this smart, funny, and slightly rebellious girl as she struggles to remain true to herself among the restrictions, turmoil, and terror of Iran’s religion-infused and deadly political power struggle.

Some quotes about the book from sources who hold more sway than I do:

A brilliant and unusual graphic novel.  ~ Vogue

Prescient…Unexpected…Totally unique and utterly fascinating.  ~Time

One of the freshest and most original memoirs of our day.  [Satrapi’s] is a voice calling out to the rest of us, reminding us to embrace this fervent child’s desire that human dignity reign supreme.   ~Los Angeles Times

Persepolis is one of the most unusual coming of age stories I have ever read.  I highly, highly recommend it.   5/5 stars.

By the way, I think the point of this Eclectic Reader Challenge is to expose participants to the charms of genres we would normally overlook.  Graphic novels would be that kind of genre for me.  Since reading Persepolis, however, I’ve discovered two more graphic novels that I’m confident I would enjoy.  I’ll let you know what I think when I get around to reading them.  (I’ve read both of the original books already.)  They are:

  • Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson
  • Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel by Ransom Riggs

My progress in The Eclectic Reader Challenge:

  • Award Winning
  • True Crime (Non Fiction)
  • Romantic Comedy
  • Alternate History Fiction
  • Graphic Novel – Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi  5/5 stars
  • Cozy Mystery Fiction
  • Gothic Fiction
  • War/Military Fiction
  • Anthology
  • Medical Thriller Fiction
  • Travel (Non Fiction)
  • Published in 2014