8 Killer True Crime Books for Fans of ‘In Cold Blood’

Truman Capote was born on September 30, 1924 in New Orleans, Louisiana. His writing career was seemingly a matter of fate as he taught himself to read and write from a young age. He began writing short stories before turning to novels, plays and screenplays. The last novel he wrote was arguably his most famous and was not originally published as a book.

cold blooded was first published in The New Yorker in 1965 as a four-part series. The first part was so popular that the magazine sold out immediately. The novel was published a year later. It wasn’t as if crime had never been written about before. But where journalists and investigators largely stuck to factual accounts of the crimes they wrote about, Capote wanted to dig deeper. He wanted to uncover the nuance beneath the surface.

As a result, he spent six years researching the case and had thousands of pages of research notes. He spoke to everyone about the perpetrators, the victims and the community. He examined the relationships – even between the killers – and spent time understanding how their past created the psychological ability to commit such a gruesome act. The result was a tightly paced story that drew the reader into the city, the investigation, and eventually the trial.

cold blooded read like fiction even though the story was true (for the most part). Capote brought literary acumen to the play and managed to build suspense despite the novel being published after the killers had been executed. Everyone knew the outcome and devoured the story anyway. More than just a glimpse into horrifying events, it pulled the reader into the room and opened the door to a new style of journalism – one that paved the way for true crime to become the genre it is today know.

True crime today is a broad genre that includes memoirs, scandals, and in-depth research into historical events. In honor of Capote’s birthday, we’ve found eight murderous true crime novels that can be read with the same intimacy and heartbreaking detail as cold blooded.

“Helter Skelter” by Vincent Bugliosi & Curt Gendry

Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi brings his unique insight into one of the most studied and publicized trials of his time. Charles Manson and four of his followers carried out the brutal and senseless murders of Sharon Tate and four others at their Hollywood home on the evening of August 8, 1969. The trial arguably raised more questions than answers for the general public, and Bugliosis’s intimate narrative, filled with never-before-seen photos and intriguing details, captivated the public’s fascination. To date, it remains the only true crime book that has sold better cold bloodedmaking it the best-selling true crime book of all time.

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“The Stranger Beside Me” by Ann Rule

Capote wrote of the crimes at the Clutter house with such vivid clarity that the reader felt as if they were witnessing the events being described. in the The stranger next to meAs well as captivating the reader, Ann shared her personal account of being hired to write about a prolific serial killer and the horror she experienced upon realizing that the man who she described could be her boyfriend. It’s not just an investigation into Ted Bundy’s crimes, but also Rule’s own journey through denial and how she struggled to accept that the charming and intelligent crisis center worker was a brutal killer.

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Richard Lloyd Parry’s People Who Eat Darkness

Award-winning foreign correspondent Richard Lloyd Parry followed 21-year-old Lucie Blackman’s case from the moment she disappeared. In the seven months it took to discover her remains, the case garnered worldwide attention. but people who eat darkness is not just a beat-by-beat true crime narrative that focuses on the investigation and events as they unfold. Rather, it is a harrowing story of grief. Like Capote, Parry reveals detailed biographies of both the victim and the killer, and focuses on how grief can tear a loving family apart. It’s a compelling read that delves not only into the psychology of crime, but also into the impact violence has on families, societies and cultures.

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“The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson

True crime is more than just the crime. It involves understanding how this crime happened and often delving into psychological, societal and cultural issues to examine how violence of any magnitude can occur. Larson does this by contrasting two men in alternating chapters. One of them is Daniel H. Burnham, the architect who built the “White City” in 1893, the area surrounding the Chicago World’s Fair. Its story is about overcoming challenges to create a marvel. The other is HH Holmes, builder of the World’s Fair Hotel, or “Murder Castle,” the notorious hotel to which he lured an unknown number of victims due to its proximity to the fair. The Devil in the White City creates a gritty narrative that brings to life both the magic and horror surrounding the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

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“I’ll Disappear in the Dark” by Michelle McNamara

Almost from the start, Capote was criticized for embellishing details from the case. It gave the burgeoning genre a small blemish that has stuck with it over the years. But McNamara turned on its head the criticism that true crime is nothing more than a creepy fascination. Told through meticulous, almost obsessive research, I will be gone in the dark took on a case that had haunted California for over fifty years and resulted in one arrest. Not only did it show the power that true crime can have, but through careful and compelling storytelling, it gave a voice, and ultimately justice, to victims who long believed neither was possible.

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“Columbine” by Dave Cullen

The Columbine High School shooting shook the nation. But some of the most enduring images of what happened and why are false. Cullen was one of the school’s first reporters and spent ten years detailing not only the events of the tragic day but also the psychology behind killers and survivors. It’s a compelling read, revealing how mass media madness can create dangerous and long-lasting narratives. He draws the reader into the missteps of the investigation and paints a vivid picture of two very different shooters. columbine does not come to easy answers and will break your heart and infuriate you in equal measure.

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The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum

At the turn of the century, untraceable poisons were considered the perfect crime. It may not seem like engrossing following the investigations of two forensic scientists determined to unravel the chemical mysteries behind various crimes, but Blum weaves a tight-knit mystery that is engrossing and intriguing. Chief Medical Examiner Charles Norris and Toxicologist Alexander Gettler take on a stunning array of cases and treat them with a curious imagination that often feels like fiction. Through the ups and downs of her work, we gain glimpses into the glittering underbelly of New York during the jazz age, in a story that unveils the fascinating emergence of chemical forensics.

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“The Good Nurse” by Charles Graeber

When registered nurse Charlie Cullen was arrested in December 2003, he had killed around 300 patients. The sensational case, which was quickly dubbed the Angel of Death, horrified the public. It would be easy to portray Cullen as a vicious murdered man, but Graeber spent ten years trying to understand how a once-promising, intelligent young man could become a prolific killer. In the same vein that Capote took with Hickock and Smith, Graeber draws the reader into Cullen’s intricate inner workings as he conducts the relentless investigation of two detectives. It’s a terrifying book that guarantees you’ll never look at hospitals or the people who work in them the same way again.

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