As the Crow Reads: Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood: Bookmarked

This month I stumbled upon a copy of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood: Bookmarked by local author Justin St. Germain. And with this, I found an incredibly detailed and well researched criticism of the well read Capote classic.   

I’m not sure what I was expecting when the wonderful people at Grassroots Books and Music recommended this book to me, but it definitely wasn’t a jump back in time to my literary criticism courses in college. I’ve never been a fan of the true crime genre, so while reading this insightful criticism of both the book and the genre, I found myself feeling a little lost in the weeds. It was, however, a stellar peek into themes and concepts that I hadn’t previously explored.   

What I Liked  

I loved how thorough St. Germain is in the research elements of this book. It probably helped that he has read In Cold Blood many times, however I was continually impressed with the length at which his points were defended. I also appreciated the amount of footnotes and extra commentary included. It was incredibly helpful for someone like me who had never even heard of the book he was describing.   

I also enjoyed that this criticism read less like a literary criticism from my classes at Oregon State, and more like an intricately woven story, entwining the author’s life story with that of Capote as well as with the genre itself. It kept me engaged in a way that I have never been by traditional literary criticism.   

Finally, I appreciated the way that this book questioned everything. Even when making his own points, the author questioned not only Capote’s work, but the genre itself, and where it got its roots. I appreciate the depth at which St. Germain operates, and the difficult concepts he’s able to tackle within the text. It made reading this book a complete pleasure.   

What Was Missing  

First and foremost, what was missing for me personally was a knowledge of In Cold Blood. This book is definitely meant for someone with much more experience with both the novel and the true crime genre. Without context I found myself stopping every once in a while to Google a reference — I learned more about the Cutter’s Murder than I ever wished to know.  

The only complaint I had while reading this book is that it often assumes the reader is more well versed in literary terms than they might be. While the majority of the audience reading this book will most likely be an academic crowd, the book assumes the reader comes from that environment, and in doing so, isolates those readers who may not have a background in academia.   

Recommendation  

I would highly recommend this book to those who are fans of either In Cold Blood or the true crime genre. I think it makes some incredibly interesting points that should be considered when reading true crime. I also think that anyone with an interest in literary construction or criticism would thoroughly enjoy this book.   

About the Author  

Justin St. Germain is the author of the memoir Son of a Gun as well as other non-fiction and fiction pieces. He received a BA and MFA from the University of Arizona and now lives in Oregon where he teaches at Oregon State University and the Rainier Writers Workshop.   

Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood: Bookmarked is available at Grassroots Books. It was published in April of 2021 through Ig Publishing.  

By Kyra Young