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In Cold Blood, the manuscript by Truman Capote

A unique assemblage of Truman Capote’s notebooks and papers preserved at the Library of Congress (Washington DC) and at the NYPL (New York), for the first time published. An extraordinary insight into Truman Capote’s writing and investigation.

In Cold Blood

Deluxe edition, with a foreword by Ebs Burnough. With grateful acknowledgements to Alan and Louise Schwartz (Truman Capote Literary Trust).

‘No, I don’t use a typewriter. Not in the beginning. I write my first version in longhand (pencil). Then I do a complete revision, also in longhand. Essentially I think of myself as a stylist, and stylists can become notoriously obsessed with the placing of a comma, the weight of a semicolon. Obsessions of this sort, and the time I take over them, irritate me beyond endurance.’ Paris Review, 1957.

A 5-year literary adventure

The journey that led to the publication of In Cold Blood started in November 1959. Leafing through the New York Times, Capote's attention was caught by a paragraph on the horrific murder of a Kansas farmer and his family. The writer sensed an opportunity for an article - he had no idea that this enterprise, at once a personal, artistic and professional turning point, would last several years. Nor that right up to the point of resolution - with the execution of the murderers in April 1965 - he would accumulate a huge mass of handwritten notebooks, sheets of handwritten and typed-up notes, official documents, letter exchanges with a range of correspondents, sketches, and drawings. This material, of indisputable literary and historical importance, is mainly preserved in the Library of Congress in Washington DC, and in the New York Public Library.

In Cold Blood Manuscript

Diving into Truman Capote’s writing and investigation

The present work offers a behind-the-scenes dip into the writing of the novel, following its four-part chronological structure. The reader will have the opportunity to peek at the notebooks outlining key scenes of the novel, painstakingly selected from the large volume of materials produced and collected by Capote.

The essence of non-fiction novel

The reader will discover the very first paragraph of In Cold Blood, as well as Perry Smith’s confession during the arrest and the last scene in Holcomb’s cemetery with inspector Alvin Dewey. Truman Capote’s handwriting is neat, precise, and his draft is close but still different from the final version, with some stylistic changes, and rewritten passages. Capote usually preferred to write on the right pages of his notebooks: once the last page is reached, he would flip the notebook to continue the story.

The volume also includes a selection of working notes, all previously unpublished – a handwritten notebook where Capote makes hypotheses about the crime mobile, plans of the Clutter property, notes on the trial accompanied by drawings. We can almost picture Truman Capote pacing the streets of Holcomb, notebook in hand, and then later, in the evening, in his hotel room reconstructing the essence of his conversations with the local people.

A foreword by Ebs Burnough

When I began work on my documentary The Capote Tapes, I was initially drawn to Truman’s years following the publication of In Cold Blood; but I quickly realized that I could never tell Truman’s story without telling the story of In Cold Blood. His story is intrinsically wrapped in Perry’s story. And the sorrow he felt at the loss of Perry’s life and yet the realization that his success was dependent on that life coming to an end, always lingered for Truman. As glamorous as his life was, the years following 1965 and Perry’s death, became a slow and long decline into alcohol and drug addiction.

As a young boy in the American South, I grew up reading Capote, from the short stories to the novels. He was an aspirational figure. Someone who lived a grand far away life, he was both indulgent and intellectual. He stood out as an openly gay man when the laws of the land deemed it criminal, but he chafed at the idea of being defined by his sexuality. He was a media personality who emitted wit and charm, but he could also be cruel and inhumane. He was a ball of contradictions. But perhaps most important of all, was his writing. It remains for me so close to home, so near the smells and sounds of the South, so rich in tone and elegant in prose. As Norman Mailer said, 'He wrote the best sentences'.

Ebs Burnough is a filmmaker, writer and producer. He is the author and director of The Capote Tapes (2021). He serves as Vice-Chair of the board of the Sundance Institute.

Nearly five-thousand changes…

‘When Truman Capote serialized In Cold Blood in the New Yorker in autumn 1965, no one imagined that his much-heralded "nonfiction novel" was an unpolished work. Yet a comparison of the magazine edition and publication by Random House ten weeks later reveals that Capote made nearly five-thousand changes, ranging from crucial matters of fact to the placement of a comma.’ (Jack De Bellis, ‘Visions and Revisions: Truman Capote’s ‘In Cold Blood‘‘, Journal of Modern Literature, 1979.)

Published version:

On Monday, at midday, Dewey held a press conference in the sheriff’s office. 'I’ll talk facts but not theories', he informed the assembled journalists. 'Now, the big fact here, the thing to remember, is we’re not dealing with one murder but four. And we don’t know which of the four was the main target. The primary victim. It could have been Nancy or Kenyon, or either of the parents. Some people say, Well, it must have been Mr. Clutter. Because his throat was cut; he was the most abused. But that’s theory, not fact. It would help if we knew in what order the family died, but the coroner can’t tell us that; he only knows the murders happened sometime between eleven P.M. Saturday and two A.M. Sunday.'

Manuscript version:

At midday on Monday, Dewey held a press conference in the sheriff’s office. 'I’ll talk facts with you, but not theories', he told the assembled journalists. 'Now the big fact here, the thing to remember is, we’re not dealing with one murder but four. And we don’t which of the four was the primary victim. You might say – well, it must have been Mr Clutter that the killer was really after. Because his throat was cut. But that’s theory; not fact. It would help if we knew in what order the family died; but the coroner can’t tell us that, he only knows the murders happened some time between 11pm Saturday night and 2am Sunday morning.’ Then, responding to questions, he said: 'No, neither of the women had been ‘'sexually molested”; and no, so far as they presently knew nothing had been stolen from the house'.


©Truman Capote Estate. The Library of Congress - Washington (Truman Capote Papers,

©Truman Capote Estate. The New York Public Library - Manuscripts and Archives Division (Truman Capote Papers, MssCol 469. Box 7-8).MSS47043. Box 4-3)

Also see:

- Gerald Clarke, Capote: a biography, Linden Pub; First Edition (1988).

- Liliane Kerjan, Truman Capote, Folio biographies (2015).

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