It’s the day after Christmas, for heavens sake, George Michael has died, and self is barreling through In Cold Blood.
It’s a great book. The characters — the two murderers and the four detectives whose seven weeks of patient chasing down of all manner of clues finally led to the arrest of Dick Hickok and Perry Smith for the murder of the Clutter family — are like players in a Greek tragedy (The fact that they arrested the right men: what a piece of luck! Seven weeks is not a long period of time, especially since Hickok and Smith had traveled over eight-hundred miles in the twenty-four hours immediately following the murders, and had no personal connection to either the victims or the town of Holcomb, Kansas, where the murders took place).
Self wants very badly to be able to picture these men, and is disappointed by the absence of any photographs. Isn’t this book nonfiction? Wouldn’t the inclusion of photographs have helped the book’s authenticity?
Instead she has to go googling on the web. She finds a New York Times obituary for Alvin Dewey, lead detective of the case. There is no photograph. Self decided not to google the faces of the two murderers.
Dick Hickok struck the detectives as intelligent and attractive (a Ted Bundy type?), well spoken.
His partner, Perry Smith, was so short that when sitting his feet didn’t touch the floor. And his feet were delicate, the size of a child’s. Yet this is the man who Dick Hickok claimed committed all four murders.
The two men are handcuffed but Perry Smith is a chainsmoker so, during the ride to Kansas, when Smith wants a smoke, Detective Alvin Dewey ends up lighting it for him and placing “it between his lips, a task that the detective found ‘repellent,’ for” it seemed “such an intimate action — the kind of thing” Dewey had done “while he was courting his wife.” (p. 233)
The only reason self quotes the passage here is because, a page later, Perry Smith says to Dewey, catching him off guard: “You hate handing me a butt.”
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.