A review said this 1966 book about real events “will cause a good deal of myopic squabbling about just what a novel is”

On May 10, 2024, “Jeopardy!” featured an intriguing Final Jeopardy round in the category “20th Century Books.”

The clue provided was a thought-provoking one, quoting a review which stated that the 1966 book about real events “will cause a good deal of myopic squabbling about just what a novel is.” This clue set the stage for a challenging question that tested the contestants’ knowledge and understanding of literary history and the evolution of novel genres.

What is “In Cold Blood”?

The correct answer to the Final Jeopardy question was “What is ‘In Cold Blood’?” Authored by Truman Capote, this book is a pioneering work in the true crime genre, often considered the first “nonfiction novel.” Released in 1966, “In Cold Blood” details the brutal murders of the Clutter family in their home in Holcomb, Kansas, in 1959. Capote’s detailed narrative, based on extensive research and interviews, blurs the lines between factual reportage and literary fiction, prompting debates about the nature of a novel.

“In Cold Blood” is highly regarded not only for its gripping narrative but also for its innovation in storytelling. Truman Capote’s immersive research and strong narrative style have led many to consider his work as a template for the true crime genre that would expand in later decades. The book’s portrayal of real events through the lens of literary techniques challenges traditional views on what constitutes a novel, engaging readers and critics alike in discussions about the boundaries of literature.

The publication of “In Cold Blood” had a profound impact on both literary and popular culture. It was one of the first works to combine journalistic techniques with novelistic flair, thereby creating a new hybrid genre that has influenced countless writers and works since. Capote’s method of creating a narrative that reads like a novel, yet is rooted in true events, has set a precedent that affects how stories are told in the true crime format to this day.

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