How the Mug Shot Haunts Us

So far, there have been no modern-day Capotes running up to Connecticut to document the murders, but you can bet plenty of writers and photographers will be doing so. (Or maybe not. Is there a need for a non-fiction crime novel in the age of Court TV? How can literature beat of bloodlust of Nancy Grace?)

I’ve just returned from a few days of family vacation—some sun and some reading, mostly. The book was “In Cold Blood,” which I first read in college in one ghastly night. My old copy of the book opens with close-up photographs of the killers’ eyes. These images—details of pictures that Richard Avedon made of Perry Smith and Dick Hickock—are perfect evocations of the haunting tale that follows. On every page of Truman Capote’s book, those four eyes stare back at you.

On returning to New York and my home in Westchester County, I turned on the television to catch up on news, and of course the big news was the murder of three members of a nearby Connecticut family by two home invaders. The similarity between that crime and the murder of the Clutter family in Kansas was eerie.

So far, there have been no modern-day Capotes running up to Connecticut to document the murders, but you can bet plenty of writers and photographers will be doing so. (Or maybe not. Is there a need for a non-fiction crime novel in the age of Court TV? How can literature beat of bloodlust of Nancy Grace?)