I really enjoyed this spectacular description and opening by Truman Capote in his book “In Cold Blood.” (Commissions earned from links.)
The true crime novel was one of the first of its kind and its still the perfect example for how it should be done. See if this writing from Chapter 1 doesn’t just grab you:
THE VILLAGE OF HOLCOMB STANDS on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call “out there.” Some seventy miles east of the Colorado border, the countryside, with its hard blue skies and desert-clear air, has an atmosphere that is rather more Far West than Middle West. The local accent is barbed with a prairie twang, a ranch-hand nasalness, and the men, many of them, wear narrow frontier trousers, Stetsons, and high-heeled boots with pointed toes. The land is flat, and the views are awesomely extensive; horses, herds of cattle, a white cluster of grain elevators rising as gracefully as Greek temples are visible long before a traveler reaches them.
Holcomb, too, can be seen from great distances. Not that there is much to see—simply an aimless congregation of buildings divided in the center by the main-line tracks of the Santa Fe Railroad, a haphazard hamlet bounded on the south by a brown stretch of the Arkansas (pronounced “Ar-kan-sas”) River, on the north by a highway, Route 50, and on the east and west by prairie lands and wheat fields. After rain, or when snowfalls thaw, the streets, unnamed, unshaded, unpaved, turn from the thickest dust into the direst mud. At one end of the town stands a stark old stucco structure, the roof of which supports an electric sign—DANCE—but the dancing has ceased and the advertisement has been dark for several years. Nearby is another building with an irrelevant sign, this one in flaking gold on a dirty window—HOLCOMB BANK. The bank closed in 1933, and its former counting rooms have been converted into apartments. It is one of the town’s two “apartment houses,” the second being a ramshackle mansion known, because a good part of the local school’s faculty lives there, as the Teacherage. But the majority of Holcomb’s homes are one-story frame affairs, with front porches.
Down by the depot, the postmistress, a gaunt woman who wears a rawhide jacket and denims and cowboy boots, presides over a falling-apart post office. The depot itself, with its peeling sulphur-colored paint, is equally melancholy; the Chief, the Super-Chief, the El Capitan go by every day, but these celebrated expresses never pause there. No passenger trains do—only an occasional freight. Up on the highway, there are two filling stations, one of which doubles as a meagerly supplied grocery store, while the other does extra duty as a café—Hartman’s Café, where Mrs. Hartman, the proprietress, dispenses sandwiches, coffee, soft drinks, and 3.2 beer. (Holcomb, like all the rest of Kansas, is “dry.”)
Until one morning in mid-November of 1959, few Americans—in fact, few Kansans—had ever heard of Holcomb. Like the waters of the river, like the motorists on the highway, and like the yellow trains streaking down the Santa Fe tracks, drama, in the shape of exceptional happenings, had never stopped there.
Hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. And again, the writing above is from Truman Capote in his book “In Cold Blood.” Go check it out if you’ve never done so.
I’ll try to post some great writing again soon, so subscribe if you haven’t already done so.
Just as importantly, if you’ve read a few great paragraphs lately, let me know and I may feature it. (You can reach me at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org.) And if I do, I’ll give you a shout out and make you famous. Or maybe not famous, but your name will be on the internet for something other than getting arrested on that Spring Break trip years ago, so there’s that.
Until next time,
Stan R. Mitchell
About me: My name is Stan R. Mitchell, and I write exciting, fast-paced thrillers. Both military action and mystery whodunnits. Ten books penned. 70,000+ sold. Some of my favorite authors and influences are Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn, Robert B. Parker, and Stephen Hunter.
If you enjoy them, then more than likely you’ll enjoy my writing.
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