The Next Chapter

If you liked In Cold Blood, you'll love...

Columnist Robert J. Wiersema says that Michael Winter's novel The Death of Donna Whalen is a Canadian counterpart to Truman Capote's classic book.
Did you love Truman Capote's true-crime classic In Cold Blood? We think you'll also enjoy Michael Winter's The Death of Donna Whalen, which takes a fictionalized look at a real Newfoundland murder.

The publication of In Cold Blood in 1965 was a game changer. Truman Capote's book about the murder of a Kansas farm family ignited the so-called "new journalism," and Capote — who was never one for understatement — claimed to have invented the creative nonfiction genre. The book is Capote's masterpiece, and it jumped back onto the bestseller lists decades after its publication, when Phillip Seymour Hoffman won an Academy Award for his portrayal of the author in the 2005 film Capote.

The Next Chapter columnist Robert J. Wiersema has read the book, and joined Shelagh Rogers to share the Canadian book that he thinks fans of In Cold Blood will love.


This is an interesting question, especially in this internet age when we're all so sensitive to spoilers. We don't want to know what happens in Star Wars because it's going to ruin the movie. I agree with that to an extent, but what In Cold Blood shows us is that it's how the story is told that gives the story a lot of its value and its force. So yes, we knew that ‎Richard Hickock and ‎Perry Smith were on death row. But it's Capote's skill in not only documenting the crime but exploring the characters of everyone involved that gives the book such force. We come to know the victims, we come to know the perpetrators, we come to know the people in the town and how this crime and the trial affected them. And that creates its own narrative momentum.


If you liked In Cold Blood, you will love Michael Winter's book The Death of Donna Whalen. I read it when it came out a couple years ago, and it reminded me of In Cold Blood at that time, but I realized in going back to read it again that Michael Winter actually set out deliberately to model the book in some ways on In Cold Blood. Capote's book casts a huge shadow — not only did it bring true-crime storytelling into vogue, but it actually created this whole new form of the nonfiction novel. Capote started with the facts and then built the story around that. Michael Winter, to his credit, takes it one step further — he steps back, drawing from the court papers and transcripts to create a multi-voiced narrative that doesn't have a central, authorial figure. 

Robert J. Wiersema's comments have been edited and condensed.