Penguin Book Cover- In Cold Blood

The Penguin Random House Student Design Awards 2017 set a the brief to create a cover design which breaks boundaries in the same way that the book did. It should be bold, maybe even shocking, yet remain true to the book, reflecting both its literary merit and its chilling content.

The judges are looking for a striking cover design that is well executed, has an imaginative concept and clearly places the book for its market. While all elements of the jacket need to work together as a cohesive whole, remember that the front cover must be effective on its own and be eye-catching within a crowded bookshop setting. It also needs to be able to work onscreen for digital retailers such as Amazon.

The winning design will need to:

  • have an imaginative concept and original interpretation of the brief
  • be competently executed with strong use of typography
  • appeal to a contemporary readership
  • show a good understanding of the marketplace
  • have a point of difference from the many other book covers it is competing against

In Cold Blood is a non-fiction novel by American author Truman Capote, detailing the 1959 murders of four members of the Herbert Clutter family in the small farming community of Holcomb, Kansas. After Capote learned of the murders, before the killers were captured, he decided to travel to Kansas and write about the crime. He was accompanied by his childhood friend and fellow author Harper Lee, and together they interviewed local residents and investigators assigned to the case and took thousands of pages of notes. The killers, Richard “Dick” Hickcock and Perry Smith, were arrested six weeks after the murders and later executed by the state of Kansas.

capote-keefe

Hickock and Smith committed the robbery and murders in the early morning hours of November 15, 1959. A former cellmate of Hickock’s, Floyd Wells, had once worked as a farmhand for Mr. Clutter, and had told Hickock about a safe at the farmhouse where he claimed Herb Clutter kept large amounts of cash. After driving more than four hundred miles across the state of Kansas on the evening of November 14, Hickock and Smith arrived in Holcomb, located the Clutter home, and entered through an unlocked door while the family slept. Upon rousing the Clutters and discovering there was no safe, they bound and gagged the family and continued to search for money, but found little else of value in the house. Still determined to leave no witnesses, the pair briefly debated what to do; Smith, notoriously unstable and prone to violent acts in fits of rage, slit Herb Clutter’s throat and then shot him in the head. Capote writes that Smith recounted later, “I didn’t want to harm the man. I thought he was a very nice gentleman. Soft spoken. I thought so right up to the moment I cut his throat.” Clutter’s wife and two children were then also murdered, each by a single shotgun blast to the head.

Hickock and Smith were identified as suspects and arrested in Las Vegas on December 30, 1959. Both men eventually confessed after interrogations by detectives of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. They were brought back to Kansas, where they were tried together for the murders. They both pleaded temporary insanity at the trial, but local GPs evaluated the accused and pronounced them sane. The jury deliberated for only 45 minutes before finding both Hickock and Smith guilty of murder. Their conviction carried a mandatory death sentence at the time. After five years on death row at the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing, Kansas, Smith and Hickock were executed by hanging just after midnight on April 14, 1965.

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