Handcarved Coffins

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In Truman Capote’s novella, “Handcarved Coffins: A Nonfiction Account of an American Crime,” he gives a detailed description of numerous murders brilliantly executed in “a town in a small Western state” (Capote 68). These murders are so meticulously organized that the perpetrator is never brought to justice. However, the identity of the killer is brought to light by a detective named Jake Pepper. Jake ultimately points his finger at the prominent Robert Hawley Quinn, Esquire. (Esquire was added by Jake, not as a gentlemanly gesture, as is suggested, but to show the irony in his personality.) Jake’s despise of Quinn is revealed when he quotes Mark Twain, “Of all the creatures that were made, man is the most detestable. Of the entire brood he is the only one, the solitary one, that possesses malice. That is beset of all instincts, passions, vices—the most hateful. He is the only one creature that inflicts pain only for sport, knowing it to be pain. Also in all the list, he is the only creature that has a nasty mind,” saying “that describes Mr. Quinn perfectly” (Capote 80). These statements set the stage to delve into the mind of a possible serial killer and uncover his innermost workings. But first, more on the background of R. H. Quinn. Quinn comes from one of the oldest families in the area. He and his two younger brothers own and operate the B.Q. Ranch, a ten thousand acre ranch that has made them all very wealthy. It is through this ranch the area’s main irrigation source can be found, the Blue River, which came to be a heated discussion topic. Bob Quinn is the boss of the ranch. However, a responsibility which may have been bestowed on him as the eldest. As was stated earlier, the Blue River was a very touchy subject at one time. Before the town appointed a committee to decide the river’s fate, the widest and deepest stretches flowed through Quinn’s ranch. His irrigation supply would be affected the most if it was decided by the committee...
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