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Movie revives book sales of 'In Cold Blood'

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Capote, the biopic about Truman Capote's writing of In Cold Blood, is rolling out slowly at movie theaters across the country, but sales of the classic, 40-year-old novel already are heating up at bookstores.

Vintage has gone back to press three times with its movie tie-in edition. There are 130,000 books in print, which feature cover art from the original book and a sticker with a photo of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who stars as the flamboyant author in the film.

"Right now, sales of Capote's books are running 28% ahead of last year," says Lynne Widli of Barnes & Noble. "In Cold Blood was our top-selling literature title last week, outselling perennial favorites The Great Gatsby, 1984, Of Mice and Men and Lord of the Flies."

When first published in 1965, In Cold Blood was an instant sensation. Capote called his book, based on the 1959 murder of a Kansas farm family, a "non-fiction novel." The movie, which opened in limited release Sept. 30, examines the author's relationship with the killers.

Capote the movie, however, is not based on the novel, but on Capote: A Biography, the critically acclaimed work by Gerald Clarke, first published in 1986 and also seeing a resurgence in interest. Publisher Carroll & Graf has printed 30,000 movie tie-in editions, and sales have increased 30% a week since early September, according to editor in chief Philip Turner. He expects an additional printing soon.

Beyond the story itself, Turner says, readers and moviegoers are fascinated with how journalists and writers get their sources, particularly in light of the current controversy surrounding New York Times reporter Judith Miller and the unmasking of a CIA operative.

In his book, Capote's chief source is Perry Smith, one of the killers. "Ambiguity fascinates people," Turner says.

Interest is expected to grow as the film -- in 250 theaters Friday -- goes wider in November. "Sales will continue to be strong," says Barnes & Noble's Widli. "As long as there's media coverage -- and obviously this is going to get plenty of Oscar buzz -- it's going to keep it in front of people's minds."

And if all this Capote isn't enough, Have You Heard?, another film about the literary legend, is scheduled for release next year. It's based on George Plimpton's 1997 biography Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career. And, yes, the publisher, Anchor, already is planning a movie tie-in edition.

*New Capote release, 5D

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