By Jacqui Banaszynski

We received a lot of thumbs-up in response to the two-part post (November 2023) featuring nonfiction author Kim Cross. Our pieces featured an interview with Cross about how she landed a contract for her book, “In Light of All Darkness,” after eight years and multiple upgrades to her proposal. That was followed by a detailed annotation of the book proposal itself, which offered a rare glimpse into the work it takes to take a book from dream to reality.

That work is now being honored as this year’s winner of the Truman Capote Prize for Distinguished Work in Literary Non-Fiction or the Short Story. Cross’s book takes reades back to the 1993 kidnapping and murder of Polly Klaas, a 12-year-old who was taken from her bedroom during a sleepover at her home in Petaluma, California. Cross tells the story largely from the insider perspective of FBI agents and other investigators who hunted in desperation for the missing girl — and changed some of their practices as a result. From the Capote contest jurors:

Literary critic Don Noble drew from contest jurors comments, which compared Cross’ Cross’ work to Capote’s groundbreaking non-fiction style.

Although this is not a novel, the facts in this meticulous true crime report are as enthralling as they were in Capote’s In Cold Blood, carrying the reader along and showing the emotional effects of the kidnapping and the investigation on everyone involved: family, friends, police. All over the country, millions were emotionally engaged in the search. It is not an exaggeration to say that for a while Polly was “America’s Child.”

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