Truman Capote was an American novelist, short story writer, and playwright. He gained international fame with his “nonfiction novel” “In Cold Blood” which is an account of a real life crime in which an entire family was murdered by two sociopaths.
Truman was born in New Orleans. His father was a salesman and his mother 16-year-old beauty queen, Lillie Mae Faulk. His father, Archulus Persons, worked as a clerk for a steamboat company. Persons was never able to hold any job for long, and was always leaving home in search of new opportunities. This led to an unhappy marriage which gradually disintegrated. When Capote was only four, his parents divorced.
Truman spent his youth in Monroeville, Alabama. He lived many years with his relatives, one of whom became the model for the loving, elderly spinster of the author’s novels, stories, and plays. Truman’s contact with his mother, Lillie Mae, was limited she often wrote letters and telephoned her son, crying that she had no money and no husband.
When Capote’s mother married again, this time to a well-to-do businessman, Truman moved to New York, and adopted his stepfather’s surname. He attended the Trinity School and St. John’s Academy in New York, and the public schools of Greenwich, Connecticut. At the age of seventeen, Capote chose to end his formal schooling. He was able to find work at the New Yorker, where he attracted attention with his eccentric style of dress.
Capote’s early stories were published in many quality magazines and in 1946 he won the O.Henry award. During this time Capote established his fame among the cultural circles as the thin voiced, promising young writer, who could brighten up parties with his sharp and clever remarks.
During the next year Truman went to Europe, where he wrote fiction and non-fiction. Among his major works at the time was a profile of Marlon Brando. Following return to the United States in 1958, Truman wrote “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. Truman’s increasing preoccupation with journalism formed the basis for his bestseller “In Cold Blood”, a pioneering work of documentary novel or “nonfiction novel”. The work started from an article in The New York Times. The research work and writing of the book took six years to finish. Truman used neither a tape recorder nor note pad, but emptied his interviews and impressions into notebooks at the end of his day
Truman continued to write but problems with drink and drugs, and disputes with other writers, such as Gore Vidal, exhausted Capote’s creative energies. In interviews, Truman’s habit of giving negative anecdotes about the people he knew distanced him from his friends.
Truman lived the life of an open homosexual and was known for his eccentric ways. On November 28th, 1966, he threw one of the most spectacular bashes in the history of New York, the Black and White Ball which was held at the Plaza Hotel. The ball was given in honor of Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham, who was then the most powerful woman in the country. The gala celebration began at ten and went until breakfast the following morning. Approximately five hundred people from the most stellar reaches of society were invited and were given a precise dress code. Men were expected in black tie, with black mask; women in black or white dress with a white mask, plus a fan. The blowout created front page news all over the country.
Truman Capote died in Los Angeles, California, on August 26, 1984, of liver disease complicated by phlebitis and multiple drug intoxication. His life and work have inspired numerous books and movies about him.