Truman Capote, 1959
Public DomainTruman Capote, 1959 - Credit: Roger Higgins
Truman Streckfus Persons (1924-1984), known as Truman Capote, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana.  His early life was turbulent – his parents divorced when he was four, and for several years he lived with relatives.  He escaped into fiction, and began writing seriously at about 12: “I used to go home from school every day, and I would write for about three hours. I was obsessed by it."

Between 1943 and 1946, Capote produced a continual flow of short fiction, and was published in literary quarterlies and popular magazines.  The critical success of his short story Miriam (1945) secured a contract with Random House.  His first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, was published in 1948 and appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for nine weeks. The book's dust-jacket photo, in which Capote stares directly in to the camera from a reclining pose, caused considerable controversy and boosted his fame.

Many of his short stories, novels, plays and non-fiction works are literary classics, including Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1958) and his "non-fiction novel" In Cold Blood (1965), an account of a real-life murder of a Kansas family. 

Capote’s literary fame allowed him to indulge his penchant for high society and flamboyance.  He was openly gay, an incorrigible name-dropper (sometimes claiming intimacy with stars he hadn’t ever met), and an enthusiastic socialite. By the 1970s, his jet set lifestyle saw him drinking more and more, and writing less and less.  He never completed another novel after In Cold Blood, but he retained his place in the public eye as a talk show host, magazine contributor and party host.  Towards the end of his life, he was working on a society tell-all novel, drawing heavily on the lives, scandals and secrets of his famous friends and acquaintances.  He published extracts in Esquire magazine in 1976.  His erstwhile friends were horrified at having their dirty laundry put on public display, and Capote was ostracized.

Truman Capote, 1948
Public DomainTruman Capote, 1948 - Credit: Carl Van Vechten
By the late 1970s Capote was in and out of rehab clinics.  He died in Los Angeles in 1984, aged 59, from liver cancer, exacerbated by ‘multiple drug intoxication’.   

 

Truman Capote explains the idea for his landmark novel, In Cold Blood (1966) on RetroBites:

 

Truman Capote reads Otille and the Bee, accompanied with photos of himself:

 

 

Biography of Truman Capote on biography.com

Truman Capote biography

Truman Capote Archives - in the New York Times Archives