He Was A Child Prodigy
Capote began writing stories at the age of 11 and was first published in a national magazine when he was only 19. His first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948), was written when he was just 23 and quickly became a literary sensation.
Capote’s groundbreaking novel In Cold Blood (1966), a best-seller based on the real-life brutal murders of a Kansas family of four, was hailed by the New York Times as a “masterpiece–agonizing, terrible, possessed, proof that the times, so surfeited with disasters, are still capable of tragedy.”
Capote became famous not just for his writing but also for his larger-than-life personality. He was known for hobnobbing with celebrities, politicians, and socialites— including the glamorous women he called his “swans.” He was a regular on the New York social scene and, in 1966, threw one of the most famous parties in modern history: the Black and White Ball.
Capote’s sexuality was an open secret, and his work often explored themes of homosexuality and repression. His novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1958) features a gay narrator—though the character was changed to straight for the 1961 movie version.
Complicated Relationships: The South
Capote was born in Louisiana and grew up in Alabama, but he often felt like an outsider in the deeply segregated South. His work frequently reflected his complicated relationship with the region, and he struggled with the perception that he had turned his back on his hometown.
Capote struggled with drug and alcohol addiction throughout his life. His addiction often adversely affected his work, leading to erratic behavior and long periods of writer’s block. Though Capote claimed to have finished his magnum opus Answer Prayers before he died, it’s generally assumed that no more of the book exists than the few excerpts that were published during his lifetime.
Capote died in 1984, but his influence on literature and popular culture continues to this day. His work has inspired countless writers and filmmakers, and his unique style and voice have made him an enduring cultural icon.
Reveling in the star-studded parties, fashionable restaurants and gilt-edged inner circles of its most exclusive events, Truman Capote and his flock of glamorous socialite “swans” rule the highest echelons of 1960s and 70s high society New York. Stephen Greco brings this scandalous world to life in a fascinating recreation of the tumultuous friendship between Capote and his most elegant yet unconventional swan: princess and sister of Jackie Kennedy, Her Serene Highness Lee Radziwill.
“Fans of Capote and the era of Camelot should be delighted.” —Shana Abé, New York Times bestselling author of The Second Mrs. Astor
On a Thursday morning in May 1961, a well-mannered twenty-one-year-old named Marlene enters the Fifth Avenue apartment of Lee Radziwill to interview for the position of housekeeper and cook. The stylish wife of London-based Prince Stanislaw Radziwill, Princess Lee is intelligent and creative, with ambitions beyond simply jet-setting. But to the public, she is always First Lady Jackie Kennedy’s little sister.
As Marlene becomes a trusted presence in the Radziwill household, she observes the dazzling array of famous figures who flit in and out of Lee’s intimate circle, including Gloria Vanderbilt, Rudolf Nureyev, Jackie and the President, Ari Onassis, Gore Vidal, Andy Warhol, and, most regularly, celebrated author Truman Capote. At the height of his fame following the success of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman has granted Lee place of honor in his flock of glamorous socialite “swans.”
Their closeness stems from an unexpected kinship. Both know too well the feeling of being second-best. Seeing his shadow in the woman he refers to as his most unconventional swan, Truman uses his influence and talent to try and make Lee a star.
Their bond deepens through the decade’s extraordinary events, from JFK’s assassination to the era-defining Black and White Ball. But Marlene, who Truman has taken under his wing as an aspiring writer, can see Truman’s darker side—especially his penchant for mining his friends’ private lives for material. And there are betrayals on either side that may signal the end not just of a friendship, but of the shared expectation that wealth and fame can shield against every heartbreak.