The best known author of the classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1958) and the true crime novel In Cold Blood (1966), Truman Capote was an eminent American author of numerous short stories, plays, novels and other non-fiction works. In addition to being known for his works of literature, Capote was also famous for his flamboyant public persona, extravagant and outrageous lifestyle.
Truman Capote was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on September 30, 1924. An intelligent child, Capote was a fast learner. He learned to read at the age of four before entering school. He had begun writing stories by the age of eight. Capote was awarded the prestigious Mobile Press Register short story award when he was only ten. He developed the habit of writing for 8 to 9 years daily by the time he was eleven. In 1933, Capote moved to New York and then to Greenwich, Connecticut with his mother and stepfather. At both places, Capote attended several schools and a military academy. He completed high school at Franklin School graduating in 1943. This marked the end of Capote’s formal education.
His obsessive love for writing forced him to quit college because he believed college was teaching him nothing, instead it was taking away valuable time he could otherwise devote to writing. Capote began working at The New Yorker while in school and held the job for two years before being fired for infuriating poet Robert Frost. The job, although not a very grand one, proved to be very beneficial for Capote who got a chance to learn about the inner workings of the magazine publishing world.
During the early 1940’s Capote began to gain recognition as a promising short story writer. It took him only three years to make way for his stories to be published in established magazines such as The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s Bazaar, Harper’s Magazine, and The New Yorker. He won the O. Henry award for his short story works in 1945. His first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms was published in 1948 under an advance Capote was granted by Random House. The book launched Capote’s career as a novelist after becoming an instant bestseller. Other Voices, Other Rooms was followed by another successful publication, A Tree of Night and Other Stories which came a year later in 1949. Capote’s first non-fiction work, The Muses are Heard (1956) was a collection of articles which included travel essays from his trip to Europe as well as theatrical pieces.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s which became Truman Capote’s identity was published in 1958. The novella revolved around the central character of Holly Golightly, a Manhattan playgirl. After the success of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Capote focused on combining fact and fiction. The attempt led to In Cold Blood, Capote’s other most significant work. The book researched the story of the murder of Kansas farmer Herbert W. Clutter and his family in November 1959. Harper Lee, a very close friend of Capote and also the author of To Kill a Mocking Bird assisted Capote in researching and writing the book. Published in 1965, In Cold Blood became a bestseller and won Capote an Edgar Award.
Leaving behind a wealth of literary works, Truman Capote passed away in Los Angeles on August 25, 1984. He suffered from liver cancer.