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Who is Truman Capote?

By Kathy Hawkins
Updated May 23, 2024
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Truman Capote is a famous American writer, best known for his novel, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and his true crime book, In Cold Blood, which many believe heralded the creative nonfiction movement, whose modern followers include Susan Orlean and Jon Krakauer. Truman Capote was born in 1924, and died in 1984, leaving behind an impressive and prolific body of work, and an infamous reputation as a flamboyantly gay, witty New York socialite.

As a child, Truman Capote lived with his aunt in Alabama. His best friend was Harper Lee, author of the classic work, To Kill a Mockingbird. Some speculate that the book was actually ghostwritten by Capote, but the rumors have never been substantiated. During his teenage years, Capote moved to New York to live with his mother and her husband. Soon after graduating from high school, he got a job at the prestigious magazine, The New Yorker.

Truman Capote began writing short stories, which were published in numerous literary journals. His first novel, Summer Crossing was stolen by his housesitter before he could publish it. Many years later, it resurfaced and was published by Random House in 2005. Truman Capote's first published novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, was a semi-autobiographical novel about a gay teenager growing up in the South, and was an immediate success.

One of Truman Capote's most famous books was Breakfast at Tiffany's, which consisted of the title novella and three shorter stories. The title novella was made into a classic movie starring legendary actress Audrey Hepburn. The turning point in Capote's career, though, came with the publication of In Cold Blood, a nonfiction narrative about the murder of a Kansas family. To write the book, Truman Capote spent four years in Kansas, talking to the townspeople, the police, and even the killers, to gather material for the story. It was serialized in The New Yorker before publication; when the book came out in 1966, it was an international bestseller, and made Truman Capote a household name.

Recently, two separate movies were made based on Truman Capote's life and his experiences in Kansas working on In Cold Blood: Capote, for which Phillip Seymour Hoffman won an Oscar for his performance as Capote, and Infamous, which, though critically lauded, had the misfortune of coming out second, and received dismal box office sales.

PublicPeople is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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