Two of the best-known writers of the 20th century, Harper Lee and Truman Capote, bonded as children in the Depression-era Deep South. After more than two decades, the two had significant and financial success, but mass jealousy and their confrontational lifestyle marked the end of one of history’s best-known literary friendships.
Each became a character in the other’s work
The son of a teenage mother and a salesman father, Kapot (known as Truman Persons) moved to Monroeville, Alabama at age 4 to live with his aunt after his parents’ divorce. He soon became a renowned lawyer and journalist A.C. Befriended Lee’s daughter, Nell Harper Lee. The young couple bonded over their shared love of reading and developed an early interest in writing by collaborating on stories written by Lee’s father on a typewriter purchased for him.
Although she was two years younger, Lee served as Capote’s keeper, rescuing the small, hyper-sensitive boy from the neighborhood bull. Lee later stated that he and Capote were united from childhood with “common suffering”, as Capote’s troubled mother abandoned him repeatedly as he sought financial security, and Lee’s mother was considered by scholars to be bipolar disorder. is.
Capot continued his friendship with his mother as a pre-teen in New York City. On his way to college, the indefatigable Capote worked at The New Yorker magazine and published a series of pieces that caught the attention of publishers, leading to a contract for his first book.
The grave of Idabel Tomkins was a fictionalized version of the character Lee. Capote’s initial success convinced that the following year Lee moved to New York City. She went on to work in her book, To Kill a Mockingbird, in which she depicted Alabama childhood and based the character of Dill Harris on Capote.
Lee played a key role in Capote’s most famous work
In November 1959, Capote read a brief story in The New York Times about the ruthless murder of a wealthy family in a small Kansas town. Inspired, he offered the idea for an investigative story for The New Yorker magazine, which the editor agreed to. As Capote planned westward, he realized that he needed an assistant.
Lee had just submitted his final manuscript for To Kill a Mockingbird at his publishing house and had ample time on his hands. Lee was long fascinated by crime cases and also studied criminal law before leaving school and moving to New York.
Capote hired her, and the two made their way to Holcomb, Kansas a few weeks later. Lee proved invaluable, as his relaxed Southern manner helped blunt Capote’s more flamboyant personality. Deciding later, many at Holcom still seem to remember Lee with pride, while holding Capote at arm’s length. Thanks to Lee, local residents, law enforcement and slain clutter family friends open their doors to the unexpected pair.
Every night, Capote and Lee retire to a small motel outside the city to visit the day’s events. Lee eventually contributed more than 150 pages, with elaborately detailed notes that reflected everything from the size and color of the furniture in the clutter house to what the television show was playing in the background as paired sources.
Was. He even wrote an anonymous article in a magazine for former FBI agents in the early 1960s praising the lead detective on the Clutter case and promoting Capote’s ongoing work. His article in The Grapevine was not revealed until 2016.
Jealousy helped to sour their relationship
Kill to Mockingbird was published in July 1960, and Lee became a runaway success, receiving an National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize, followed by an Academy Award-winning motion picture. It would eventually sell over 30 million copies and become a beloved classic. Capote was jealous of Lee’s financial and critical success, leading to a growing rift between the two.
As Lee would write to a friend many years later, “I was his oldest friend, and I did something that Truman cannot forgive: I wrote a novel that sold. He spent more than 20 years of his jealousy.” Introduced. ”
Despite the tension, Lee continued to help Capote on the Clutter project, as he quickly escalated into the case, developing a relationship with the two men convicted and eventually executed for the crime. It took him nearly five years to publish his New Yorker series, which he expanded into a book. When Cold Blood was published in 1966, it was a sensation, with many hiling capote to create a new genre, “true crime” fiction non-fiction.