Interesting Truman Capote facts: concerning his life, his work, and his links with other writers
1. Truman Capote inspired the character of Dill in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. We’ve discussed Harper Lee and the genesis of her classic 1960 novel in a previous post, and one of the nice author-meet-author facts about the book is the fact that the character of Dill Harris in Lee’s novel was based on Harper Lee’s own neighbour and best friend growing up – Truman Capote. Capote, who had been born Truman Streckfus Persons in 1924, changed his name to Truman Capote in 1935, after his stepfather, Joseph Capote.
2. Fittingly, Lee would work as Capote’s assistant on one of his books. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, a work of non-fiction published in 1966, focused on the brutal murders of four members of the same family in Kansas in 1959. Writing about such a recent tragedy necessarily involved a fair amount of research, so Capote could ensure he had his facts right, and Harper Lee helped with the interviews and research for the book. Murder would later turn up again in Capote’s world in an odd and most unsettling way. Chillingly, Capote knew four of the victims of the Manson murders of 1969, independently of each other. Capote later revealed that ‘out of the five people killed in the Tate house that night, I knew four of them. I’d met Sharon Tate at the Cannes Film Festival. Jay Sebring cut my hair a couple of times. I’d had lunch once in San Francisco with Abigail Folger and her boyfriend, Frykowski. In other words, I’d known them independently of each other.’
I don’t care what anybody says about me as long as it isn’t true. – Truman Capote
3. Capote would write out his drafts on yellow paper. This would have to be ‘a very special certain kind of yellow paper’, as he revealed in an interview with the Paris Review. Then, once he was happy with the draft, he would type it out on white paper.
4. Capote gave Ray Bradbury his big break in writing. As we revealed in our post about Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury had got his first important break when he was a teenager, in the late 1930s. He submitted a story to Mademoiselle magazine, where a young Truman Capote – who was actually four years younger than Bradbury – was working as an assistant editor. Capote read Bradbury’s story, which was titled ‘Homecoming’, and recommended to his editor that they publish it.
Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act. – Truman Capote
5. Truman Capote would change hotel rooms if its phone number involved the number 13. Much like Stephen King – who, as we revealed in our list of interesting Stephen King facts, suffers from triskaidekaphobia – Capote was a superstitious writer and the number 13 was a particular no-no. He also wouldn’t begin or end a piece of work on a Friday, as he considered that to be bad luck. Despite such self-imposed conditions, he managed to write a number of successful works of fiction and non-fiction, including not only In Cold Blood but the short novel Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1958), later a film with Audrey Hepburn. Capote died in 1984, aged 59. In 2005, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman played the author in the acclaimed biopic Capote.
Image: Truman Capote in 1959; Wikimedia Commons.