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Capote Summary


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In November, 1959, Truman Capote, the author of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and a favorite figure in what is soon to be known as the 'Jet Set', reads an article on a back page of the New York Times. It tells of the murders of four members of a well-known farm family--the Clutters--in Holcomb, Kansas. Something about this story catches Capote's eye. It presents an opportunity, he believes, to test his long-held theory that, in the hands of the right writer, non-fiction can be as compelling as fiction. What impact have the murders had on that tiny town on the wind-swept plains? With that as his subject--because, for his purpose it does not matter if the murderers are ever caught--he convinces The New Yorker magazine to give him an assignment and he sets out for Kansas. Accompanying him is a friend from his Alabama childhood: Harper Lee, who within a few months will win a Pulitzer Prize and achieve fame of her own as the author of "To Kill a Mockingbird." Though, initially, his childlike voice, fey mannerisms and unconventional clothes arouse initial hostility in a part of the country that thinks of itself as the Old West, Capote quickly wins the trust of the locals--most notably Alvin Dewey, the Kansas agent who is leading the hunt for the killers. Found in Las Vegas, the killers--Perry Smith and Dick Hickock--are tried, convicted and sentenced to die in Kansas. Capote visits them in jail. As he gets to know them, the ambitious writer soon realizes that what he thought would be a magazine article has grown into a book--a book that could rank with the greatest in modern literature. His profound subject--the collision of two Americas: the safe, protected country the Clutters knew and the rootless, amoral country inhabited by their killers.