Harper Lee and Truman Capote..their collaborating, or not?

Truman & Harper 1960

Truman & Harper 1960

Early days with Nelle and Tru

Early days with Nelle and Tru

**As a writer, blogger, artist I like to get away from what I truly know (my memoirs) and wanted to write about two authors. One that everyone knows about, and the other, about as private as one author could ever be. This is my little take on such a pair**


Lee and Capote were not only authors but the closet of friends. They grew up together in Alabama. She would call him Tru and he would call her Nelle. She was a tomboy, and he was a basic book nerd, “Scout and Dill” to the tee. Their doors were always open to each other and their lives.

At the height of their careers Capote was struggling to finish “In Cold Blood” and Lee won the Pulitzer Prize for “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Imagine being a new writer and your one and only novel winning the Publizer Prize?! How did that make Truman feel? Inadequate as an author? As a person? At the very least, did he feel a sense of pressure to release the most talked about, the most gruesome, and the most violent crime novel of all time.

What was holding him behind. As we know, were the courts involvement the biggest delay concerning the crime duo of Smith and Hickcock, but were the courts the only block? Did his intense friendship with Perry Smith inadvertently hold him back from releasing the book? We are always led to believe the book had to have an ending, without a Capote ending, there probably wouldn’t have been a book. We had to wait for the duo to hang, but was that the only reason “In Cold Blood” couldn’t be released? I like to think there was more…

So many movies, books, and articles have been written about this flamboyant author. His photographic ability to take notes without writing a single word. Tru was not only an author, but a successful illustrator too.

His well known attachment towards Perry Smith in order to gain trust. Nothing new that any other author wouldn’t have done to finish a book, but what do we know about Harper Lee?

Nelle couldn’t have been more different than Capote. Quiet, reserved and not even close to hopping from party to party, as Capote was. Harper may have been a tomboy growing up, but her behavior became introverted as an author. She definitely helped Capote focus on his novel “In Cold Blood”, but many times she wanted to walk away. The world was looking for her next book after her prize winning novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”, yet it never happened in the 20th Century.

Then July 2015 it happened, her long awaited follow up to, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” How long was her continuation of Atticus Finch and his family really sitting in her personal files? Some say when she saw Phillip Seymour Hoffman portray “Capote” is when she decided to finish it. Miss Lee never gave complete interviews, we just have to believe this one. Did she want to really wait until 2015 for it to be published? How many innuendos will be made about Harper Lee and “Go Set a Watchman”?

In the early 60’s I was a mere child. I remember reading her famous book through out grade school and high school. I knew in high school that she had a special relationship with Truman Capote, I knew they were childhood friends and I always wanted to believe that 2 of the characters in the book, Scout and Dill, were based on Harper and Capote, even before I knew it.

It didn’t matter much to me, I would just dive into reading and my imagination would take over. The story of Atticus Finch & Scout were unlike any parent child relationship, I always wished I could have had that open relationship and love with my Dad. I remember running around my home in NJ calling my dad by his first name, it lasted one time only and after that I was being “disrespectful”.

At 14 years old books were always an escape for me, and still are. Yet you can be a character of any book for so long, until you’re asked to “stop” being that character, especially growing up. 

I look at this photo below and want to think they were collaborating on “In Cold Blood”, or even “To Kill a Mockingbird”, we’ll never know, Harper Lee will probably never let us know, she’s now in a nursing home. I wished the question was asked before Truman Capote passed away.

In 1963 Lee and Capote drifted apart. Unfortunately Mr. Capote didn’t give her any credit for her work on “In Cold Blood” and it hurt her. Before that year, Capote was there for Lee during her award, but was he there in body, mind, and spirit? His book was not completed, his alcoholism was at its height, and whether or not they drifted apart because of other things, his alcoholism may have just been a part of it.

The one thing about Miss Lee was that she accepted Mr. Capote and his flamboyant behavior. I don’t believe she accepted his alcoholism and destroying his life in many ways, I believe her heart was broken when he didn’t credit her with collaborating “In Cold Blood”.

The one thing I want to believe is that 85 years ago Nelle and Tru met each other in Alabama and had a bond that couldn’t be broken. They knew each other so well that they probably could read each other’s thoughts, or finish each other’s sentences and that a little piece of each other were always somewhere in their great work….these thoughts are only thoughts of an artist who believes in the greatness of writers, artists, and wonderful stories. Stories that one day will be mine as well.



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