Capote In Kansas: A Ghost Story

Written by Kim Powers
Review by Wendy Zollo

Truman Capote and Nelle Harper Lee, two illustrious Southern authors: one flamboyant, brazen and pretentious, the other seemingly sensible and resolute, once firm friends who haven’t spoken in decades—or have they? Did Capote really pen To Kill a Mockingbird? Why are the spirits of the Clutters (the murdered family from Capote’s In Cold Blood) haunting Nelle and Capote? Who is sending Nelle strange, upsetting packages?

In the last year of his life, Capote calls Lee one final time, rambling drunk (or scared stiff?) to declare in his tinny voice that he’s being haunted by the Clutter family. Annoyed, yet still seized by Truman’s sudden startling news and intrusion into her life, Nelle is unbelieving until Bonnie Clutter pays a visit late one evening.

What follows is a brutal, touching analogy of a friendship mysteriously gone astray only to be discovered amongst ghosts, memories and parcels. Set in 1984, 1959 and during their Depression-era childhood, Capote and Lee’s past and present are blended brilliantly by the visitations and Powers’ commanding imagery of words. Capote’s life, an upheaval of drugs and booze, drags the mundane into high-flying drama at times both poignantly pitiful and delightfully funny. While Nelle’s years are a study of a stale existence, still it is her side of this story which is most moving.

Powers has fashioned an original, touching story of friendship and what might have been. An imaginative fabrication of ghosts and troubled souls, this story lingers long after the last page has been read.