Capote in Kansas by Kim Powers is an unusual novel, with a fascinating cast of (real life) characters, a strange plot, and interesting settings. Powers blends fact and fiction to create a dreamlike portrait of lifelong friends Truman Capote (In Cold Blood) and (Nelle) Harper Lee (To Kill A Mockingbird), close as children but estranged in adulthood after their relationship took a wrong turn.
The book opens with a troubled and fearful Truman calling his former confidante Nelle late at night, twenty years after they’d last spoken, claiming to be visited by Nancy Clutter, the murdered teenage girl from In Cold Blood. Sensible Nelle, bitter from all the hurt and all the years that have gone by without word from Truman, writes this off as nonsense. However Truman, in a fog of booze and drugs, has shaken Nelle’s world and awakened long buried memories. And when a ghost appears to Nelle too, it seems that perhaps these ghosts are real and not just the alcohol fueled rantings of a pitiful, paranoid Truman. What follows is an original story of spirits, strange packages, misunderstandings, secrets, and lies.
My favorite sections of the book are Nelle’s sections, with vivid memories of her childhood friendship, and later, her time in Kansas with her strange little friend Truman, researching the Clutter’s murders for In Cold Blood. The end, where we find out the true nature of the hauntings, was anti climactic.
I appreciated the author’s note at the end of the book, which detailed his fascination with these celebrated authors and gave full disclosure about what was and was not fact. The people were real but the thoughts and dialogue were all products of Kim Powers’ vivid imagination. I had a small issue with taking such creative license with a person who is still alive, especially one as famously private as Harper Lee-placing her at real events where he knew she’d never actually attended.
Readers who are fans of To Kill a Mockingbird or In Cold Blood will enjoy this the most. I haven’t read In Cold Blood but I never felt like I was missing some key piece of information while reading Capote in Kansas. I just think it would have enhanced the experience for me.
If this review is a bit too wordy and you’d like to see it in haiku form (only 17 syllables!), click HERE.
Capote in Kansas will be available in paperback beginning September 22nd.
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