A Fictional Take on Famous Frenemies

Writer Kim Powers imagines an early-'80s reconciliation between former friends Harper Lee and Truman Capote in his fascinating new novel, Capote in Kansas.

BY Regina Marler

October 07 2007 11:00 PM ET

The germ of Kim
Powers's dark and captivating first novel, Capote in
Kansas,
was "one of the most exquisite movies ever
made -- To Kill a Mockingbird." Powers saw the
film as a boy in Texas before reading the Harper Lee
novel. Not long after, he watched the movie of Truman
Capote's In Cold Blood. "I grew up with these
two things in my head," the writer recalls. "The
beauty of Mockingbird, of playing outside of
night, of being scared of the strange person in the
neighborhood and the different fear that murderers
were going to come into my house at night."

For Powers, these
potent ingredients fueled a fascination with Capote,
who died in 1984, and Lee, a fiercely private woman
still living part of the year with her older sister in
Monroeville, Ala. Capote and Lee had been
childhood friends and neighbors -- Capote was the model
for the small, imaginative boy, Dill, in Mockingbird,
and Lee went to Holcomb, Kan., to help Capote research
his groundbreaking "nonfiction novel." Soon after the
publication of In Cold Blood, though, the
writers had a major falling-out. Powers believes there was
"a degree of evil they saw in Kansas that took them the rest
of their lives to deal with." But he thinks something
else may have happened between them. Capote in
Kansas
teases out the possibilities.

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