TIME Books

The Legendary Friendship of Harper Lee and Truman Capote

George Rose—Getty Images (L);Donald Uhrbrock—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images Truman Capote in his Upper East Side apartment in New York City in 1980 (L); Harper Lee in Monroeville, Alabama in May 1961.

The two writers had been friends since childhood

Long before Harper Lee and Truman Capote gained literary fame for To Kill a Mockingbird and In Cold Blood, their respective midcentury masterpieces, they were childhood friends, palling around Monroeville, Ala. just like Scout and Dill do in Lee’s fictional Maycomb.

The duo remained friends into adulthood, and their literary relationship is the stuff of legend. Capote based a tomboy character in his first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, on Lee. When Mockingbird was so well received, some derisively speculated Capote (who already had a strong literary reputation) must have helped—or even ghostwritten it, a rumor that persisted for decades. Lee certainly helped Capote: she was his research assistant for In Cold Blood, contributing 150 pages of notes, and was reportedly hurt to be included only in the “Acknowledgments” section of the book; they grew apart after its publication in 1965.

Capote died in 1984 at age 59, and Lee died on Thursday at 89, but they live on in the popular imagination. Their friendship was depicted by Catherine Keener and Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote and by Sandra Bullock and Toby Jones in Infamous, and is the subject of the forthcoming children’s book Tru and Nelle.

Tap to read full story

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com


YOU BROKE TIME.COM!

Dear TIME Reader,

As a regular visitor to TIME.com, we are sure you enjoy all the great journalism created by our editors and reporters. Great journalism has great value, and it costs money to make it. One of the main ways we cover our costs is through advertising.

The use of software that blocks ads limits our ability to provide you with the journalism you enjoy. Consider turning your Ad Blocker off so that we can continue to provide the world class journalism you have become accustomed to.

The TIME Team