While about half way through the tedious task of rewriting a book manuscript to submit to my publisher, and with Hemingway’s quote “Great books aren’t written. They are rewritten.” scribbled on a post-it note that’s stuck to my monitor for inspiration, an interesting thing happened. A fellow member of the Public Safety Writers Association asked a question on the list-serve regarding a subject that I’d been wondering about. So, I jumped right on that bandwagon and we spent an entire day and part of a second, exchanging the most informative and interesting thread about writing true crime as opposed to pure fiction.
As a quirky coincidence, my detective husband once had a high profile case that required him to work sitting beside the D.A. during the long and tedious prosecution. The defense attorney just happened to be the same lawyer who had defended the killers of the Clutter family in western Kansas back in 1959. Those murders inspired Truman Capote to write what is considered to be his best work – “In Cold Blood” in 1965. It took him six years, so I don’t feel bad about my present manuscript taking me three. Since “In Cold Blood” exemplifies writing true crime that is interspersed with fiction, it seems the perfect example.
We spoke about the close Alabama childhood friendship between Truman Capote and Harper Lee, who wrote “To Kill A Mockingbird,” and that her character of Dill was based upon Capote. We also covered the fact that Capote is often alleged to have actually written most of “To Kill A Mockingbird” and that he simply let Harper Lee have the credit for it. But that is controversial to this day, even though she never wrote another book and seemed to socially withdraw from the fame that her classic created. Many feel that the writing styles of the two books are just far too different to have been written by the same person, however. Either way, she won The Pulitzer Prize for it.
When Capote traveled to western Kansas to research the Clutter murders in the quiet little town of Holcomb, Harper Lee traveled with him. Perhaps she accompanied him to buffer the exuberant personality and behavior of Mr. Capote. He was certainly an interesting figure. Someone on the list-serve used the perfect word of flamboyant to describe him.
Holcomb happens to be very close to the little town where my husband’s grandfather Zortman homesteaded the family farm on July 1, 1884. My husband was both born inside that farm house and grew to adulthood on that land. So, having personally been in this area many, many times, I’m quite sure that Truman Capote would have garnered much attention and could have been a tremendous culture shock to the quiet and unassuming townspeople of that little remote and rural community situated smack in the heart of the Bible Belt.
We never did actually come up with a cut and dried perfect answer regarding the writing of true crime or fiction, though a lot of good leads were provided. However, a panel is presently forming to discuss that very subject at our PSWA conference in Las Vegas in July.
Okay, now back to that task of rewriting my manuscript. It was nice to take a little break and to learn a few things while getting better acquainted with some of my colleagues. They are truly a great group and I am proud to be a long-time dues paying member.
Thanks for stopping by and I hope you’ll leave a comment to let me know that you were here.