It took Truman Capote six years to research and write In Cold Blood.
He and his friend Harper Lee (author of To Kill a Mockingbird
) spent much of that six years in Kansas, where they visited the crime scene, befriended the townsfolk who knew the murdered family, and interviewed the police investigating the case. Capote even got to know the murderers themselves, and he is said to have developed an intense relationship with one of them, Perry.
Capote became obsessed with this book mdash; with the murder, the investigation, and the trial and execution of the killers. He delved deeply into the subject of crime and punishment, violence, and retribution mdash; so much so that it affected his psyche and left him exhausted once the killers had been executed and he had finished the project.
What Capote may not have expected was the book's popularity. When it was released, In Cold Blood sold out immediately. Bookstores couldn't keep copies of it stocked, and it became the most talked about book of its time. In Cold Blood was so popular that it quickly made Truman Capote a millionaire and elevated him to a position of fame that no author has reached since.
To celebrate the book's success, Capote threw himself a party, a masked ball at New York's Plaza Hotel that became known as the "Party of the Century." This party, the famous "Black and White Ball," cemented one's place in high society. Capote taunted the rich and famous with invitations for months, sometimes snubbing even old friends as he determined who was worthy of attendance.
In the years following In Cold Blood, Capote wrote a few short stories and magazine articles here and there, but his attention was solidly focused on being part of the jet set. With this lifestyle came a deepening addiction to drugs and alcohol, and by 1980, a medical scan revealed that Capote's brain had shrunk as a result of substance abuse. Bouts of dementia caused Capote to withdraw and become relatively reclusive until he died in 1984 at age 59, as a result of liver cancer that was complicated by alcohol abuse.