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Truman Capote's Southern Years

Stories from a Monroeville Cousin

Marianne M. Moates, Foreword by Ralph F. Voss

Publication Year: 2014

Readers are well acquainted with Truman Capote’s meteoric rise to fame and his metamorphosis from literary enfant terrible to literary genius, celebrity author, and dispenser of venomously comic witticisms. It is also well-known that he spent his formative years in the south Alabama hamlet of Monroeville, and that he was abandoned there by his mother to be cared for and then to care for elderly relatives. Yet details of those years have remained sketchy and vague.
In Monroeville young Capote formed significant bonds and played childhood games with his cousin, Jennings Faulk Carter, and next door neighbor, Nelle Harper Lee. Through the tales told by Carter and spun into a fascinating and revealing narrative by Marianne M. Moates readers discover in Truman Capote's Southern Years the lively imagination and the early tragedies of a brilliant child.
A new foreword by Ralph F. Voss underscores the enduring relevance of Truman Capote’s work and the influence his Alabama childhood had on his work.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright, Dedication

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Ralph F. Voss

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pp. viii-xi

Better than thirty years since his death at fifty-nine years old in 1984, and nearly fifty years since the publication of his final and greatest book, In Cold Blood, Truman Capote remains one of America’s foremost celebrity-writers, his popularity rivaling that of earlier twentieth-century celebrity writers such as...

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pp. xii-xvi

These stories were organized and written from the tape-recorded reminiscences of Jennings Faulk Carter, cousin of Truman Capote. In preparing the reminiscences for publication, I felt both proud and grateful for this unique experience: to witness and to share with readers the escapades of the...

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pp. 1-18

This book began in April 1961, when I moved to Monroeville, Alabama (population about 3,500 back then), with my husband, Jim, and our baby son, Ben. Jim had recently finished a stint as an army pilot at Fort Rucker, Alabama. We were glad to have his military obligation over with and be...

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pp. 19-41

The little town of Monroeville, Alabama (population around 7,500), is known as the "hub." It's a hub because in any direction you must drive for two hours to reach a town of any size. Selma to the north. Montgomery to the northeast. Pensacola to the southeast. Mobile to the southwest. The...

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1. Sook's Secret

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pp. 42-50

When Truman Capote and I were children [recalls Jennings Faulk Carter], we always thought of Sook as our friend. Unlike the other adults who scolded, ruled, and otherwise tried to mold us into something they thought we should be, Sook was different. She let us be children, because in her...

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2. Miss Jenny's Halloween Party

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pp. 51-64

Shortly after Truman began the second grade, he received a letter from his mother saying she was going to marry Joe Capote [a wealthy Cuban living in New York]. Lillie Mae said for him not to plan on finishing the year in Monroeville, because she and Joe wanted to enroll him in a boarding...

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3. Orange Beach

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pp. 65-72

Along the Gulf Coast of Alabama, Orange Beach was a favorite vacation spot for the Faulk, Capote, and Carter families. When we were kids growing up in the early 1930s, our folks would load up the car with food, linens, and towels. We'd leave early in the morning for the four-hour drive...

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4. Captain Wash and the Hen-and-Chickens Succulent

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pp. 73-82

Jenny Faulk's next-door neighbor, Captain Washington Jones, was a proud, stately Civil War veteran over eighty years old, who supported himself and an invalid wife on a three-dollar-a-month veteran's pension. He had lost his sight when some gunpowder blew up in his face during the heat...

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5. The Carnival

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pp. 83-97

I suppose Truman and I were the luckiest children in Monroeville because one summer we convinced Jenny to build us our own private swimming pool in her side yard. We hadn't started out pestering her about the pool; it just came up kind of naturally. Monroeville had a community pool...

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6. The Trimotor Ford

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pp. 98-106

If Nelle and I ever coveted anything, it was Truman's green Trimotor Ford airplane. We had never seen anything like it. In those first years after Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic, people were infatuated with airplanes and the whole idea of flying. Monroeville, Alabama, was quite isolated back then, so...

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7. Popguns, Rubber Guns, and Jenny

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pp. 107-115

Truman and Jenny had a rather unusual relationship. Jenny, who was born in 1873, was in her late fifties when Lillie Mae brought Truman to live with her. My mother, Mary Ida, said Lillie Mae and Jenny were always at odds about something while Lillie Mae was growing up, but Truman never...

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8. The Case of the Mysterious Lady [contains Image Plates]

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pp. 116-141

The year I began school, Truman and Nelle were knee-deep reading the Sherlock Holmes detective books. Even though I hadn't learned to read with their speed and comprehension, we three would climb up in Nelle's big tree house and curl up with the books. Truman or Nelle would stop from time...

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9. Boss

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pp. 142-149

I suppose our lives would have been almost perfect had it not been for a big bruiser of a boy named Boss. He was about the size of Truman, Nelle, and me put together. He had a shock of dark hair, crooked teeth, and a layer of flab over some mighty impressive muscles when he flexed them...

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10. The White Elephant

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pp. 150-163

I think I'd be giving Truman too much credit if I thought he'd planned this adventure like so many of the others we shared. But Truman was so quick-witted when events and circumstances developed that he could capitalize on them. He would psych us up to see what direction our actions...

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11. Arch

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pp. 164-172

There wasn't much love in Truman's early life. Being in the same family with him, I recognized early on that ours wasn't a family who lavished affection on anybody. It was a family that worked hard and pinched pennies, but even in hard times there was always a plate of food and a bed for those who...

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12. The Cotton-Bale Caper

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pp. 173-185

In our growing-up years in Monroeville, Truman never ceased to amaze me with his inventiveness. Although in our early youth I had learned that he didn't care about other people's property, I was several years older before I realized that he was entirely unscrupulous at times. He was a...

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13. Lil George

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pp. 186-193

This particular day in the middle of summer, Dick Carter and his helper, Charlie McCants, were tired of plowing. Dick thought if he could get up with some of us boys we could go swimming or maybe scratch up a nickel to buy one of Sally McMillan's candy bars. Sally bought cartons of...

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14. Hatter's Mill

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pp. 194-202

One scorching hot summer day Dick Carter yelled outside my kitchen window, "Hey, Big Boy! Let's go swimming at Hatter's Mill." He and his colored helper, Charlie McCants, were each straddling a mule lathered from a hard gallop down Drewry Road. They had been plowing when, nearly...

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15. Broadway

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pp. 203-213

When Truman came to Jenny Faulk's house in the summer of 1943, he was full of tales about pornography movies he'd seen when he'd gone with Lillie Mae and Joe to visit Joe's people in Cuba earlier that year. After living with the Capotes in New York City and going out on the town with...

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16. Broadway, Act II

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pp. 214-223

It took Truman a year to get back at Ham. I don't know what excuse, if any, Truman gave his stepfather about the smashed movie camera. Truman didn't mention it, and I wasn't about to. I do know, however, that in Truman's mind, Ham had insulted him and he would find a way to repay in...

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pp. 224-230

We always looked on Truman as being different. We thought he had turned his back on the family in Monroeville, and he did; but in retrospect, I can see why. I really think he had good reasons. Frankly, I'm surprised he was as patient with us as he was, because each of us failed him in...


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pp. 231-240

E-ISBN-13: 9780817388157
E-ISBN-10: 081738815X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817358051
Print-ISBN-10: 0817358056

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 40
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: 25th Anniversary

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Subject Headings

  • Capote, Truman, 1924-1984 -- Homes and haunts -- Alabama -- Monroeville.
  • Authors, American -- Homes and haunts -- Alabama -- Monroeville.
  • Authors, American -- 20th century -- Family relationships.
  • Capote, Truman, 1924-1984 -- Childhood and youth.
  • Monroeville (Ala.) -- Social life and customs.
  • Alabama -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
  • Monroeville (Ala.) -- Biography.
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