But, as Capote was himself already beginning to suspect, answered prayers are sometimes those we should be most afraid of. The experience of writing and researching “In Cold Blood,” then waiting years for murderers Perry Smith and Dick Hickock to die before he could publish it, burned something out of him. He died of liver disease in Los Angeles in 1984 (at the home of Joanna Carson, Johnny Carson’s ex-wife), having struggled to write at all in the years since “In Cold Blood.” What he did publish seems arch and strained, or, like the prison interview with Manson associate Bobby Beausoleil or the supposedly nonfiction material in “Handcarved Coffins,” so contrived as to appear made up. Capote descended into alcoholism and drug addiction while giving full rein to his cattiness and snobbery. The beguiling charm of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (Vintage, numerous editions) was no longer his to command; the craft behind “In Cold Blood” disappeared too, and the rest was a tawdry downhill slope.
“Portraits and Observations — The Essays of Truman Capote” (Modern Library: 528 pp., $17 paper) is easily the most important Capote book since “In Cold Blood,” a posthumous collection that limns the story of a sad yet still glorious career.
more from the LA Times here.