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A Man for All Seasons

One of Truman Capote’s not-so-secret weapons was astonishing versatility. He seemed equally at home penning frothy novellas like Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the seminal true-crime chiller, In Cold Blood. Capote was also adept at screenplays (Beat the Devil, The Innocents), books and lyrics for Broadway musicals (House of Flowers), countless magazine articles and several collections of short stories. Of all these remarkable works, one of his shortest – a mere 27 pages – remains my favorite. Published in Mademoiselle magazine in 1956, A Christmas Memory is the gossamer-thin reminiscence of a seven-year-old boy, Buddy, and his elderly cousin, Miss Sook, poor relations in Depression-era Alabama. A roman à clef culled from Capote’s childhood, it follows the unlikely...

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If I Could Turn Back Time

Few authors know where to expect inspiration, but that’s only part of the excitement of our profession. So is venturing into unknown territory. Despite being a fan of George Orwell’s The Time Machine, Jack Finney’s Time and Again and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, I never considered writing time travel because the market was lopsided with poorly written, badly plotted stories about some woman getting hit on the head and waking up to discover she’s Cleopatra. Such books had, to quote Dorothy Parker, all “the depth and glitter of a worn dime.” My reluctance changed some years ago when I lived in the French Quarter, and did something as innocuous as going onto my gallery one warm winter evening to enjoy a glass of wine. I wasn’t there long when fog began...

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Not a Black and/or White Issue

It’s another of history’s dirty little secrets. While black slavery in this country is well documented, there is little said about its white counterpart. If mentioned at all, white slavery usually masquerades under the broad labels of “indentured servitude” and the “convict trade.” (The word “slave” originally referred to the Slavs of Eastern Europe who were in bondage off and on for centuries.) Gypsies and the Chinese were also victims of forced labor in this country, and the rarely acknowledged enslavement of California’s Mission Indians by the Spanish padres was the subject of my book, Communion of Sinners. Our historians’ biased insistence on ignoring this ugly reality deserves to be rectified. In the 1600s,...

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