Gerald Clarke is also the author of a biography of Judy Garland, which, like Capote, was a New York Times bestseller. He lives on Long Isalnd.
Clarke breaks Capote's life into four sections: a childhood spent mostly with relatives while his self-absorbed parents staggered through their disorderly lives; his years of discovery, when he had the two great romances of his life, traveled the world, and found his voice as a writer; the writing of In Cold Blood ; and the destructive obsessions with drugs, alcohol, and lovers that followed. Clarke's analysis tends to be superficial and his research, though impressive, has gaping holes. He is strongest in his portraits of Capote's first lover, the literary scholar Newton Arvin; the parade of men who disrupted the last 15 years of his life; and Capote's ``swans,'' the very wealthy women who became addicted to his seemingly magic touch. Paradoxically, Clarke fails to produce a full portrait of Capote himself. The chaotic figure will need to be studied from many angles: Clarke provides a point of reference. Rob Schmieder, Boston
``In this riveting biography, Clarke, former Time writer, depicts the sad sequence of sparkling achievements and overwhelming despair that marked the life of Truman Capote,'' commented PW . ``Readers will be dazzled both by the life lived and the compelling skill with which Clarke brings it before us.'' Photos. Author tour. (May)