This is a terrible tale of decline. Long before the end of his life Truman Capote was detested by virtually everyone he knew. His closest friends and his lifelong enemies were finally united in their contemptuous dismissal of him as a little shit, a snake, or ‘that little toad’. Yet it had not always been so. He had once been the darling of New York society, likened to both Ariel and Puck, cherished for his charm and puppyish warmth, lauded for the purity of feeling in his prose, and heralded by Norman Mailer as ‘the most perfect writer of my generation’. So what went wrong?