It’s a narrative that begins with a bang. “TURFMAN KILLED BY WIFE IN DARK” learn the duvet of The New York Occasions on Oct. 31, 1955. The turfman was Billy Woodward Jr., 35, the proprietor of the famed racehorse Nashua, worldwide playboy, and son of the famend financier William Woodward Sr. The spouse was Ann Woodward, 40, a Kansas hick success story: She climbed the nightclub hoochie-coochie ladder straight into the lap of her Manhattan millionaire husband — and his father.
On Oct 30, round 2 a.m. at their Oyster Bay mansion, Ann heard her miniature poodle Sloppy bark adopted by an odd noise. Fearing the return of a serial burglar who had been terrorizing the upscale group, she picked up the double-barrel Churchill “Imperial” mannequin side-lock ejector shotgun she saved by her mattress, stepped into the darkness and fired. On the finish of the corridor, the bare physique of her husband fell limp right into a pool of blood.
Not since Harry Kendall Thaw murdered Stanford White over Evelyn Nesbit had a society capturing been so scandalous. For a lot of, particularly her mother-in-law, Ann was all the time a stain on the Woodward household title. Different ladies known as her a gold digger. There have been rumors that she had intercourse with males for cash and presents throughout her days as a “bunny woman” at Fefe’s Monte Carlo at 49 East 54th St. She did — it’s the place she first met Billy, in any case.
Some knew she had been a mistress to William Woodward Sr. earlier than marrying Billy. Others knew that the Woodward household patriarch had put her as much as taking Billy’s virginity to offset rumors that he had a gay yen. Those that had hunted tigers with Ann in India knew that she was harmful with weapons. Those that had lunched along with her at La Côte Basque at 60 West fifty fifth St. knew that she was staring down the barrel of a volcanic divorce. They knew that Billy had a voracious sexual urge for food and carried out his affairs (with ladies) in public. They knew that their relationship was typically violent. She was at risk of dropping her youngsters.
Nassau County authorities dominated that Billy Woodward’s demise an accident. However for the voluble members of New York’s cafe society, she was responsible de facto. She had signed her divorce papers in lead.
For 20 years, literary celebrity and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” writer Truman Capote slurped up the scuttlebutt like his vodka-heavy screwdrivers. For simply as lengthy, Ann had tried to vanish — quietly bopping between Europe and Manhattan. Then in 1975, Capote regurgitated the whisperings in an excerpt from his long-delayed e book “Answered Prayers” with such venom that Ann took her personal life at her residence in 1133 Fifth Ave. forward of publication.
“As soon as a tramp, all the time a tramp,” Woman Ina Coolbirth, Capotes’ stand-in for socialite Slim Keith, says of a not-at-all veiled caricature of Ann within the chapter titled “La Côte Basque, 1965,” which first appeared in Esquire. Keith, as soon as one in all Capote’s most beloved “swans,” by no means spoke to him once more after publication.
The insults proceed like machine-gun fireplace. Billy was a naive “anal-oriented Episcopalian” and “by no means café society.” Ann is “a jazzy little carrot-top killer” “introduced up in some country-slum method” and “a name woman for a pimp who was a bell captain on the Waldorf” who “saved her cash and took voice classes and dance classes and ended up as the favourite lay of one in all Frankie Costello’s shysters.”
“In fact it wasn’t an accident,” Woman Coolbirth continues. “She’s a murderess.”
The story — which threw under-the-belt punches in trashy, low-brow prose at virtually all of Capote’s nearest and dearest (together with socialites Babe Paley, C.Z. Visitor, Slim Keith and Lee Radziwill) — was a flippant act of destruction executed in chilly blood. The fallout was legendary and the unfinished novel would solely be revealed in 1986, two years after Capote’s demise.
In “Deliberate Cruelty” (out Nov. 11 with Atria Books), writer Roseanne Montillo takes a contemporary stab at one in all New York’s finest remembered killings, its decades-long ripple impact and Capote’s failed ultimate literary venture.
Whereas reams of research of Ann’s pulpy affair have been provided over time — it was the inspiration for “The Two Mrs. Grenvilles” by Dominick Dunne — Montillo takes a biographical path to answering an everlasting query: What drove Capote to assault Ann — to not point out his closest pals — in “Answered Prayers”?
“It’s potential that Truman Capote loathed the socialite Ann Woodward as a result of she reminded him a lot of his mom,” she writes. “However he may additionally have been so merciless to her as a result of Ann Woodward appeared an excessive amount of like him as properly.”
Like Ann, Capote was born into poverty. Like Ann, Capote spent a lot of his childhood dwelling in a rural American backwater with kin. Like Ann, Capote and his mom, Lillie Mae, have been fascinated by New York excessive society — and neither Ann nor Lillie Mae have been above utilizing rich males to get what they needed. Their moms each met tragic ends: Capote’s mom dedicated suicide, whereas Ann’s hard-lived mom died from a uncommon type of TB often present in cattle. Most significantly, they each had the abilities and crafty to rise right into a society that may by no means totally settle for them.
“Truman Streckfus Individuals [later Truman Capote] resembled Ann Woodward greater than he cared to confess, and their lives ran on parallel tracks from starting to finish,” she writes.
However regardless of their similarities, Capote was by no means shut with Ann Woodward. They have been linked through pals of pals at finest. Once they did meet, in accordance with Montillo, it was like dropping a pair of Siamese preventing fish in a water glass.
In 1956, only one 12 months after the demise of her husband, Capote spied Ann eating on the Palace Resort in St. Moritz, and to his shock she was hardly an image of the widow in mourning. She was eating cozily with the well-known playboy Claus von Bülow, a person with “a previous as colourful as her personal, if no more so.”
“The rumors surrounding him have been darkish: that he was a necrophile; that he had killed his mom and stashed her physique on ice; that in some way, he was nonetheless embroiled in espionage; that as a youth he had attended Hermann Göring’s wedding ceremony,” Montillo writes, noting that later in 1982, he could be convicted of the tried homicide of his spouse Sunny.
Intrigued by her audacity, Capote approached Ann.
“As he arrived on the desk, Ann instantly obtained up from her chair, offended that she ought to have been disturbed throughout her meal. A brief dialog adopted, throughout which, apparently, Ann known as Truman ‘a bit of fag,’” Montillo writes. “He returned the slur by wagging his finger at her and calling her ‘Mrs. Bang Bang,’ a moniker that may stick with her for the remainder of her days.”
Truman gossiped in regards to the encounter for years afterward. When phrase obtained again to Ann that Capote was speaking about her, she known as him “a bit of toad.”
What might have been a friendship solid in otherness was now a confrontation — one for which Capote spent years constructing his arsenal.
In 1979, a number of years after the fallout from the Esquire story and Ann’s consequent demise, a drug- and alcohol-hardened Capote appeared on “The Stanley Siegel Present” in Manhattan and quipped:
“I’ll inform you one thing about fags, particularly southern fags. We is imply. A southern fag is meaner than the meanest rattler. . . . We simply can’t maintain our mouth shut.”