Truman Capote's first novel goes from wastebin to auction

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The Independent Culture

For years it had been considered lost; a first, unpublished novel abandoned and even destroyed by an author who forgot about it once later works made him an international celebrity. Then it was discovered in a box of papers left on a New York pavement.

For years it had been considered lost; a first, unpublished novel abandoned and even destroyed by an author who forgot about it once later works made him an international celebrity. Then it was discovered in a box of papers left on a New York pavement.

Yesterday, that first novel by Truman Capote - author of Breakfast at Tiffany's and In Cold Blood - went on sale in what was the latest twist to a remarkable literary story. Handwritten by Capote in four ruled notebooks, the draft of Summer Crossing is expected to raise up to $100,000 (£51,000) at auction.

"It will undoubtedly provide invaluable insights into this major writer's formative years," said Justin Caldwell, vice-president for books and manuscripts at the auction house, Sotheby's, which put the manuscript on sale.

Capote, who died in 1984, apparently began work on the novel in 1943 when he was aged 19 and working for The New Yorker magazine. When he was sacked later that year, he returned to his childhood home in Monroeville, Alabama, hoping to complete the work. But a biography of Capote by Gerald Clarke quotes the writer as telling how one night, disillusioned, he tossed the draft into a waste bin and set upon writing a new novel - a work that would become Other Voices, Other Rooms.

The success of that novel made Capote a celebrity and took him overseas, where he continued to work on Summer Crossing, the story of a 17-year-old girl, Grady Menil, who has been left alone in New York while her parents spend the summer in Europe. "It's kind of a pre- Breakfast at Tiffany's," said Mr Caldwell. Unfinished, the manuscript was discovered by a relative of Capote's former housesitter after 1966, who apparently took the box after the successful Capote ordered his old Brooklyn flat to be emptied.

It is not clear whether the author's literary executor, Alan Schwartz, will allow Summer Crossing to be published. Mr Clarke, Capote's biographer, believes that if Capote himself did not think the work was publishable, his wishes should be respected. "Truman himself did not feel it was worth publishing," he said.

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