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Deliberate Cruelty

Truman Capote, the Millionaire's Wife, and the Murder of the Century

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About The Book

This scintillating and glittery look at the darkly intertwined fates of infamous socialite Ann Woodward and literary icon Truman Capote sweeps us to the upper echelons of Manhattan’s high society—where even the richest cannot escape murder and infamy.

When Ann Woodward shot her husband, banking heir Billy Woodward, in the middle of the night in 1955, her life changed forever. Though she claimed she thought he was a prowler, few believed the woman who had risen from charismatic showgirl to popular socialite. Everyone had something to say about the scorching scandal afflicting one of the most rich and famous families of New York City, but no one was more obsessed with the tale than Truman Capote.

Acclaimed for his bestselling nonfiction book In Cold Blood, Capote was looking for new material and followed the scandal from beginning to end. Like Ann, he too had ascended from nobody to toast of the town, but he always felt like an outsider, even among the exclusive coterie of high society women who adored him. He decided the story of Ann’s turbulent marriage would be the basis of his masterpiece—a novel about the dysfunction and sordid secrets revealed to him by his high society “swans”—never thinking that it would eventually lead to Ann’s suicide and his own scandalous downfall.

Page-turning and deliciously fascinating, Deliberate Cruelty is a haunting cross between true crime and literary history that is perfect for fans of Furious Hours, Empty Mansions, and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

About The Author

Roseanne Montillo is an accomplished research librarian who earned her MFA from Emerson College and has taught creative writing at Emerson and the Tufts Extension School. In addition to Deliberate Cruelty, she has published four previous works of narrative nonfiction to critical acclaim—Fire on the TrackThe Wilderness of RuinAtomic Women, and The Lady and Her Monsters

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (November 1, 2022)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982153755

Raves and Reviews

"The tragic collision of two lives — Truman Capote and socialite-murderess Ann Woodward — makes for riveting reading in Roseanne Montillo's memorable account of two social-climbing strivers and the lives they touched."  —Meryl Gordon, author of  Bunny Mellon  and  Mrs. Astor Regrets   

"When the life of Ann Woodward, self-made socialite from Kansas, collided with that of Truman Capote, genius jester at the court of the beautiful people, the result was a twentieth century morality tale of enduring fascination, rooted in a particular kind of American dream - the one that seeks entry into the sleek, exigent world of Manhattan's Upper East Side. Roseanne Montillo tells the story supremely well, with a cool relentlessness reminiscent of Zola." —Laura Thompson, author of The Heiresses

"Brash and beautiful, Ann Woodward’s escape from a hardscrabble past and her ambitious rise from model and showgirl to the upper tiers of New York’s high society is a both a rags to riches story and a cautionary tale -- just the kind of story literary provocateur Truman Capote adored. In crafting the side-by-side tales of two arriviste strivers born of humble roots, Roseanne Montillo has given us a thrilling, tragic, Gatsby-esque saga. A wild romp of a story, boldly and beautifully told." —Neal Thompson, author of The First Kennedys and A Curious Man

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