Margaret Truman: The Capital Writer

Margaret Truman (February 17, 1924 — January 29, 2008) dappled in different fields of art. She had a career as a concert singer and a radio and television host before she moved on to become the novelist of the famous Capital Crimes series.Margaret Truman_wl (1) Her first novel in the series was Murder in the White House. After graduating from George Washington University in 1946 with a degree in history, Truman started to take voice lessons, and this was the initiation of her career as a singer.

 Truman never felt at home in the White House and she wasn’t particularly fond of it either. She referred to it as the “Great White Jail”, and felt that anybody with sense wouldn’t want to live there. As the daughter of ex-President Harry S. Truman and someone who had worked closely in election campaigns and spent her life at very close proximity to American politics, it comes as little surprise that the series deals with homicides on Capitol Hill and at the Kennedy Center, the Supreme Court, the FBI, the CIA, the Smithsonian, Embassy Row, Georgetown, the National Cathedral, the Pentagon, the Potomac River and the National Gallery.

“Murder in the White House,” is the story of Lansard Blaine, a corrupt Secretary of State with a dubious past as a businessman who is found strangled in the family quarters of the White House. Published in 1980, the novel moved up the best-seller lists, was sold to the movies, became a Book-of-the-Month Club alternate selection and was bought for $215,000 by Fawcett for paperback publication.

The novel was an instant success. The critical reviews however, were mixed. William French of the Globe and Mail Toronto reviewed Murder in the White House and wrote: “Miss Truman seems to have studied Agatha Christie on how to introduce false leads, point to the wrong suspect and generally confuse the issue. She does this with a certain amount of technical dexterity, but it’s too mechanical and juiceless.”

Truman also penned many biographies and memoirs. She wrote her first book Souvenir in 1956, a reminiscence of her childhood in Missouri, her years at the White House and her short-lived career as a singer. By this time, she had married the managing editor of the New York Times, Clifton Daniel.

She wrote in “Souvenir” “I have no thought of writing history. The best I could hope to write would be a footnote to history. As the only child of the president of a great world power at a cataclysmic time, I will certainly be expected to make some comment on this man who will belong to history — to evoke him in special ways, available only to a daughter.”

Ashmita Chatterjee

About For a book lover, writer, interestingness hunter and a curious mind at large. We are blurring the lines between reality and fiction.

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