DONALD WINDHAM, American novelist and memoirist, born (d: 2010); Of Donald Windham’s novels, the best known, perhaps is Two People, a lovely book about an affair between a married American businessman and a Roman boy. Despite his own considerable talents, Windham may very likely wind up being remembered, like the parts played in endless movies by Ralph Bellamy, as someone else’s best friend.
The “someone else,” in Windham’s case was Tennessee Williams. Windham was nineteen when he met the twenty-eight year old Williams. The two had in common their ambitions as young writers, their Southern backgrounds, their lack of money in pre-war New York, and their sexuality. Eventually they decided to collaborate on a play, and while Windham stayed in New York, Williams wandered between Provincetown, Mass, and other places in search of boys and a quiet retreat in which to write.
During those years began a correspondence which Windham collected and finally published in 1977. Although Williams published his own rather disappointing autobiography, the Windham letters, with the novelist’s excellent annotations, are the real, albeit incomplete, Tennessee Williams memoir. The letters are dazzling, unguarded, racy, funny, and, above all, revealing of every flattering and not so flattering aspect of the famous playwright over a twenty-five year period. While his relationship with Williams was strained by the publication of the letters, Windham remained a friend of Truman Capote until Capote’s death.
Windham also met and befriended such diverse figures as Lincoln Kirstein, Pavel Tchelitchew and Paul Cadmus. Windham’s novels include the The Dog Star (1950), praised by André Gide and Thomas Mann, The Hero Continues (1960), which was likely based on Williams, and Tanaquil (1972), based on the life of George Platt Lynes. Lost Friendships, a memoir of his friendship with Capote and Williams, was published in 1987. It was regarded by some as his best book. Homosexuality is one of many themes treated in his work. Windham died June 1st 2010, at his home in Manhattan at the age of 89.