Melanie McCabe, a poet, teacher and newly branded investigative non-fiction writer explores her hounding curiosity as she delves into the mystery of her father’s past life in her latest book, “His Other Life: Searching for My Father, His First Wife, and Tennessee Williams”.

Thrilling, chilling and encapsulating, McCabe draws in readers with a similar urge to uncover family secrets, or anyone who desires to witness a greater glimpse into the private life of the highly acclaimed playwright Tennessee Williams.

My father died when I was sixteen,” McCabe said. “I was curious about his life and I asked my mother about it. She had told me a few things about him and one of the things she revealed to me back then was that he had been married before he had married her, which I had no knowledge of.”

This new knowledge sparked a passion within McCabe which propelled her on a journey towards uncovering more information about her father’s life and first marriage. It had been revealed to her that Hazel, her father’s ex-wife, had previously been in a romantic relationship with Tennessee Williams.

The connection to Williams drew Melanie even deeper into the story, as she had also been very involved in the arts as a published poet and English teacher.

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“I read Tennessee Williams’ memoirs and I read books about him. I thought my dad was mentioned and that was all I knew about it… I had shared that information with a friend a few years back and she called me one day and said, ‘Did you know that in his last years Williams wrote a play called the “Red Devil Battery Sign” and there’s a character in it named Terrence McCabe?’ which was my dad’s name.”

This news had shocked Melanie and caused her to take this investigative journey more seriously.

She originally started off by simply going through some of the memorabilia her father had left behind. She then traveled across the country in search of newspaper articles, court testimonies and more hard evidence coinciding with the tumultuous story about her father’s secret life. She even turned to Ancestry.com in search for possible ancestors of past characters that she could interview for a more substantial image of her father, Hazel and Tennessee’s lives as young adults.

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“I found a lot of people and talked to a lot of people and that was helpful. I managed to track down her will and that proved useful,” McCabe said.

As it turns out, her father and Hazel met at the University of Wisconsin. Some of what was discovered was predictable or could be deemed typical, while other information was intriguing and even alarming, as some evidence is still inconclusive to this day.

McCabe began researching the story in the spring of 2014. While she had enough material to write a short essay by 2014, the evidence she found propelled her to continue researching for perhaps a larger project.

“I probably officially stopped [researching] in late 2015, but the whole time I was researching I was working on putting pieces of this together. I think I pretty much finished it in ‘15 and I was trying to see if I could get a publisher for it. One night I was Googling around and I found the University of New Orleans Press, they were looking for non-fiction manuscripts and I said ‘Well, okay, I’ll send it,’ and I won. So that’s sort of the path that I took.”

While McCabe mostly wrote poetry prior to the book, something about the story demanded her attention. The story caught McCabe by surprise, and became her first published piece of prose.

“I just couldn’t stop thinking about and it took me off on a sidetrack that I’ve been on since, I guess,” McCabe said.

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The urgency for this story to be shared was due to McCabe’s desire to feel a connection to her father on the grounds of one adult to another. Because her father passed away when she was a teenager, she felt remorse that she and him never had the opportunity to know each other as adults. 

The book drew her closer to his life, in the context of her as an adult being reintroduced to a side of her father she never knew as a child. She felt as if this project had allowed her to know her father in a new light, which would provide a greater sense of closure.

“We all sort of wonder, what were our parents like before we were born. How did they live their lives? What do we not know? At least for me, those are the kind of things that I think are really interesting.”