This list of characters from Jack Kerouac’s novels originally appeared in Issue Three, which is no longer available. Find other issues of Beatdom here. This is also rather out of date. You can find a more comprehensive and regularly updated list of Kerouac’s characters here.
Anyone who knows anything about the Beat Generation knows that while Ginsberg may have been the movement’s publicist, Kerouac was its archivist. Yet his books are called novels, not autobiographies or non-fiction texts. We can pretty much go through each one of Kerouac’s books and find other sources to verify the accuracy of an event, but all the names, and some of the places, are fictitious.
These pseudonyms fool no one, however, and are deliberately transparent. Writing in dangerous times, Kerouac’s publishers demanded he change names to avoid lawsuits and prosecution, and given the furor surrounding ‘Howl’ and Naked Lunch, it’s probably for the best that he did.
But nowadays we are surrounded by books, websites, and documentaries about the Beat Generation, and anyone that takes an interest is soon provided with a view of the players in the movement. Their personalities were all unique, and after learning a few key facts, we can take a look at Kerouac’s novels again and remove the masks, revealing the true participants in the fables of the Beat Generation.
The following is a list of real people who appeared in Kerouac’s novels, along with the different names Kerouac gave them.
Bio: Ansen was a big influence on several of the Beats. He was never well-known outwith the Beat circle, but he made an impact on Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg and Corso. He appeared in both On the Road and Naked Lunch.
- Book of Dreams – Irwin Swenson
- On the Road – Rollo Greb
- The Subterraneans – Austin Bromberg
William S. Burroughs
Bio: Burroughs was one of the key players in the Beat Generation and an influence upon subsequent countercultural movements. Most famously, he wrote Naked Lunch and pioneered the cut-up method in his various literary experiments.
- Book of Dreams – Bull Hubbard
- Desolation Angels – Bull Hubbard
- Doctor Sax – Bull Hubbard
- On the Road – Old Bull Lee
- The Subterraneans – Frank Carmody
- The Town and the City – Will Dennison
- Tristessa – Bull
- Vanity of Duluoz – Will Hubbard
- Visions of Cody – Bull Hubbard
Bio: In his short life, Cannastra made a big impression upon the early Beat Generation. He was a wild man like Neal Cassady and celebrated as such. He appears in several Ginsberg poems and in two Kerouac books.
- Visions of Cody – Finistra
- Book of Dreams – Finistra
Bio: Carr was central to the Beat movement. He was the embodiment of Beat – intelligent yet wild, well-read but crazy. He introduced Kerouac and Ginsberg. “Lou was the glue,” Ginsberg quipped. He killed David Kammerer and sought refuge with Burroughs and Kerouac.
- Big Sur – Julian
- Book of Dreams – Julian Love
- Desolation Angels – Julian Love
- On the Road – Damion
- The Subterraneans – Sam Vedder
- The Town and the City – Kenneth Wood
- Visions of Cody – Julian Love
- Vanity of Duluoz – Claude de Maubris
Bio: She was the wife of Neal Cassady and friends with Ginsberg and Kerouac. Cassady married the Holy Goof even after finding him in bed with Ginsberg and his first wife. She was immortalised in On the Road, and wrote her own memoirs, called Off the Road.
- Big Sur – Evelyn
- Book of Dreams – Evelyn
- Desolation Angels – Evelyn
- On the Road – Camille
- The Dharma Bums – Evelyn
- Visions of Cody – Evelyn
Bio: Daughter of Neal and Carolyn Cassady. Cathy has written for Beatdom here.
- Desolation Angels – Emily Pomeray
- On the Road – Amy Moriarty
- Visions of Cody – Emily Pomeray
Bio: Daughter of Neal and Carolyn Cassady
- Desolation Angels – Gaby Pomeray
- On the Road – Joanie Moriarty
- Visions of Cody – Gaby Pomeray
John Allen Cassady
Bio: Son of Neal and Carolyn Cassady. Named after Kerouac and Ginsberg.
- Big Sur – Timmy John Pomeray
- Desolation Angels – Timmy John Pomeray
- Visions of Cody – Timmy Pomeray
Bio: Cassady is almost as well known for his alias, Dean Moriarty, as his real name. The legendary Holy Goof inspired much of the Beat movement and literature, despite having no famous literary output of his own. He was Ginsberg’s lover and ‘secret hero of these poems’.
- Big Sur – Cody Pomeray
- Book of Dreams – Cody Pomeray
- Desolation Angels – Cody Pomeray
- The Dharma Bums – Cody Pomeray
- The Subterraneans – Leroy
- On the Road – Dean Moriarty
- Visions of Cody – Cody Pomeray
Bio: Introduced Cassady to Kerouac and Ginsberg, thus creating the inspiration for so much Beat literature.
- On the Road – Chad King
- Visions of Cody – Val Hayes
Bio: Corso is a hero here at Beatdom. Whereas most would think of the holy trinity of Beats – Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs – we rate Corso among them as an equal. His life was long and tragic, but his poetry immortalised him as a great.
- Book of Dreams – Raphael Urso
- Desolation Angels – Raphael Urso
- The Subterraneans – Yuri Gligoric
Bio: Cowen’s tale is heart-wrenching. She was part of the Beat group until confined to a mental institution where she killed herself. Her story explains why so few females ever made it to become Beat icons.
- Desolation Angels – Barbara Lipp
Bio: Cru dated Edie Parker before she married Kerouac, who was also his friend. Cru is famous as Remi Boncoeur in On the Road, who inspired Kerouac’s seminal trans-American journey. Kerouac and Cru wrote an unproduced screenplay together in San Francisco.
- Desolation Angels – Deni Bleu
- Lonesome Traveler – Deni Bleu
- On the Road – Remi Boncoeur
- Visions of Cody – Deni Bleu
- Vanity of Duluoz – Deni Bleu
Bio: Although his role in the Beat Generation was small, Duncan was a large figure in various countercultural movements of the twentieth century.
- Desolation Angels – Geoffrey Donald
Bio: Although he is only listed as appearing in one novel, Ferlinghetti’s importance in the Beat Generation cannot be overstated. He was the founder of City Lights, the Beat publisher and bookstore. Ferlinghetti encouraged Ginsberg after the Six Gallery Reading, and fought in defence of ‘Howl’.
- Big Sur – Lorenzo Monsanto
Bio: Gaddis was never a Beat writer, but counted among his friends many well-known Beats.
- The Subterraneans – Harold Sand
Bio: Burroughs’ addict friend from Mexico City.
- Book of Dreams – Gaines
- Desolation Angels – Bull Gaines
- Tristessa – Bull Gaines
- Visions of Cody – Harper
Bio: Ginsberg was the core of the Beat Generation. He was perhaps the most important American poet of the 20th century and his tenacity was quite possibly what transformed the Beats into some form of literary movement.
- Big Sur – Irwin Garden
- Book of Dreams – Irwin Garden
- Desolation Angels – Irwin Garden
- The Dharma Bums – Alvah Goldbrook
- On the Road – Carlo Marx
- The Subterraneans – Adam Moorad
- The Town and the City – Leon Levinsky
- The Vanity of Duluoz – Irwin Garden
- Visions of Cody – Irwin Garden
Bio: Allen Ginsberg’s father, who was a poet and a high school teacher.
- Desolation Angels – Harry Garden
Bio: Another of Cassady’s women, Hansen was introduced to the Adonis of Denver by Kerouac, and was soon pregnant. Cassady took Kerouac to Mexico to get a divorce from Carolyn, to make the baby ‘legitimate’, but soon went back to Carolyn.
- On the Road – Inez
- Visions of Cody – Diane
Bio: Haverty was Kerouac’s second wife. She was a friend of Cannatra’s, who met Kerouac and married him weeks later. She had Kerouac’s daughter, Jan, but Kerouac refused for years to acknowledge the child.
- On the Road – Laura
Bio: Poor Luanne was integral to the story of On the Road. At fifteen, she married Cassady, and three years later was dumped for Carolyn. Yet not long after that Carolyn was dumped again for Luanne. She was one of the early women to influence the Beats.
- On the Road – Mary Lou
- The Subterraneans – Annie
- Visions of Cody – Joanna Dawson
Bio: A friend of Neal Cassady from Denver. He was interviewed by Beatdom here.
- Book of Dreams – Ed Buckle
- On the Road – Ed Dunkel
- Visions of Cody – Slim Buckle
Bio: The wife of Al Hinkle. ‘A stolid mother Earth figure of indeterminate age’.
- On the Road – Galatea Dunkel
- Visions of Cody – Helen Buckle
John Clellon Holmes
Bio: The ‘quiet Beat’, Holmes is widely considered to have written the first Beat novel. Go was the story of his friendship with Kerouac & co. Perhaps Holmes is most famous for when Kerouac used the word ‘Beat’ to describe to him the nature of their generation.
- Book of Dreams – James Watson
- On the Road – Tom Saybrook
- The Subterraneans – Balliol MacJones
- Visions of Cody – Wilson
Bio: Huncke was hugely a influential figure in the life of Burroughs, and became known in his own right as a writer and sub-culture icon. He was a long-time drug addict and relentless criminal.
- Book of Dreams – Huck
- Desolation Angels – Huck
- On the Road – Elmer Hassel
- The Town and the City – Junky
Bio: Another of Cassady’s women, Jackson cavorted with Carolyn’s husband until she could take being second no more, and killed herself.
- Book of Dreams – Rosemarie
- The Dharma Bums – Rosie Buchanan
Bio: Kerouac and Cassady visited ‘Random Varnum the great American poet’ and shocked his family with their poverty. The true story behind this meeting, and Jarrell’s relationship with Corso, is told in Beatdom #23.
- Desolation Angels – Random Varnum
Bio: One of Kerouac’s Denver friends, Jeffries travelled with Kerouac and Cassady to Mexico City.
- On the Road – Sam Shepard
- Visions of Cody – Dave Sherman
Bio: Johnson wrote Minor Characters and Door Wide Open about her relationship with Kerouac during the time his fame grew after On the Road. She was interviewed by Beatdom here.
- Desolation Angels – Alyce Newman
Bio: Kammerer, a friend of Burroughs, was obsessed with Lucian Carr until Carr murdered him in 1944. The murder was important in Beat history and inspired several pieces of writing.
- The Town and the City – Waldo Meister
- Visions of Cody – Dave Stroheim
- The Vanity of Duluoz – Franz Mueller
Bio: Kandel is respected, but not famous, as a poet of ‘holy erotica’. She had a brief relationship with Kerouac and participated in the later counterculture.
- Big Sur – Romana Swartz
Bio: Kerouac’s older sister.
- The Dharma Bums – Nin
- Doctor Sax – Catherine “Nin” Duluoz
- Maggie Cassidy – Nin
Bio: Gerard Kerouac died at the age of nine. He was Jack’s older brother, and a figure that Jack always felt incapable of matching. He was revered as a saint by nuns, and throughout his whole life, Kerouac never stopped thinking about his brother.
- Doctor Sax – Gerard Duluoz
- The Town and the City – Julian Martin
- Visions of Cody – Gerard Duluoz
- Visions of Gerard – Gerard Duluoz
Bio: Kerouac’s mother. She remained a huge influence on his life, living with him for much of his adulthood. Her harsh Catholic worldview marked her son with a constant guilt about life. She seems an altogether unpleasant figure and outlived her own son.
- Desolation Angels – Angie
- Doctor Sax – Angie
- Maggie Cassidy – Angy
- On the Road – Sal’s Aunt
- The Town and the City – Marguerite Martin
- Vanity of Duluoz – Angie
Bio: Kerouac was a core member of the Beat Generation. A confusing, confused, dualistic man. He was a magnificent novelist but his own tragic life ended prematurely.
- Big Sur – Jack Duluoz
- Book of Dreams – Jack Duluoz
- Desolation Angels – Jack Duluoz
- The Dharma Bums – Ray Smith
- Maggie Cassidy – Jack Duluoz
- On the Road – Sal Paradise
- Satori in Paris – Jack Duluoz
- The Subterraneans – Leo Percepied
- The Town and the City – Peter Martin
- Tristessa – Jack Duluoz
- The Vanity of Duluoz – Jack Duluoz
- Visions of Cody – Jack Duluoz
- Visions of Gerard – Jack Duluoz
Bio: Kerouac’s father died in 1946, and shortly after this, Kerouac sat down and wrote The Town and The City. He promised his dying father that he would always look after his mother.
- Doctor Sax – Emil “Pop” Duluoz
- Maggie Cassidy – Emil “Pop” Duluoz
- The Town and the City – George Martin
- Vanity of Duluoz – Emil “Pop” Duluoz
- Visions of Gerard – Emil “Pop” Duluoz
Bio: One of the poets who read at the legendary Six Galley Reading 1955, Lamantia chose to read poems by a dead friend. Lamantia was involved in movements before and after the Beat Generation.
- Desolation Angels – David D’Angeli
- The Dharma Bums – Francis DaPavia
- Tristessa – Francis DaPavia
Bio: LaVigne was a Beat artist who collaborated with Beat writers, including doing graphics for Ginsberg.
- Big Sur – Robert Browning
- Desolation Angels – Levesque
Bio: The New Journalism exponent is mentioned briefly during the ‘Passing Through New York’ section of Desolation Angels.
- Desolation Angels – Harvey Marker
Bio: McClure is one of the nicest men I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. When he spoke to Beatdom, he spoke of Kerouac’s silky voice, and his own voice nearly melted my ears. McClure was one of the poets at the Six Galley Reading.
- Big Sur – Pat McLear
- Desolation Angels – Patrick McLear
- The Dharma Bums – Ike O’Shay
Bio: A Buddhist neighbour of Kerouac and Snyder, who quickly became friends with the two Beats.
- Desolation Angels – Kevin McLoch
- The Dharma Bums – Sean Monahan
Jackie Gibson Mercer
Bio: A mistress of Cassady in San Francisco, and later, Kerouac’s girlfriend during the story of Big Sur.
- Big Sur – Willamine ‘Billie’ Dabney
Bio: Poet and novelist. Author of The (Diablos) Notebook.
- Desolation Angels – Merrill Randall
John McVey Montgomery
Bio: Although Montgomery appears as a clownish character, he was an editor and publisher of Kerouac’s books.
- Desolation Angels – Alex Fairbrother
- The Dharma Bums – Henry Morley
Bio: Part of the circle of friends that made up ‘the Subterraneans’, Newman was a record producer and store owner in New York’s Village.
- Book of Dreams – Danny Richman
- The Subterraneans – Larry O’Hara
- Visions of Cody – Danny Richman
Bio: Orlovsky is most famous as Ginsberg’s long-time lover, but was also a poet in his own right (at least after Ginsberg’s provocation). He travelled the world and in 1974, joined the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute, teaching poetry.
- Book of Dreams – Simon Darlovsky
- Desolation Angels – Simon Darlovsky
- The Dharma Bums – George
Bio: Parker was Kerouac’s first wife, if only for a short time and for strange reasons. They married more or less to get Kerouac out of jail, and split soon after. Parker also shared a flat with Joan Vollmer, that was frequented by many of the Beats in the early days of the movement.
- The Town and the City – Judie Smith
- Visions of Cody – Elly
- Vanity of Duluoz – Edna “Johnnie” Palmer
Bio: Time Magazine mistakenly labelled Rexroth ‘father of the Beats’, much to the poet’s chagrin. However, one could forgive their error: Ferlinghetti considers Rexroth his mentor; the poet MC’d the Six Gallery Reading; he introduced Ginsberg to Snyder; he spoke in formal defence at Ginsberg’s obscenity trial…
- The Dharma Bums – Rheinhold Cacoethes
Bio: Ferlinghetti labelled Snyder ‘the Thoreau of the Beat Generation’, and the description seems fair. He was the only Beat not from an urban background, and with little passion for the town. He was to The Dharma Bums what Dean Moriarty was to On the Road.
- Big Sur – Jarry Wagner
- Desolation Angels – Jarry Wagner
- The Dharma Bums – Japhy Ryder
Bio: Temko was an architectural critic and writer, who was portrayed in On the Road as against ‘arty’ snobs, but essentially snobbish himself.
- Book of Dreams – Irving Minko
- On the Road – Roland Major
- Visions of Cody – Allen Minko
Bio: The famous novelist had a homosexual relationship with Kerouac that was altered into a platonic night together for The Subterraneans. According to Norman Mailer, Vidal ‘ruined’ Kerouac by sleeping with him.
- The Subterraneans – Arial Lavalina
Bio: A Mexican prostitute and morphine addict, with whom Kerouac fell in love and consequently wrote Tristessa.
- Tristessa – Tristessa
Joan Vollmer Adams
Bio: Vollmer was the most famous woman of the Beat Generation, but for all the wrong reasons. She was ferociously intelligent, and held her own with the men during the early all-night discussions in New York, but is now known as Burroughs’ wife, whom he shot and killed in 1951; she also may have slept with Kerouac.
- Book of Dreams – June Evans
- Desolation Angels – June Evans
- On the Road – Jane Lee
- The Subterraneans – Jane
- The Town and the City – Mary Dennison
- Vanity of Duluoz – June
- Visions of Cody – June Hubbard
Bio: Uhl was a friend of Cassady’s from Denver.
- On the Road – Ed Wall
- Visions of Cody – Ed Wehle
Bio: Watts was a Zen scholar who became friends with Kerouac.
- Big Sur – Arthur Wayne
- Desolation Angels – Alex Aums
Bio: Weaver was Kerouac’s girlfriend in New York for a period, and a friend of Ginsberg. She seems to have been intelligent and attracted to the intellect of the Beats. She spoke to Beatdom here.
- Desolation Angels – Ruth Heaper
Bio: Welch was a poet in San Francisco, who lived with Snyder, Whalen, and Ferlinghetti, at various times, and was much admired by William Carlos Williams. In 1971, he disappeared in the Californian mountains and left a suicide note, but his body was never found.
- Big Sur – David Wain
Bio: Whalen lived with Snyder and Welch, and read at the Six Gallery Reading. He was always interested in Buddhism and eventually became a monk.
- Big Sur – Ben Fagan
- The Dharma Bums – Warren Coughlin
William Carlos Williams
Bio: The Modernist poet was a huge influence upon many members of the Beat Generation, both through his style and his mentoring. He was friends with Rexroth, taught Snyder, Whalen and Welch, and most famously mentored Ginsberg.
- Desolation Angels – Dr. Williams