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Who Was Lucien Carr?

I've received a few inquiries about Lucien Carr since the release of Gary Walkow's docu-drama, "Beat", about the life of William S. Burroughs and Joan Vollmer, played by Keifer Sutherland and Courtney Love, respectively. The independent film premiered at the USA Film Festival in Dallas, Texas this year. For more info on the film, "Beat" as well as other Beat Generation film information, go here.

What does this have to do with Lucien Carr, you ask? The film begins in New York City on the night Lucien Carr murders David Kammerer. There is apparently little information available in regards to Carr, regardless of his involvement with the Beats, so I did some research and put together a brief history of events:

First matter of fact; it was Lucien Carr who introduced Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs to eachother.

Carr wasn't homosexual but had unfortunately caught the eye of a rather troubled and much older man named David Kammerer. Kammerer was Carr's Boyscout Scoutmaster during his youth and later followed Carr wherever he went. Lucien never let on to anyone that Kammerer was constantly making advances toward him and the two actually spent a lot of time together. Carr was content to have a friendship with Kammerer but was in no way interested in him (or any man, for that matter) sexually. On August 13, 1944 3am, in Riverside Park, near Columbia University's campus and the Hudson River, Kammerer again tried to win Carr's sexual favour. When it was again refused he attacked him. Carr was no match for Kammerer's size and strength and in self defense, stabbed him to death (ironically) with a Boyscout pocketknife. In a panic, he tied Kammerer's hands and feet together with his own shoelaces, filled his pockets with as many rocks as he could find, and rolled his body into the Hudson River. After much deliberation about what to do and solicitation of advice from Burroughs, Kerouac and family members, Carr turned himself in to the authorities. He was sentenced to 20 years, but served only 2 years in prison at Elmira Correctional Facility in upstate, NY, which incidentally is 20 miles from my hometown of Pine Valley, NY.

Kerouac moved in with Carr (now out of prison for some time) after leaving Neal Cassady in California and returning to New York City in 1951. This was shortly after the publication of his first novel, "The Town and the City". Carr was living in a loft apartment on West 21st and was working (to the dissaproval of the Beats) for the United Press.

Kerouac had been inspired at that time by a new writing technique somewhat credited to William Carlos Williams and dubbed "Spontaneous Prose" by Kerouac, in which the writer simply writes or types as fast as possible along a line of thought, expression, or general storytelling with "no discipline other than rhythms of rhetorical exhalation and expostulated statement". I know this comes across as quite esoteric, but pretty much boils down to the simple concept of writing as fast as one can as the thoughts stream through their consciousness, not trying at that time to come up with the perfect word or phrase.

Kerouac had once been the speed-typing champion of the greater Boston area and this technique suited him quite well. His only complaint was that he was slowed down by having to insert new sheets of paper so often. Lucien Carr, being employed at the United Press, brought home a roll of teletype paper and suggested he try that. Kerouac was delighted that he only needed to insert one end of the roll into his typewriter and could go on for days. The novel Kerouac wrote in this fashion would become his second published (in 1957) and one of his most popular, "On The Road".

Lucien Carr isn't considered a beat writer or a true member of the "Beat Generation" by most, but he is responsible for the "meeting of the minds" of its most prominent writers and visionaries and was associated directly with many of them. He's now retired from a successful career with the United Press and lives in Washington, D.C.

Additionaly, Lucien's son is Caleb Carr, author of many popular novels such as "The Angel of Darkess", "The Devil Soldier", "Killing Time", and the enormously successful thriller, "the Alienist".

You can see an early photo of Carr with Kerouac in The Beat Page photo gallery here.