Lucien Carr was an important figure in early days of the Beat literary movement. Though he was not a writer, without him there might not have been a Beat Generation.

It was Carr who introduced William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac to each other. Carr knew Burroughs from St. Louis, while Ginsberg and Kerouac were fellow students at Columbia University. Ginsberg introduced himself to Carr – when he heard Johannes Brahms coming from Carr’s dorm room, he knocked on the door and the two hit it off immediately.

Carr was a charming young man with a strong lust for life, and the Beats were drawn into his orbit. Carr imagined a "New Vision" for literature and art, hashed out during countless late night deep conversations, exulting self-expression, an admiration for Arthur Rimbaud, and love for sensual pleasures. He didn’t act upon his visions, but was an incalculable inspiration for the others, and it wouldn’t be too much of an overstatement to call him the muse of the Beat Generation.

Lucien Carr was the object of a deep, disturbing affection on the part of an older man named David Kammerer. Kammerer met Carr when he was his Scoutmaster and began to develop an unhealthy obsession for the boy. Kammerer quit his job and followed Carr from state to state and college to college. Carr was heterosexual and not interested in Kammerer’s advances, but did little to discourage him, and was flattered by the attention. They spent a lot of time together, and even wrestled on the floor of Burroughs’ apartment. When he wasn’t being psychotic, Kammerer was a brilliant conversationalist and interesting guy. It was Kammerer who introduced Carr to Burroughs

Carr’s mother thought sticking her son in Columbia, close to her apartment, would somehow protect him from Kammerer, but he got a job as a janitor near the school, and the two still hung out frequently. Then, one night – August 13, 1944 - things came to a head. Kammerer had been getting nuttier and nuttier, and he once again sexually propositioned Carr. Carr reacted angrily, and a fight ensued. Kammerer, a former PE teacher, easily overpowered Carr, but Carr stabbed him twice in the heart with a boy scout knife. Carr claimed Kammerer threatened to rape and kill him, but Carr may have simply snapped, frustrated with Kammerer’s increasingly oppressive behavior.

Carr weighted down the Kammerer’s body and disposed of it in the Hudson River. He went to Burroughs, and in a macabre moment, offered him a cigarette from Kammerer’s pack of Lucky Strikes. Burroughs advised Carr to turn himself in and claim self-defense. Carr then visited Kerouac, who helped Carr dispose of the knife down a subway grate and bury Kammerer’s glasses. Carr turned himself anyway two days later. Carr would serve two years in the Elmira Reformatory. Kerouac and Burroughs were both arrested as accessories for not reporting the crime, but neither did any time.

This incident broke up the tight-knit Columbia Beat group, and from there each went off to their own lives, though they would be forever intertwined. Carr kept in touch with his friends throughout his life, especially Ginsberg, but worried about further consequences because of his crime, he kept a low profile and, publicly at least, stayed away from the Beat world. He would lead a very different, and much more mainstream, life. He got a job as a reporter for United Press International, eventually working his way up to assistant managing editor before he retired in 1993. Legend has it that it was a large roll of UPI paper Carr supplied that Kerouac used for the first draft of On the Road.

Writers lose interest in Carr after he leaves the orbit of the Beats, so it is difficult to find information about him. He was involved in a lengthy, dysfunctional relationship with Alene Lee, the inspiration for the infamous Mardou Fox from Kerouac’s The Subterraneans. Carr himself appears in Kerouac’s works as Kenny Wood in The Town and the City, Juilien Love in Big Sur, Book of Dreams, and Visions of Cody, Damion in On the Road, and Claude de Maubrus in Vanity of Duluoz.

Carr also married and divorced Francesca von Hartz, a social worker. Together they had 3 children, Simon, Caleb, and Ethan. Simon Carr is an abstract painter, Ethan Carr is a landscape architect and Caleb Carr is the best selling author of The Alienist. None of their work seems to be particularly influenced by the Beats.

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