Neal Cassady commenced writing his autobiography in December 1948, continuing erratically until 1954,
at which time Neal's life story had covered only his first nine years.
A version of the book, titled The First Third, was published by Ferlinghetti's City Lights Books in 1971,
three years after Neal's death. An expanded edition followed in 1981, containing recently discovered extra
manuscript pages as well as Neal's Prologue, written November 1950, which dealt mainly with the history
of his father and mother, up to 1932.
The 19 printings of the book by City Lights feature five basically different front cover designs. The black
border of the 6th printing is thought to mark the 10th anniversary of Neal's death.
CITY LIGHTS BOOKS  (click on thumbnails to enlarge)
|1st Printing 1971||6th Printing 1978||7th Printing 1981||8th Printing 1984||19th Printing 2003|
|Austria 1980||Austria 1997||Brazil 1986||Brazil 1999||Croatia 2006||France 1977||France 1998|
|France 2000||Germany 1982||Italy 1980||Italy 1998||Netherlands 1978||Spain 1978||Spain 2006|
|Sweden 1985||Turkey 1999|
Neal's famous 18-page "Joan Anderson Letter" to Kerouac of December 1950, which was to inspire the style
of the scroll version of On the Road, was subsequently lost. A fragment, of less than half of the original,
was recovered, and published in early 1964 by John Bryan in his literary magazine Notes From Underground,
with Neal helping to run off copies at Bryan's Rhode Island Street, San Francisco basement.
The title used, The First Third, is confusing, but it may be that by that date Neal was considering the Joan
Anderson extract as part of his ongoing autobiography. The same extract was published by City Lights in 1971
as an addendum to Nealís book The First Third, and was later to form the basis of the 1997 movie The Last
Time I Committed Suicide, directed by Stephen T. Kay, and starring Thomas Jane and Keanu Reeves.
The complete letter was eventually discovered in May 2012 in the discarded files of Golden Goose Press
in Oakland, California. The full text was published in an edition by Black Spring Press (UK) in October 2020.
|1964   cover||1964   text|
Also in 1964, the City Lights Journal published the first chapter of Neal's autobiography, some seven years
before The First Third was published by the same press.
|1964   cover||1964   text|
Shortly after Neal's death in February 1968 the Milwaukee magazine Kaleidoscope published an extract from
the Joan Anderson letter, taken from Notes From Underground.
|1968   cover||1968   text|
Neal's Prologue to his autobiography originally appeared in Ken Kesey's journal Spit in the Ocean, shortly
before its inclusion in the expanded version of The First Third. This issue of the journal also included
extensive reminiscences of Neal from many of his friends.
|1981   cover||1981   text|
All of Neal Casady's extant letters are to be found in these four volumes.
|Creative Arts 1977||Blast Books 1993||Penguin 2004||Black Spring 2020|
|Spain 1985||Germany 2010|
Some of Neal's letters had previously been published in magazines and journals, including a letter to Justin Brierly,
written from Colorado State Reformatory in October 1944, which appeared in mano-mano 2, and seven letters to
Jack Kerouac, which were published in The Missouri Review.
|mano-mano 1971||mano-mano text||mano-mano text||Missouri Review 1999||Missouri Review text|
Some of Neal Casady's raps have been transcribed and published. The first is from a recording made at Kesey's ranch in La Honda,
California, Fall 1965, and the second is thought to be from an Acid Test held at Portland, Oregon, 1965/66.
Hank Harrison's The Dead Book contained a flexidisc audio recording of Neal's raps from the opening of the Straight Theater,
San Francisco, in September 1967, although no transcription was included.
|Intrepid Trips 1974||Pug Secret Archive||Links Books 1973|
|Prentice Hall 1981||Paragon House 1990||Thunder's Mouth 2004||T Christopher 1995||T Christopher 1998||Chicago Review 2006|
As well as the biographies devoted to Neal Cassady, his wife Carolyn has also written extensively about Neal's
life in her own autobiography. An abridged version titled Heart Beat Beat first appeared in 1976, followed in 1990
by the more complete work, Off the Road.
A movie version of Heart Beat was released in 1980, directed by John Byrum, starring Nick Nolte as Neal Cassady,
and with Jack Kerouac's daughter Jan as an extra.
|US 1976 hardback||US 1976 paperback||US 2nd edn. 1978||US wrapper 1980||US Pocket 1978||US Pocket 1980||UK Granada 1980|
|Germany 1980||Italy 1980||Japan 1990|
|UK 1990||US 1990||UK 1991||US 1991||Czech Rep. 1994||France 2000||France 2002|
|US 2006 draft||UK 2007||US 2008||Spain 2013||UK 1990||Germany 2007|
Neal's son, John Allen Cassady (named after Kerouac and Ginsberg) has also been writing about his father:
|Dharma Beat 1998||Dharma Beat text||Beat Museum 2007|
The Day After Superman Died by Ken Kesey is a semi-fictional account of the events
surrounding the death of Neal Cassady,
originally published in Esquire magazine, October 1979.
|Esquire, Oct 1979||Esquire - illustration||Esquire - text||Esquire - text (cont)||Lord John Press 1980||Germany 1988|
Gregory Stephenson's Friendly and Flowing Savage is a literary study of the influence of Neal Cassady
on other writers.
A Form of Work that Becomes a Construct by fellow Merry Prankster Ken Babbs, is a close-up study of Neal,
including more transcriptions of his raps.
Neal and Anne at Gough Street is Charles Plymell's memoir of life with Cassady and his girlfriend Anne Murphy
in the San Francisco house they shared in the mid 1960s.
Trouble Ahead, Trouble Behind is a story about Neal and Jerry Garcia by Neal's Merry Prankster friend George Walker
(AKA "Hardly Visible").
|Textile Bridge 1987||Sky Pilot 2004||Beat Scene Press 2008||Tsunami Books 2010|
Kerouac also transcribed conversations between Neal and himself from tapes that were made at the Cassady home
in San Francisco, 1952. Those transcriptions were later incorporated into Kerouac's book Visions of Cody.
A page, in Neal's hand, of an early draft of part of The First Third.
This section, describing Neal's emotions whilst imprisoned inside a fold-up bed, may be compared with
the published version, pages 112-113 of the expanded edition of The First Third.
Compiled by Dave Moore
Thanks to Michael Powell, Horst Spandler, Georg Huber, and Vojo Sindolic for the use of their book cover images.
A selection of books by Jack Kerouac can be found here:
A selection of books by William S. Burroughs can be found here:
A selection of books by John Clellon Holmes can be found here:
A selection of books by David Goodis can be found here: