I hope it is true that a man can die and yet not only live in others but give them life, and not only life, but that great consciousness of life.Jack KerouacClick anywhere
Joan Vollmer (February 4, 1923 – September 6, 1951) was the most prominent female member of the early Beat Generation circle. While a student at Barnard College, she became the roommate of Edie Parker (later married to Jack Kerouac). Their apartment became a gathering place for the Beats during the 1940s, where Vollmer was often at the center of marathon, all night discussions. In 1946, she began a relationship with William S. Burroughs, later becoming his common-law wife. In 1951, Burroughs killed Vollmer by shooting her in the head in what was apparently a drunken attempt at playing William Tell.
Burroughs initially tried to support his family by farming cash crops in the Rio Grande valley. When this failed, he moved Vollmer and their children to New Orleans. While living there he was arrested for heroin possession, during which time police searched Vollmer's home, unearthing letters from Ginsberg discussing a possible shipment of marijuana. The resulting criminal charges were grave — upon conviction Burroughs would have served time in Louisiana's infamous Angola State Prison; he fled for Mexico City. Once he was settled, Vollmer joined him, along with her children.
In her son’s novel Kentucky Ham (1973), Vollmer is remembered as a gentle and considerate mother who was meek and deferential to her husband's parents. Yet she is also depicted as being prone to wild bouts of self-destructive behavior. The book recounts a reckless, almost deadly drive down a mountainside road in Mexico. Joan's battered appearance and unpredictable behavior alarmed Ginsberg when he visited with Lucien Carr in 1951. During their visit she expressed some bitterness and hostility toward Burroughs' lack of affection and continued drug addiction. In fact, at the time of Ginsberg's visit, Burroughs was away in Guatemala with a young man he pursued unsuccessfully.