Desolation Angels (novel)

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Desolation Angels
First US edition
Author Jack Kerouac
Country United States
Language English
Series Duluoz Legend
Publisher Coward McCann
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 366 pg
Preceded by Visions of Gerard
Followed by Satori in Paris

Desolation Angels is a semi-autobiographical novel written by Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac, which makes up part of his Duluoz Legend. It was published in 1965, but was written years earlier, around the time On the Road was in the process of publication. According to the book's foreword, the opening section of the novel is almost directly taken from the journal he kept when he was a fire lookout on Desolation Peak in the North Cascade mountains of Washington state. Much of the psychological struggle which the novel's protagonist, Jack Duluoz, undergoes in the novel reflects Kerouac's own increasing disenchantment with the Buddhist philosophy with which he had previously been fascinated.

Character key

All of Kerouac's Duluoz legend's characters were based on others that were present within his life.[1][2]

"Because of the objections of my early publishers I was not allowed to use the same personae names in each work." [3]

Real-life person Character name
Jack Kerouac Jack Duluoz
William S. Burroughs Bull Hubbard
Carolyn Cassady Evelyn
Neal Cassady Cody Pomeray
Gregory Corso Raphael Urso
Henri Cru Deni Bleu
Claude Dalenburg Paul
Robert Duncan Geoffrey Donald
Bill Garver Old Bull Gaines
Allen Ginsberg Irwin Garden
Louis Ginsberg Harry Garden
Joyce Glassman Alyce Newman
Randall Jarrell Varnum Random
Philip Lamantia David D'Angeli
Robert LaVigne Levesque
Norman Mailer Harvey Marker
Michael McClure Patrick McLear
Locke McCorkle Kevin McLoch
John Montgomery Alex Fairbrother
Peter Orlovsky Simon Darlovsky
Alan Watts Alex Aums
Gary Snyder Jarry Wagner
William Carlos Williams Dr. Williams

Kerouac was not particularly conscientious about masking the identities of his friends in this work. Partway through Chapter 91, there is the line, "'Who wants to ride freight trains!' -Gregory- 'I dont dig all this crap where you ride freight trains and have to exchange butts with bums-'". Somehow both Kerouac and the editors missed that "Gregory" was not changed to "Raphael". Similarly, the locals of Tangiers call Old Bull Hubbard (Burroughs) "Boorows" in Chapter 52 of Book 2. In Chapter 43, he refers to "...the Sundays in Neal Cassady's writings..." The editors may have ignored this, since it refers to Neal as a writer instead of a friend. In Part 1 of Book 2 the locals are said to call Old Bull Gaines (Garver) "Senor Gahr-va". And in Chapter 80, the discussion of the meanings of Urso and Pomeray's names leads to a less than clear comparison to the name Corso.


The book is broken up into two sections called Desolation Angels and Passing Through, which are then subdivided into many shorter parts. Each part focuses on a specific location where Kerouac is at that time. The first section covers Kerouac's time on the mountain and immediately after he leaves the fire lookout. The foreword of the book mentions that Kerouac was hoping to get the second section, Passing Through, published as a standalone novel.

References in popular culture


  1. Sandison, Daivd. Jeck Kerouac: An Illustrated Biography. Chicago: Chicago Review Press. 1999
  2. Who’s Who: A Guide to Kerouac’s Characters
  3. Kerouac, Jack. Visions of Cody. London and New York: Penguin Books Ltd. 1993.
  • 1965. Desolation Angels