Carolyn Cassady, an author who entered the American consciousness in 1957 as a character in Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road and later chronicled her life as a member of the Beat Generation in a book entitled Off the Road, died on Friday near her home in Bracknell, England. She was 90.
Her death was confirmed by her daughter Cathy Sylvia, who said Cassady lapsed into a coma after an emergency appendectomy.
Cassady was immortalized in On the Road as the character Camille, the second wife of “Dean Moriarty,” based on Neal Cassady, her husband during the period recounted in the novel.
Cassady was born Carolyn Robinson on April 23, 1923, in East Lansing, Michigan, the youngest of five siblings. The family moved to Nashville, Tennessee, when Carolyn was eight. After attending an elite prep school and Bennington College in Vermont, she studied painting and theater design in a graduate program at the University of Denver. It was in Denver in March 1947 that she met Neal Cassady.
Her two books, Heart Beat: My Life With Jack and Neal (1976), which was made into a 1980 film, and Off the Road: My Years With Cassady, Kerouac and Ginsberg (1990), documented her experiences as a central figure in the Beat Generation.
“I kept thinking that the imitators never knew and don’t know how miserable these men were,” she told the novelist Gina Berriault in 1972. “They think they were having marvelous times — joy, joy, joy — and they weren’t at all.”
Carolyn and Neal divorced in 1963; Neal died in 1968. She is survived by three children — Cathy Sylvia, Jami Ratto, and John Allen Cassady — plus three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Just one month prior to her death, Beatrice Kozera — also known as Bea Franco, and known to readers as “Terry, the Mexican girl” in Kerouac’s On the Road – died at age 92.