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Neal Cassady, one of the most famous personalities behind the Beat literary movement, never published a book during his lifetime. He did appear as a main character in many books, though, including On the Road, by Jack Kerouac (he's Dean Moriarty, the "holy goof"), The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, by Tom Wolfe (he's "Further"'s bus driver), and Go, by John Clellon Holmes. Cassady was a Beat hero and occasional writer, often described as a personification of "fast living high on jazz and drugs, sex, and freedom."

Neal Cassady was born on February 8, 1926 in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was raised by an alcoholic father in the skid row hotels of Denver's Larimer Street. Between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one he stole more than 500 cars. Cassady possessed a unique ability to charm (and swindle) strangers, although he never seemed to want to con anybody out of more than a ten-dollar bill or a good conversation. He spent a lot of time in reform schools and juvenile prisons during his youth.

A friend named Hal Chase left Denver to enroll at Columbia University, and Cassady traveled to New York to visit him in December 1946. It was there that he met Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg/a>. Cassady began asking Kerouac to help him learn to write fiction. Ginsberg immediately fell in love with Cassady, writing numerous poems about him (as in Howl's line: "N.C., secret hero of these poems.").

He and Kerouac became good friends, and soon began their monumental series of cross-country adventures. They hitchhiked aimlessly across the U.S.A. and Mexico, while Kerouac kept track of their adventures in writing, planning to make a book from his notes. Kerouac soon became frustrated with the project because he couldn't find a style that fit. He later took it up again after a series of correspondence with Cassady. He wrote the events as they happened, trying to capture Cassady's unique personality and manner of speaking. The result became Kerouac's most famous book, On the Road. Between 1958 and 1960 he spent time in San Quentin prison for possession of two marijuana joints.

After getting out of prison Cassady read Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. He identified strongly with the vivacious Randle McMurphy, a character whose strong will stirs up the defeated residents in the asylum in which the book takes place.

In the 1960's, as Kerouac withdrew into alcoholism Cassady met Ken Kesey and began a new series of road adventures. He join Kesey's psychedelic troupe "The Merry Pranksters," and when Kesey organized his legendary trip to the New York World's Fair in a psychedelic bus named 'Furthur,' Neal Cassady was the madman behind the wheel.

In New York, a party was organized to introduce Kerouac and Kesey. The meeting didn't go as planned, after Kerouac's getting extremely offended by someone's mistreatment of the American flag.

After a night of hard partying in the Mexican town of San Miguel De Allende, Cassady wandered onto a deserted railroad. He intended to walk fifteen miles to the next town. It was a cold and rainy night, and Cassady passed out wearing only a t-shirt and jeans. He was found beside the tracks the next morning. He was in a coma from the mixture of cold weather, alcohol, and drugs. He died in the hospital the next day, February 4, 1968. Legend has it that he had been counting the number of railroad ties, and his last words were "Sixty-four thousand nine hundred and twenty eight," though of course no one could prove (or disprove) this assumption.

Though not a writer, Cassady did start his autobiography parts of which were published in 1971 as The First Third. Some collections of his letters were also published: The Collected Correpondance of Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady(1977), Grace Beats Karma,Letters from Prisons 1958-60 (1993).

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