Known simply as Huncke, he had an automatic entrée into New York City’s worst neighborhoods and best jazz clubs. His mandarin face was well known in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Harlem, and Queens. Cops knew him, as did thieves, prostitutes, and young authors hungry for characters they could write into their books. What Kerouac, Burroughs, and Ginsberg had seen through a glass darkly was what Huncke had lived and breathed. No matter how hard the others tried, they could never convey the beat essence with Huncke’s authority…”
Muse and mentor to Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac-who said of him, “Huncke is the greatest story teller I know, an absolute genius at it”- Herbert Huncke steps out of the shadow of his more illustrious peers in this absorbing and tender biography by Hilary Holladay. In this richly-layered portrait, the unsung bard of the streets emerges in all his tattered glory: his painful childhood and adolescent rebellion; run-ins with the law; adventures at sea and riding the rails; and later life in his beloved New York City where he became a legendary denizen and guide to the new bohemians eager to learn from the wily master.
Huncke not only gave Jack Kerouac the word ‘Beat,’ but also introduced him to a truly beat world, and thereby had an important impact on American literature. We owe Holladay a deep debt for tracing Huncke’s path and influence with care and wisdom.”
This biography goes to the heart. Hilary Holladay has uncovered ‘a life of sublime improbabilities.’ The facts she reveals are more affecting than the myth.”
A much-needed addition to the growing literature about the Beats as individual artists and as a cultural movement.”