And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks

Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs

More than sixty years ago, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac sat down in New York City to write a novel about the summer of 1944, when one of their friends killed another in a moment of brutal and tragic bloodshed. The two authors were then at the dawn of their careers, having yet to write anything of note. Alternating chapters and narrators, Burroughs and Kerouac pieced together a hard-boiled tale of bohemian New York during World War II, full of drugs and obsession, art and violence. The manuscript, called And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks after a line from a news story about a fire at a circus, was submitted to publishers but rejected and confined to a filing cabinet for decades. A remarkable, fascinating piece of American literary history, And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks is also an engrossing, atmospheric novel that brings to life a shocking murder at the dawn of the Beat Generation.

status checked out
genre Literature and Fiction » Beat Generation
publisher Grove Press
publish date Nov 1, 2008
popularity checked out 0 time(s)


  • By Judd Morse -

    A very interesting exercise in creative nonfiction. Each narrator brings a complexity to the overall plot and the characters around them that compliments the other. These are the Beats as younger, imperfect men; Kerouac is more aggressive, Burroughs is more coherent and grounded.

    There’s also a really cool Afterward by a longtime friend of Burroughs, which details the strange history of “Hippos,” providing some insight as to why exactly it took so long for this manuscript to see the light of day.

  • By Zach Sylvester -

    I wish these two had collaborated on a project like this when they were both in their prime. I struggled to stay interested.

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