William S. Burroughs
This is a looooooong one but also really interesting, so get ready for a ride....
In 1944, Burroughs began living with Joan Vollmer Adams in an apartment they shared with Jack Kerouac and Edie Parker, Kerouac's first wife. Vollmer Adams was married to a G.I. with whom she had a young daughter, Julie Adams. Burroughs and Kerouac got into trouble with the law for failing to report a murder involving Lucien Carr, who had killed David Kammerer in a confrontation over Kammerer's incessant and unwanted advances. This incident inspired Burroughs and Kerouac to collaborate on a novel titled And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, completed in 1945. The two fledgling authors were unable to get it published, but the manuscript was eventually published in November 2008 by Grove Press and Penguin Books.
During this time, Burroughs began using morphine and became addicted. He eventually sold heroin in Greenwich Village to support his habit. Vollmer also became an addict, but her drug of choice was Benzedrine, an amphetamine sold over the counter at that time. Because of her addiction and social circle, her husband immediately divorced her after returning from the war. With some urging from Allen Ginsberg, and also perhaps Kerouac, Burroughs became intellectually and emotionally linked with Vollmer and by the summer of 1945 had moved in with Vollmer and her daughter. By the spring of 1946, Burroughs was arrested for forging a narcotics prescription. Vollmer asked her psychiatrist, a Dr. Wollberg, to sign a surety bond for Burroughs's release. As part of his release, Burroughs returned to St. Louis under his parents' care, after which he left for Mexico to get a divorce from Ilse Klapper. Meanwhile, Vollmer's addiction led to a temporary psychosis that resulted in her admission to Bellevue Hospital, which endangered the custody of her child. Upon hearing this, Burroughs immediately returned to New York City to gain her release, asking her to marry him. Their marriage was never formalized, but she lived as his common-law wife. They returned to St. Louis to visit Burroughs's parents and then moved with her daughter to Texas. Vollmer soon became pregnant with Burroughs's child. Their son, William S. Burroughs, Jr., was born in 1947. The family moved briefly to New Orleans in 1948.
Burroughs fled to Mexico to escape possible detention in Louisiana's Angola state prison. Vollmer and their children followed him. Burroughs planned to stay in Mexico for at least five years, the length of his charge's statute of limitations. Burroughs also attended classes at the Mexico City College in 1950 studying Spanish, as well as "Mexican picture writing" (codices) and the Mayan language with R. H. Barlow.
Their life in Mexico was by all accounts an unhappy one.Without heroin and suffering from Benzedrine abuse, Burroughs began to pursue other men as his libido returned, while Vollmer, feeling abandoned, started to drink heavily and mock Burroughs openly. One night while drinking with friends at a party above the American-owned Bounty Bar in Mexico City, a drunk Burroughs allegedly took his handgun from his travel bag and told his wife "It's time for our William Tell act", even though they had never performed such an act previously. Vollmer, who was also drinking heavily and undergoing amphetamine withdrawal, obliged him by putting a highball glass on her head. Burroughs shot low and the bullet struck her, killing her almost immediately.
Immediately after the incident, Burroughs claimed the "William Tell" incident never happened, and that he had dropped his gun and it had accidentally fired. Burroughs spent 13 days in jail before his brother came to Mexico City and bribed Mexican lawyers and officials to release Burroughs on bail while he awaited trial for the killing, which was ruled culpable homicide. Vollmer's daughter, Julie Adams, went to live with her grandmother, and William S. Burroughs, Jr., went to St. Louis to live with his grandparents. Burroughs reported every Monday morning to the jail in Mexico City while his prominent Mexican attorney worked to resolve the case. According to James Grauerholz, two witnesses had agreed to testify that the gun had fired accidentally while he was checking to see if it was loaded, with ballistics experts bribed to support this story.Nevertheless, the trial was continuously delayed and Burroughs began to write what would eventually become the short novel Queer while awaiting his trial. Upon Burroughs's attorney fleeing Mexico in light of his own legal problems involving a car accident and altercation with the son of a government official, Burroughs decided, according to Ted Morgan, to "skip" and return to the United States. He was convicted in absentia of homicide and was given a two-year suspended sentence.
Although Burroughs was writing before the shooting of Joan Vollmer, this event marked him and, biographers argue, his work for the rest of his life. Vollmer's death also resonated with Allen Ginsberg, who wrote of her in Dream Record: June 8, 1955, "Joan, what kind of knowledge have the dead? can you still love your mortal acquaintances? What do you remember of us?"