Beat generation writer William S. Burroughs, the counterculture author best known for the novel “Naked Lunch” based on his experiences as a drug addict, died Saturday. He was 83.
Burroughs died at Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Kansas a day after suffering a heart attack, said Ira Silverberg, New York-based editor-in-chief of Grove Press, which published several of Burroughs’ books.
Along with poet Allen Ginsberg and other writers such as Jack Kerouac and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Burroughs came to embody the bohemian beat generation literary movement.
The controversial Burroughs was openly homosexual, spent years as a drug addict and accidentally killed his wife. In later years, he achieved cult status among a generation of disaffected middle-class youth.
Grove Press just last week completed an as-yet-untitled manuscript of Burroughs’ previously published writings. Silverberg said the collection was due to be released next year.
His first book “Junkie,” published in 1953 under the pseudonym William Lee, is an autobiographical account of his experiences as a drug addict.
Burroughs’ fame however, was built on the celebrated “Naked Lunch,” written while the author was living in Tangier, Morocco, and first published in Paris in 1959.
The book was banned in the U.S. until 1962, when it won a landmark anti-censorship Supreme Court decision. The book was made into a movie in 1991.
Among his other books were “The Wild Boys,” “Cities of the Red Night” and “The Soft Machine,” whose title was famously borrowed as the moniker for a key jazz rock band of the ’60s. Burroughs also was a photographer, and produced drawings, paintings and sculpture.
Burroughs enjoyed a major revival in recent years, and collaborated with rock musicians, including late Nirvana vocalist Kurt Cobain.
Burroughs also played a cameo role in the film “Drugstore Cowboy.”
More recently, Burroughs made a cameo appearance in the rock video for U2’s “Last Night on Earth,” which was shot in May in Kansas City, Mo.