BEAT BLUES: san francisco, 1955

a novel


Pub Date November 25th, 2021

ISBN 978-1-887276-96-2 $ 19.99

Jonah Raskin’s historical novel, Beat Blues, San Francisco 1955, reimagines the recent past, links the lives of Black Americans with the likes of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Kaufman, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and others and honors the legendary bookstore and publishing company, City Lights.

A well-woven spy novel set in the seething, influential Beat Generation milieu of San Francisco, 1955. Raskin has done his research. When he has Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Kaufman, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Shig Murao and Gregory Corso speak, the results are in the ballpark of reality. He’s good at depicting the moiling lives of Beat era figures, such as the tragic Natalie Jackson, featured in Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums. The novel skillfully blends activities of the burgeoning Civil Rights movement into the liberation-loving Beat era.” — Ed Sanders

“Good fiction can be the truest telling of a time and a place. Raskin’s novel Beat Blues, San Francisco, 1955, tells a story that excites and teaches. It brings to life well known representatives of the Beat Generation such as Kerouac, Cassady, Ginsberg and others as well as Ferlinghetti’s famed City Lights Bookstore. It’s a time of upheaval when young people wish to stretch beyond the borders of the lives they’ve been handed.  Norman, the character through whom we view the scene, must face his white skin privilege as racial killings occur and another civil rights movement responds to the horrors of injustice. Accessible, beautiful, telling and more, this novel is a must read.”

—Beverly Gologorsky, acclaimed writer, and the author of the new novel, Can You See the Wind

In Beat Blues, legendary Beat historian and biographer Jonah Raskin spins an historically accurate tale that reads like a true alternative reality. Fictional protagonist Norman de Haan takes us deep into the underground of the Beat counterculture a year before they burst into the public consciousness in an orgiastic wave of infamy and glory, of obscenity trials and national bestsellers. Jammed with an all-star cast of real life Beat figures living and loving right where they’re supposed to be, Raskin takes us on a wild Cassady-esque ride where fact and fantasy overlap, swirling together like a pea soup fog over the streets of North Beach and beyond. 

 If you’ve ever fantasized about being a fly on the wall at the underground poetry readings or after-hours jazz sessions of the 1940s and 1950s, you’re sure to love the play of Beat Blues.                    —JERRY CIMINO, Beat Museum, San Francisco

JONAH Raskin is one of America’s premier historians of the counterculture with highly-praised books on Allen Ginsberg and Abbie Hoffman to his name. But he is a versatile writer and he turns to fiction almost as much as fact. His latest novel Beat Blues, San Francisco, 1955 reflects his long-standing interest in the Beat Generation —SIMON WARNER, from and August 3rd 2021 Interview in Rock and Beat Generation

Part road novel and part reality-inspired fiction, Beat Blues: San Francisco, 1955 explores a time and a place when the American counterculture was born, southern racism was exposed, Part road novel and part reality-inspired fiction, Beat Blues: San Francisco, 1955, explores a time and a place when and where the American counterculture was born, southern racism was exposed, and the Cold War began to thaw with the publication of Ginsberg’s Howl, Kerouac’s On the Road, Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind, Bob Kaufman’s Abomunist Manifesto and the magazine Beatitude. Raskin’s Beat Blues takes readers behind the scenes at Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Bookstore and publishing company and into subterranean San Francisco, where bohemians, artists and hipsters dig jazz greats and rub shoulders with saxophonist Lester Young,  Nelson Algren and Simone de Beauvoir.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jonah Raskin is a long time teacher, scholar and aficionado of the Beat writers. The author of American Scream: Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” and the Making of the Beat Generation, which the San Francisco Chronicle named one of the best books of the year, he has also written about Jack Kerouac and Jazz, William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch and Junky and the only study of Natalie Jackson. Raskin taught Beat literature at the State University of New York at Stony Book and at Sonoma State University. The author of three noir novels and a performance poet, he has published six poetry chapbooks, including Rock ‘n’ Roll Women. An ex-New Yorker, he now makes his home in San Francisco, a city which he has written about in essays, articles and in the booklet San Francisco: Gold Rush to Google. He writes for CounterPunch, the New York Journal of Books, Tablet, The Rag Blog and the North Bay Bohemian.  He can be reached at

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