In late 1944, in mysterious circumstances, aspiring writer and Columbia University sophomore Jack Kerouac lost a novella-length manuscript titled The Haunted Life. Now, seventy years after he wrote it, it is published for the first time.
Set in the tranquil New England town of Galloway, a fictionalized version of Kerouac's hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts, The Haunted Life is the coming-of-age story of Peter Martin, a college track star determined to idle away one last summer. Instead he finds himself haunted by what awaits him: a community still enduring the blight of the Great Depression and the United Statess imminent entry into the Second World War. When his two best friends-characters based on Kerouac's childhood friends Sebastian Sampas and Billy Chandler, both recently killed in combat-begin to plot their escapes from Galloway, he realises he will soon have to make a choice about his own future. As he surveys the competing influences of his youth, from his working class, populist father to his restless, idealist friends, Peter struggles to determine what might lead to an intellectually authentic life.
Skilfully edited by Todd F. Tietchen, assistant professor of English at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, The Haunted Life is rounded out by sketches, notes, and reflections Kerouac kept during the novella's composition as well as a revealing selection of correspondence with his father, Leo.