It's 1976, and the counterculture has taken a dark turn in San Francisco.
Former '60s revolutionary Billy Johnson, now a 27-year-old aspiring writer and small-time drug dealer, sells T-shirts at a Haight-Ashbury shop by day, while reading Camus and Kerouac behind the counter. By night, he sells cocaine and Quaaludes at bars, cafes, and clubs around town. He still drives a psychedelic-painted VW bus and wears his hair long, reflecting the ideals of his past as he faces an uncertain future.
Billy and his best friend Manny - a quick-witted rock journalist - hang out in North Beach coffee houses, hit the nightlife, pursue women, and otherwise compete in an escalating match of one-upmanship. Along the way, they interact with a colorful parade of sexually liberated artists, musicians, scene makers, and hangers-on, led by a vivid cast of female characters: Ti, brash, young and in over her head; Lannie, a secretive self-destructive beauty; Constantina, a sharp-tongued intellectual who holds more than a few secrets of her own; and Delaney, who earns big-time cash acting out sexual fantasies and fetishes for middle-aged men at a high-priced S&M club.
Sex, drugs, and medicated kicks turn to sober reality when Billy's roommate commits suicide, leaving behind a cache of journals filled with disturbing revelations. Then, Lannie overdoses on drugs. Under suspicion because of his relationship with Lannie, Billy faces police interrogation and the scrutiny of his own conscience, forcing him to question the life he's leading and where he's headed. Set against the aftermath of the 1960s, the once-vibrant hippie dream a fading memory, Beat is a provocative and sometimes disturbing novel that explores lost idealism, compromise, and moral crisis through the prism of its anti-hero's journey.
Set against the aftermath of the 1960s, the once-vibrant hippie dream a fading memory, Beat is a provocative and sometimes disturbing novel that explores lost idealism, compromise, and moral crisis through the prism of its anti-hero's journey.