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Jan launched a court case to challenge the will, and Nicosia became her principal champion.Nicosia’s ‘critical biography’, Memory Babe, published in 1983, is widely regarded as the definitive work on Kerouac.At the same time he began selling off items from the Kerouac archive to private collectors.In 1995 Johnny Depp came to Sampas’s Lowell home and left with Kerouac’s raincoat, tweed overcoat and other items for which he paid ,640.‘Write a book.’ She went on to write two, drawing on a troubled life that had included teenage prostitution and problems with drink and drugs, while struggling to support herself working variously as a dishwasher, a baker and even as an extra in the 1980 film about her father, Heartbeat (in a cruel reflection of their relationship, her role ended up on the cutting-room floor.) In 1982, at a writer’s conference in Colorado she met John Steinbeck Jr, the son of the novelist, who told her that as Kerouac’s daughter, under the terms of copyright renewal, she was entitled to a share of royalties on her father’s books. By the 1990’s, she was receiving up to ,000 a year.She was also beginning to take a personal interest in the fate of her father’s archive.The following day he died in hospital of intestinal bleeding caused by cirrhosis - the drunk’s death.Kerouac left everything to his mother, who continued to live with Stella until her death in 1973, and who then named Stella as the sole beneficiary in her will - the will that has now been ruled as a forgery.
In 1994 she was shown a copy of Gabrielle’s will by Kerouac biographer Gerald Nicosia, and immediately suspected it was a forgery.While he produced eight more books, he was never able to cope with the burden of being ‘king of the Beats’, and overwhelmed by alcoholism, he withdrew from public life, living with his mother, firstly in his hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts and then in Florida.When Gabrielle suffered a stroke in 1966, Kerouac married Stella Sampas, the sister of his closest childhood friend - as much, it seemed, to have someone to care for his mother as for love.On The Road was the book that came to define the beat generation, an exhilarating amphetamine-fuelled account of Kerouac’s furious travels back and forth across America in search of enlightenment and kicks.
Published in 1957, the book made Kerouac a literary sensation, but also proved his undoing.For years, Stella had done little with the estate, consistently rebuffing the increasing number of Kerouac scholars who were turning up on her doorstep requesting access to his voluminous collection of papers.