Her husband went off for weeks at a time, roaming seedy bars and alleys looking for women and drugs while she had three small children to feed.

He picked up drugged, unstable girls, one of whom committed suicide while he was in her bed.He was always contrite and never cruel or violent, but in 20 years he just could not change his ways. Eventually it killed him.

Worse, however, at least for her, he became a cult hero.

"It's terrible to see him being lionized for what he most hated in himself," says Carolyn Cassady, former wife of Neal Cassady, who, as Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac's "On the Road," inspired the "beat" movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

Now a sprightly 67, smoking sleek cigarettes in her elegant London flat, she told Reuters about the decision to set the record straight with her own memoir, "Off the Road."

Although Neal Cassady never became a public figure like his friends Kerouac and poet Allen Ginsberg, many followers of the so-called beat movement have revered him as its prophet, too busy living truth to write it down himself.

For them, the beat culture meant sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.

To Carolyn - Cassady's wife and Kerouac's lover - this was a travesty.

"We didn't have anything to do with that," she said. "None of us had any idea of starting a movement."

"On the Road," published in 1957 amid the siege climate created by the Cold War, provoked naked hostility from the American literary establishment, who took it as a direct threat to traditional American values.

Respected critic Art Cohn described the new "beatniks" as "pathetic, self-pitying, degenerate bums."

In fact, Cassady says, her husband and Kerouac, both brought up as Catholics, firmly believed in honesty and sexual fidelity. It was their sheer exuberance and joy of life, rather than any creed or ideology, that made them rebels.

"It killed Jack to be taken up by (hippies) and made responsible for what happened in the '60s," she said. Kerouac died in 1969.

Carolyn Cassady described Ginsberg as an "awful little wimp." Ginsberg deliberately shocked the hidebound America of the 1960s with his brazen homosexuality, saying LSD helped him to love President Lyndon Johnson for his Vietnam policy.

"I'm glad for him personally," Cassady said of Ginsberg's recent recognition by the mainstream literary world. "But spiritually Allen will never get off the ground . . . He's the most materialist person I know."

Neal and Carolyn Cassady separated in 1961, shortly after he was released from a two-year drug-related jail term. Surrounded by admirers, Neal went on the road again, returning to a libertine lifestyle.

Carolyn describes in her book how she heard in 1968 of her husband's death in Mexico from drugs.

" `Thank God,' I breathed. `Released at last.' He was a genius on the edge," she said.