University of Delaware Library
Bookmark and Share
UD Special Collections > Exhibitions > Burroughs at 100 > Next

Red Night Trilogy

Although Burroughs never planned his final three novels as a trilogy, they share common themes and subject matter and are often referred to as “The Red Night Trilogy.”

Cities of the Red Night was Burroughs’s first full-length novel since The Wild Boys appeared in 1971. The novel is narrated from two separate perspectives. With an eighteenth-century setting, one plot centers around a group of libertarian pirates who seek the freedom to live under the articles set out by Captain James Mission. Set in the near-present, a parallel story follows a detective—Clem Side who has appeared in previous Burroughs fiction and narrates this story—searching for a lost boy, abducted for use in a sexual ritual. The cities of the title mimic and parody real places, and Burroughs makes references to the United States, Mexico, and Morocco.

The second book of the trilogy, The Place of Dead Roads came out in 1983. The book chronicles the story of Kim Carsons, a gay gunfighter in the American West. Non-linear in construction, The Place of Dead Roads blends contrasting themes and time travel episodes, and makes considerable use of Burroughs’s extensive knowledge of firearms.

Burroughs’s final novel, The Western Lands, was published in 1987. Inspired by the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the title refers to the western bank of the Nile River, which in Egyptian mythology is the Land of the Dead. With The Western Lands, Burroughs returns to a more narrative style which he uses to explore the after-life. But even though Burroughs employs this traditional technique, he still manages to incorporate vivid experimental dream sequences, hallucinatory passages, and magic and occultism. Perhaps appropriately, Burroughs’s final novel includes a significant amount of overtly autobiographical passages as he reflects upon his life.


Cities of the Red Night

Cities of the Red Night

Cities of the Red Night. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1981.

Cities of the Red Night. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1981.
Uncorrected proof copy.









Early drafts of “We See Tibet with Binoculars of the People” from Cities of the Red Night, 1970 and circa 1981

Co-editor of Antaeus Daniel Halpern sent this Burroughs manuscript to Paul Bowles titled “Pages From Chaos” to be published in Antaeus for its second issue in 1971. It appeared in the Spring 1971 issue under the same title, mostly unchanged from this draft. The draft bears Halpern’s editorial marks with the suggestion to cut the first paragraph. This short piece eventually became the second chapter of Cities of the Red Night titled “We See Tibet with Binoculars of the People.” This version, however, contains an opening paragraph not included in the novel.

A later draft, circa 1981, sent to Bowles bearing the excised “Guerrilla Tactics” and the unused “Rotten Ozone” titles relocates the Rogers paragraph to the end.


The Place of Dead Roads

The Place of Dead Roads
The Place of Dead Roads. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1984.
Signed by the author.

The Place of Dead Roads. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1984.
Number 87 of a limited edition of three hundred copies specially bound, numbered, and signed by the author.











The Western Lands

The Western Lands The Western Lands. New York: Viking, 1987.
Gift of Judith Villamarin


"From The Western Lands (selections),” in Word Virus: The William S. Burroughs Reader, edited by James Grauerholz and Ira Silverberg. New York: Grove Press, 1998.













This page is maintained by Special Collections.

  • UD Library Special Collections  •   181 South College Avenue  •   Newark, DE 19717-5267  •   USA
    Phone: USA +1 302-831-2229  •   ©2014