What Happened Later


Poetic, poignant and clever, What Happened Later is a unique and engaging story of two lives that were forever changed by one book. In 1967, only ten years after the sensational success of On the Road, Jack Kerouac was a physically broken, spiritually lost man. Late that summer, accompanied by his friend, Joe Chaput, Kerouac set out for Riviere-du-Loup, Quebec, on a spiritual quest to connect with his French-Canadian roots. Predictably, the trip was a drunken, chaotic disaster, and a little more than two years afterward, Kerouac was dead.

Fifteen years later, after falling under the spell of the larger-than-life-myth of Jack Kerouac, a working-class, small-town Ontario teenager named Ray Robertson embarked upon his own quest – to own a copy of On the Road.

Rebuffed at every turn in his attempt to possess the elusive novel, Robertson nonetheless slowly begins to recognize the existence of a world beyond the factories, hockey rinks and suburbs of his hometown, and also begins to comprehend his own French-Canadian heritage.

Taking its title from Kerouac himself – What Happened Later was the title of his proposed sequel to On the Road, – this novel tells the story of what happened after the fame generated by Kerouac’s famous book and what happened next in the life of a young man infatuated with the legendary author. Interweaving the story of one author’s slow decline with one boy’s literary coming of age, What Happened Later explores the ever-shifting dualities of myth and reality, loss and hope, innocence and experience, endings and beginnings.


...a highly pleasing synthesis of characters, places and times that are ultimately entwined on the levels of spirit, poetry and self-exploration....Best of all, the congenital empty ache in the heart that makes writers writers is well captured in this marvellously schizophrenic novel, which, like all good novels, lingers in the mind long after it's been put down.

The Globe and Mail

Robertson's writing...is excellent. His phrasing is often striking...a great tactical sense of drama and humour....At the heart of Robertson's book, for all its kinetics and anger and clowning, is an intensely moving insight: one man's sad end can be another man's beginning.

Books in Canada

...a transfixing, brave and ultimately moving work....What Happened Later is an accomplished, compelling work that rings true in every sense of the word, with sharp characterization and acute insight.

National Post

...a tour de force.

The Chronicle Herald

If Robertson, in the voice of his sombre second character, was wishing that he, too, could attain mastery 'of my craft, of the form, of my mind,' then the accomplishment so obvious here is all the reassurance he, or anyone else, should ever need.

Toronto Star

About the Author

Ray Robertson

Posted by Dundurn Guest on October 30, 2014

Ray Robertson

Ray Robertson is the author of the novels, including Home Movies, Moody Food, Gently Down the Stream, and What Happened Later, as well as a collection of non-fiction, Mental Hygiene: Essays on Writers and Writing. He is a contributing book reviewer at The Globe and Mail.