Seth Morgan (novelist)

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This article is about the novelist. For the Ohio representative, see Seth Morgan (politician).
Seth Morgan
Born Seth David Morgan
(1949-04-04)April 4, 1949
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Died October 17, 1990(1990-10-17) (aged 41)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
Resting place Seaside Cemetery
Occupation Novelist
Nationality USA
Education St. Bernard's School
Hotchkiss School
The American School In Switzerland
Alma mater University of California Berkeley
Notable works Homeboy (1990)
Relatives George Frederick Morgan (father)

Seth David Morgan (April 4, 1949 - October 17, 1990) was an American novelist, who published one book, Homeboy (1990),[1] and was working on a second novel when he died.[2] He is also notable because he was Janis Joplin's fiancḗ at the time of her death, in October 1970.

Early life[edit]

Morgan was the son[3] of soap fortune heir and poet George Frederick Morgan, and Constance Canfield. The Esquire article, "Seth Morgan's Last Ride" (February 1, 1991), recounts Morgan's description of his mother and childhood: Morgan stated Canfield was "an alcoholic beauty who drank herself to death in 1964", and he claimed that her coldness was to blame for his brother's suicide (by leaping to his death off the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge).[3] Morgan also believed that he inherited what he called his "addictive personality" from his alcoholic mother. He later said that he harbored intense bitterness towards women because of Canfield's treatment of him and his siblings, and he spent years "planning the strategic degradation of women".[4]

Morgan attended several elite private academies: St. Bernard's School in New York, Hotchkiss School in Connecticut, The American School in Switzerland, and The Butler Institute in Guadalajara, Mexico. He also briefly attended University of California Berkeley and received a trust fund income between US$26,000 and US$30,000 a year.[3]

Relationship with Janis Joplin[edit]

In 1970, Morgan dropped out of U.C. Berkeley. Later that year, he met singer Janis Joplin while delivering cocaine to her home in Marin County. The two began a relationship and became engaged.[3] Their relationship became public knowledge in Joplin's obituary in TIME.[5]

Criminal record[edit]

After Joplin’s death, Morgan married a Sausalito waitress. She worked as a prostitute during their marriage, while Morgan acted as her pimp. The marriage was short-lived, and Morgan later claimed he had married the woman to prevent her from suing him after the two had been involved in a motorcycle accident that left her face partially paralyzed. (A drunken Morgan had crashed his Harley into a house formerly owned by Jack London.)[3]

Morgan then moved to San Francisco, where he married for a second time, found work as a barker at strip clubs, and developed an addiction to heroin. To support his habit, he began committing armed robberies. During one robbery, Morgan pinned a victim’s hand to the floor with a knife. In 1977, the police caught him committing a robbery, and he was sentenced to 30 months in prison. After his release, he went back to working in strip clubs.

In 1986, he moved to New Orleans with, he later admitted, plans to drink himself to death but decided to write a novel, instead.[6]


Morgan's only title published was Homeboy (1990),[7] a novel about heroin addicts and convicts. In it, Morgan used several experiences from his own life, including time spent as a barker in San Francisco and his prison term for armed robbery.[8] While incarcerated, Morgan won the P.E.N. essay contest for convicts.[citation needed]

From 1986 to 1987, Morgan lived in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans, at 1232 St. Andrew Street, a rental property owned by Metairie resident Marcel Jaffe. During this time, Morgan was sober, spending his time writing, attending Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, working out at the Lee's Circle YMCA, and hanging out at the Hummingbird Grill, a New Orleans greasy spoon that has since closed.[citation needed]

In the spring of 1990, the publication of Homeboy led to positive reviews and book-signing engagements for Morgan in several cities, including San Francisco, where 14 years earlier he had impaled a bystander's hand with a knife during an armed robbery.[9] Morgan told Suzie Groover, who accompanied him on the publicity tour, that he was afraid of getting arrested on outstanding warrants from years earlier.[9]


On October 16, 1990, Morgan was arrested in New Orleans for DUI and was released on bail that was paid by his girlfriend Suzy Levine, age 37.[9] The following night, Morgan picked up Levine at a bar in the French Quarter, and departed at approximately 11:30 pm, on Morgan's 1972 red and white shovelhead Harley Davidson motorcycle.[9] Shortly before midnight, Morgan was traveling on the St. Claude Avenue Bridge and hit the median strip, while attempting to maneuver into the right lane. Levine was thrown 45 feet down the roadway while Morgan crashed face first into a cement piling. Both were killed instantly. An autopsy later revealed that Morgan had Percodan and cocaine in his system, and his blood alcohol content was nearly three times the legal limit.[4] Neither Morgan nor Levine was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.[8]

Morgan is buried in the Seaside Cemetery in Blue Hill, Maine.[3]


His obituary reported, immediately after his death,[2] that the time he died, Morgan was working on a second novel.[2] Nearly four months later, a long article about Morgan in The Washington Post Style section quoted a representative of his publishing company as saying Morgan left behind outlines for some of the chapters and nothing else.[9] The spokesperson considered that detail important because company officials were glad they had given Morgan only a small advance to work on the novel even though he had pleaded for a lot more money, and the amount they insisted on giving him made him "bitter".[9] The second novel was never published.[9]

Morgan has been cited as a major influence on the works of Will Christopher Baer and Craig Clevenger.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Morgan, Seth. Homeboy (1st ed.). New York: Random House. ISBN 0394575776. 
  2. ^ a b c "Beginning author Seth Morgan, 41". Beaver County Times. October 19, 1990. p. A4. Retrieved August 23, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Seth Morgan's Last Ride". Esquire. February 1, 1991. 
  4. ^ a b Seinfelt, Mark (1999). Final Drafts: Suicides of World-Famous Authors. Prometheus Books. p. 432. ISBN 1-615-92664-X. 
  5. ^ "Blues For Janis". TIME. October 19, 1970. p. 63. 
  6. ^ Seinfelt (1999), p. 433
  7. ^ Morgan, Seth. Homeboy (1st ed.). New York: Random House. ISBN 0394575776. 
  8. ^ a b Blau, Eleanor (October 19, 1990). "Seth Morgan, 41, Dies in Crash; His Novel, 'Homeboy', Won Praise". Retrieved August 23, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Harris, Art (February 12, 1991). "The Last Ride of a Rebel Writer; For Seth Morgan, Drugs, Crime & An Instant Legend". Washington Post. p. D2. 

Further reading[edit]

See also[edit]

  • Jack Abbott (author), ex-convict and author, whose works address prison life (among other topics)
  • Jean Genet, ex-convict and novelist, whose works address prison life (among other topics)

External links[edit]