And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks (Grove/Atlantic) is the latest nugget mined from the seemingly bottomless trove of Beat arcana that is the literary estate of the late Jack Kerouac. Those familiar with the Beat canon will probably have heard of Hippos, an elusive and legendary work written jointly by William S. Burroughs and Kerouac in 1944, long before either author had any of his writings published. Burroughs took the surrealistic title from a radio news account of a fire in the St. Louis Zoo, and it seems somewhat tacked on to this bit of juvenilia written in the hard-boiled detective style. The plot of Hippos is based on an infamous episode in the authors’ lives: the murder of David Kammerer by their mutual friend Lucien Carr on March 16, 1944, following what the press described as “an indecent proposal” by Kammerer. Readers who discover the work of Kerouac and Burroughs through Hippos are unlikely to go much further; but old-school hipsters who are interested in the literary beginnings of the authors of On the Road and Naked Lunch will be drumming on their bongos and snapping their fingers with delight.