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American Adulterer: A novel Hardcover – July 7, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (July 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 143911563X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439115633
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,405,586 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Mercurio's third novel is a riveting imagining of the inner life of a satyrlike John F. Kennedy, referred to as the subject, as he beds a steady stream of starlets, interns and prostitutes. Kennedy's well-known insatiable and sometimes comical philandering is juxtaposed against his often cruel relationship with Jacqueline, his brilliance as a statesman (excerpts from his actual speeches are included) and devotion as a father, offering a unique portrait of a powerful yet stricken and conflicted man. The villains are the methamphetamine-prescribing doctors and the bloodthirsty American generals pushing the world to the brink of Armageddon. JFK's contemporaries are also cast in provocative roles, with the coke-sniffing Marilyn Monroe plotting to be first lady, the mobbed-up Frank Sinatra and Kennedy's Soviet counterpart—a peace-seeking Nikita Khrushchev—all making memorable appearances. Kennedy has figured prominently in hundreds of books, but Mercurio's take on the subject is fresh, bold and provocative. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"It seems so obvious that one wonders why no one has done it before -- to take a novel, clinical approach to John F. Kennedy as a case study in philandering and psychosexual pathology...Mercurio presents JFK as a liberal hero, rather than a hypocrite, just the man for those times, a fascinating synthesis of surrogate motive and political vision." -- Chris Petit, The Guardian (UK)

"[A] remarkable new novel...[American Adulterer] makes the case that Kennedy's vice is worth studying as the tragic flaw in a genuine hero. The man's wit, courtesy, peacemaking vision and cool judgment are all here, vividly re-created, as well as his courage in the face of near-disabling infirmity and pain.... a gripping and thoughtful novel." -- Hugo Barnacle, The Sunday Times (UK)

"The Cuban missile crisis is brilliantly, claustrophobically handled.... it's hard not to recommend [t]his book to anyone intrigued by the idea of a necessarily small human being caught by the terrible weight of an office of state. Admirably, even in dealing with historical events of such rare import, the author isn't afraid of using his imagination in pursuit of a more poetic kind of truth." -- Archie Bland, Arts and Book Review, The Independent (UK)

"[Jed Mercurio] writes in brilliantly clinical prose...His real success here is to highlight how JFK moved politics into a culture of celebrity...[finding] a truth in JFK through fiction." -- Ben East, Metro (UK)

"Jed Mercurio's American a risky (and risqué) fictional portrait...His reimagining of Kennedy's life in office is as heated and heady as it is human and heartbreaking....gradually delivers a seductive, intimate, and shattering slant on this hugely popular, wildly flawed, tragically fated leader." -- Lisa Shea, Elle

"Mercurio's third novel is a riveting imagining of the inner life of a satyrlike John F. Kennedy...offering a unique portrait of a powerful yet stricken and conflicted man....Kennedy has figured prominently in hundreds of books, but Mercurio's take on the subject is fresh, bold and provocative." -- Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"Historians, tabloid journalists and others have mined the public record to tell the story of John and Jacqueline Kennedy, but Kennedy discretion has kept us in the dark...Mercurio steps into that vacuum to offer a fictional meditation on John Fitzgerald Kennedy, his marriage, health problems, peccadilloes, political achievements and missteps....aficionados of the New Frontier will rejoice in this bracingly candid page-turner....Against all odds, Mercurio has also created the series of plausible private moments we have been craving to supplement the parts of the Kennedy story we already know....the surprise here is the huge amount of soul Mercurio conveys about Kennedy as an inspiring President and Kennedy as a complex and flawed man." -- John McFarland, Shelf Awareness

"Stylish, intelligent, often persuasive revisionist history." -- Kirkus

Customer Reviews

This was not an enjoyable book to read on any level.
S. Cohen
This is brought up by the author time and time again where the repetition gets just plain boring.
Lovin' retirement
He should stick to writing real fiction, not non-fiction in disguise.
M. P. Procter Sr.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Nicole Del Sesto on June 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
And that's the last bit of etiquette we see in this book, which is basically akin to a clinical report of John F. Kennedy's (referred to as "the subject") medical maladies and sexual compunctions.

This is how the book weaves in actual facts ...
Sex, back pain, diarrhea, sex - Inaugural address
Sex, back pain, constipation, sex - Bay of Pigs
Sex, back pain, diarrhea, sex - Moon launch

Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

At times this book is interesting, but never truly captivating. The way it's composed depersonalizes "the subject" and creates such a distance that it's hard to relate to or care about the character.

Other times, JFK's symptoms read like the possible side effects label on an untested anti-depressant. eg.

"...Addison's disease, thyroid deficiency, gastric reflux, gastritis, peptic ulcer, ulcerative colitis, prostatitis, urethritis, chronic urinary tract infections, skin infections, fevers of unknown origin, lumbar vertebral collapse, osteoporosis of the lumbar spine, osteoarthritis of the shoulder, high cholesterol, allergic rhinitis, allergic sinusitis, and asthma."

Take a deep breath ... there's more

"....fatigue, weight loss, abdominal pain, aching muscles, headaches, abnormal skin pigmentation, low blood pressure, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, weakness, constipation, muscle cramps and joint pains."

Sexy, huh? In spite of this, there was no shortage of women willing to receive JFK's "poison" on a regular basis.

Overall, I found the book to be repetitive, and at times off-putting. But it was interesting enough that I didn't feel I needed to put it down. It was an OK read, but really had the potential to be so much more.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By California Greg VINE VOICE on June 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is one of the most interesting books I've read in a while. The author has an almost clinical, dispassionate tone in his writing as he covers a time about which much has already been written.

Up front, the book tells the reader that it's fiction. OK, well enough. However, it doesn't read like fiction because the author does a great job of tying his story to the actual time line of JFK's life and presidency. He weaves excerpts from his actual speeches into the text and he has a remarkable way of making what he's writing seem very real. It all seems very plausible. But, it's clear that he's done his homework and figured out "a way into" the story so that this cast of characters can serve his literary wishes.

I quibble with one glaring mistake -- at the end of the book, he has JFK waking up in DC and flying to Dallas that fateful morning, when, in reality, he'd been in Texas since the day before, having attended events in San Antonio, and on 11/21, a dinner in Houston before taking off for Ft. Worth, TX, where he addressed a breakfast at a hotel on the morning of the 22nd. After the breakfast, the presidential party took the quick flight over to Dallas' Love Field.

Many will find this book distasteful and question the author's motives for ever having written it. But, some 45 years after the events took place, and in an era today where political careers are ruined by activities which have pretty well been documented to have occurred during JFK's tenure in the White House (for which he paid no political price at the time), it's a fascinating look back into the Kennedy White House with something of a fresh, albeit, fictitious angle from which to tell that story.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Noneofyourbiz VINE VOICE on July 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'm paraphrasing Jackie Kennedy's oft-repeated quote, the one that opens this book, that men are such "a combination of good and evil." The book itself is rather that way.

The premise is amazing: a mental health professional is studying the life -- and sexual addiction -- of a certain high-ranking American politician. You know the one: good looking, charming, talented, witty, brilliant ... and plagued by a perpetually lazy zipper that jeopardizes everything he holds dear, including family and career.

He has a beautiful young wife and he loves her, even as he can't stay faithful to her. He trusts her, admires her, likes her ... and can't bear to limit himself to her. He has three children during the course of the book, and his love for them is palpable. His ambitions and idealism for his country feels very real, too. Except he is a cold, heartless womanizer who doesn't even seem to enjoy the sex. Because we all know how that last motorcade in Dallas is going to end, it makes the book seem more poignant.

So the book is original and highly readable but ... this fictionalized biography is of a real person, a historic figure who actually existed. Will people get the author's fanciful scenarios confused with the truth? While JFK and Jackie are both gone, is it fair to their daughter and grandchildren that this book is out there?

I heard somewhere that Jackie's original pen and ink drawings didn't fetch as much as predicted when they were placed for sale at an auction. Maybe that means that America is finally ready to let the Kennedys rest in peace. And maybe it's time.
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More About the Author

Jed Mercurio is a novelist who regularly works in TV as a writer, producer and director. His books are Bodies (2002), Ascent (2007), American Adulterer (2009) and, for children, the Penguin Expedition (2003). He grew up in England and currently splits his work between London and Los Angeles.

Jed trained at the University of Birmingham Medical School and, following an internship in trauma surgery, he practiced as a resident in internal medicine for three years. While still a medical student, he joined the Royal Air Force and received extensive flying training, with the intention of becoming a physician-pilot. Instead, after replying to an advertisement placed in the British Medical Journal, Jed detoured into writing the controversial, ground-breaking BBC medical drama Cardiac Arrest (under the pseudonym John MacUre). The show was a gritty and blackly comic expose of hospital life. Jed went from never having written a script to creating a primetime hit.

Next he scripted the 6-hour miniseries Invasion: Earth, a coproduction between the BBC and the US Sci-Fi Channel, before returning to dark medical fiction with his first novel, Bodies, published by Jonathan Cape (2002). He adapted the novel for TV, winning the Royal Television Society Award for Best Drama Series of 2005. Bodies dealt unflinchingly with issues of negligence, cover-ups and whistleblowing. Following broadcast on BBC America in 2008, Bodies was ranked #2 Best Show of the Year by Entertainment Weekly; in December 2009 The Times ranked it #9 TV Show of the Decade and in January 2010 it was ranked #20 Best TV Drama of All Time by the Guardian.

After writing a children's book, The Penguin Expedition, Jed's second novel, Ascent, was published by Jonathan Cape (UK) and Simon and Schuster (US) in 2007 and made the Guardian's list of "1000 Novels Everyone Must Read". Ascent tells the story of a fictional Soviet fighter pilot, later cosmonaut, set against the background of the Korean War and the Space Race.

In 2007 Jed wrote and directed a modern-day television film of Frankenstein, starring James Purefoy, Helen McCrory and Lindsay Duncan.

Jed Mercurio's latest novel for Cape and Simon & Schuster, American Adulterer, a fictionalization of President John F. Kennedy's personal life, was published in Spring 2009. The paperback will be published in March 2010.

Jed's next published work will be a graphic novelization of Ascent, coming out in 2011.