Synopses & Reviews
"The subject is an American citizen holding high elected office, married, and father to a young family..."
From its opening line, American Adulterer examines the psychology of a habitual womanizer in hypnotically clinical prose. Like any successful philanderer, the subject must be circumspect in his choice of mistresses and employ careful calculation in their seduction; he must exercise every effort to conceal his affairs from his wife and jealous rivals. But this is no ordinary adulterer. He is the 35th President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
JFK famously confided that if he went three days without a woman, he suffered severe headaches. Acclaimed author Jed Mercurio takes inspiration from the tantalizing details surrounding the President's sex life to conceive this provocatively intimate perspective on Kennedy's affairs. Yet this is not an indictment. Startlingly empathetic, darkly witty and deft, American Adulterer is a moving account of a man not only crippled by back pain, but enduring numerous medical crises, a man overcoming constant suffering to serve as a highly effective Commander-in-Chief, committed to a heroically idealistic vision of America. But each affair propels him into increasingly murky waters. President Kennedy fears losing the wife and children to whom he's devoted and the office to which he's dedicated.
This is a stunning portrait of a virtuous man enslaved by an uncontrollable vice and a novel that poses controversial questions about society's evolving fixation on the private lives of public officials and, ultimately, ignites a polemic on monogamy, marriage and family values.
"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)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[M]esmerizing...a fascinating — if fictionalized — profile of our 35th president....[T]he book never descends into the sordid; in fact, what emerges is a poignant and empathetic portrait of a hero with a particular tragic flaw." Very Short List
"It seems so obvious that one wonders why no one has done it before....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." The Guardian (UK)
"[A] risky (and risqué) fictional portrait....[A] seductive, intimate, and shattering slant on this hugely popular, wildly flawed, tragically fated leader." Elle
"Stylish, intelligent, often persuasive revisionist history, though perhaps too insistent on its premise: It's sometimes hard to tell whether the obsession with sex is JFK's or the author's." Kirkus Reviews
"[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 Adulterer...is 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 presents an explosive, provocative fictional work about the life and times — and sexual dalliances — of John F. Kennedy during his administration.
From “a master of precision” (The Observer, London) comes an explosive, provocative novel about John F. Kennedy’s years in the White house: his political daring, his brave dedication to human rights, his devotion to his family—and his uncontrollable and unrelenting appetite for sexual adventure.
• Taut, magnificent prose: Mercurio’s premise—to chronicle Kennedy’s exploits, political and sexual, through the President’s own anguished but self-centered perspective—is bold to the point of hubris, but he succeeds in spades. The writing is elegant, spare, and wry; the narrative is exquisitely paced. The book’s ending is emotionally shattering— empathetic, redemptive, and shocking.
• Startlingly revisionist portrait of JFK: We see Kennedy at his best, as a visionary statesman, a former soldier turned moral pacifist, a loving parent and devoted husband. And we see him at his worst, as a compulsive philanderer whose countless conquests—of movie stars, socialites, secretaries, and interns—ruined hundreds of lives.
• Amazing cast of characters: They are all here: Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford, Angie Dickinson, Judith Campbell, LBJ, Fiddle and Faddle, Eisenhower, and perhaps most memorably, Jacqueline Kennedy.
About the Author
Jed Mercurio trained as a doctor and, while at medical school, received extensive flying training with the Royal Air Force. As a resident in internal medicine, he wrote a groundbreaking medical drama for the BBC, Cardiac Arrest. His first novel, Bodies, was chosen by The Guardian as one of the top five debuts of 2002. He adapted the novel into an award-winning drama series for the BBC and is currently developing a version for American television. He lives outside London.