Nothing Personalby Jason Starr
The DePinos are miserable, living in a rundown apartment above a deli on Tenth Avenue. The Sussmans live in a posh building on the Upper East Side. When Joey DePino loses his job and is threatened by his bookies and loan shark, he involves the Sussmans in a sick, desperate plan to pay off his gambling debts. But ad exec David Sussman has his own problems trying to
The DePinos are miserable, living in a rundown apartment above a deli on Tenth Avenue. The Sussmans live in a posh building on the Upper East Side. When Joey DePino loses his job and is threatened by his bookies and loan shark, he involves the Sussmans in a sick, desperate plan to pay off his gambling debts. But ad exec David Sussman has his own problems trying to stop his suddenly psychopathic mistress from ruining him, and he won't go down without a fight. As the lives of the DePinos and the Sussmans become increasingly intertwined, Joey and David plunge their families into an amoral world where anything is possible and nothing is personal. Part crime novel, part unflinching satire of compulsive gambling, eating disorders, and cold-blooded evil, Nothing Personal firmly establishes Jason Starr as one of the most exciting young noir novelists around.
- Avalon Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.17(w) x 7.77(h) x 0.67(d)
Read an Excerpt
Joey DePino was the only gambler at the Meadowlands braving the frigid night to watch the last race outside. He was standing by the rail near the finish line in his stone-washed jeans and his blue-and-red New York Giants official team winter jacket. When the white pace car sped past with the long starting gate, he yelled, "Leave with him, Cat Man!" hoping to see his eight horse and Catello Manzi sprinting for the lead. But Manzi was either in on a fix or the damn horse just didn't want to run, because the eight was last, in the middle of the track, looking lame as the pacers rounded the first turn.
"Cocksucker!" Joey screamed.
He tossed his program away over his shoulder and headed toward the grandstand. The bus to Manhattan left at twenty minutes after the last race and he wanted to get a jump on the crowd.
The Meadowlands had been modernized a few years ago, but putting in some snazzy new restaurants and shining up the floors hadn't made much of a difference. The whole place still had a run-down feel to it, mainly because of the crowd. Angry old men, huddled in small groups, stood cursing at the television sets that were showing the closed-circuit broadcast of the race. The floor was covered with losing tickets, spilled beer, and spit; the air was a haze of cigarette smoke. At thirty-five, Joey was probably one of the youngest guys at the track, but years of gambling had made him look as old and beat-up as everyone else. He had dark bags under his eyes and most of his hair had fallen out. He used to lift weights, but that was a long time ago, when hestill lived in Brooklyn; now he couldn't remember the last time he had set foot in a gym.
Tonight had cost Joey three hundred and sixty bucks, not including the price of three hot dogs, two slices of pizza and one Carvel ice cream cone. But this was only pocket change compared to the over nine grand he owed to three bookies and one loan shark. Because the bookies had stopped taking action from him, he had started to bet under phony names. But even "Tony" and "Nick" and "Vinnie" had tapped out their figures. He had zero money in the bank and with rent and bills coming up he had no idea what new story he'd make up to tell his wife Maureen.
At a television set above the betting windows, Joey stopped to watch the end of the race. His horse still wasn't in the picture. He couldn't remember the last time he'd left a racetrack with money in his wallet. Was it last month? Last year? He felt numb and exhausted; it seemed like he hadn't had a good night's sleep in months.
As the pacers turned into the stretch, the eight finally appeared on the screen. Manzi was moving the horse up on the rail, but seemed hopelessly boxed-in. In the stretch, he angled the horse off the rail, then he got shut off again. He dropped back on the inside, but he was still blocked. Joey was ready to walk away when Manzi somehow got loose. He steered the horse to the outside and started closing like a freight train. It still didn't look like he'd get up in time, but the horse in front was staggering. Joey didn't even have time to scream. Manzi's horse seemed to be moving twice as fast as the other horses, and he surged to the lead at the wire. It would be a photo finish but it was obvious that the eight had won the race.
In an instant, Joey calculated his winnings. At sixty-five to one, the eight was the second longest shot in the field. He had bet forty dollars to win and had played the eight in a forty dollar daily double with the winner of the last race. All together, he would get back over $17,600.
He was too shocked to celebrate. He walked around the grandstand, breathing heavily, hoping he wouldn't have a heart attack and die with the winning tickets in his pocket. He still couldn't believe the eight had actually won. Joey DePino, the guy his friends in Brooklyn used to call "Joey the Jinx" because he always lost at the track, actually getting home a sixty-five-to-one shot? There had to be some mistake. This was "Candid Camera" and that guy with the gray hair was gonna come out and shake his hand.
He already had the money spent. Nine grand would go toward his debts. The other eight would go into the bank, maybe toward a down payment on a house in Staten Island or Jersey. Maureen had been begging him to move into a nicer place for years and he was sick of living in the city. He wanted to live in a place where he could own a car so he wouldn't have to take buses to the racetrack anymore.
Then the crowd started to jeer. Joey felt the Carvel and hot dogs collapsing in his stomach. He ran to the nearest TV monitor, afraid to see what he already knew. The food dropped another couple of inches when he saw the INQUIRY sign on the tote board.
When the eight horse had made that move to lead, Manzi had cut off the horses to his outside. Joey had seen this clearly, but he had blocked it out in his excitement. Now he prayed to God for a miracle. Joey was half Jewish, half Italian, and he didn't believe in religion, but he swore to God he would pray every day for the rest of his life if He would just put up the fucking OFFICIAL sign.
Sometimes the judges took five minutes or longer to decide whether a horse should be disqualified. Maybe tonight they were tired and wanted to go home because in less than a minute the tote board went blank and the revised order of finish was posted. The eight had been placed fourth.
Joey's horses had been disqualified before, but never for this much money and never when he needed the money this badly. He asked God what he had ever done to deserve this treatment and, as usual, he didn't get any answer.
Slowly, he walked toward the exit. He tried to tell himself that he wasn't any worse off than he'd been five minutes ago. But all he could think about was the damn INQUIRY sign and how nothing ever seemed to go right in his life. He was walking unsteadily. A few people bumped into him, saying "excuse me" or "sorry," but he didn't even seem to notice.
Leaving the grandstand, heading down the long ramp, Joey felt like he could lie down and sleep forever. But, typical of his luck, the bus had already filled and he had to stand the whole way back to Manhattan.
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