Suicide Casanova

Suicide Casanova

4.4 9
by Arthur Nersesian

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WHAT DO BILL CLINTON, JAMES MCGREEVEY, WOODY ALLEN, MICHAEL JACKSON, AND OJ SIMPSON HAVE IN COMMON with Leslie Cauldwell, protagonist of Nersesian’s latest offering? They are Suicide Casanovas. What compels powerful men in the prime of their professional lives to risk so much? Following the commercial success of his first four novels (see bio below), Suicide


WHAT DO BILL CLINTON, JAMES MCGREEVEY, WOODY ALLEN, MICHAEL JACKSON, AND OJ SIMPSON HAVE IN COMMON with Leslie Cauldwell, protagonist of Nersesian’s latest offering? They are Suicide Casanovas. What compels powerful men in the prime of their professional lives to risk so much? Following the commercial success of his first four novels (see bio below), Suicide Casanova presents a psychosexual thriller, a dramatic departure from his youthful black comedies: Humbert Humbert without the pedophile penchant, Hannibal Lechter without the appetitite.

CORPORATE ATTORNEY LESLIE CAULDWELL is middle-aged, handsome, and rich, but has only a few swipes left on his mental Metrocard. During a rough sex session, he garrotes his beloved wife; now he's an officially designated "sex offender," off on a bender, looking for love in all the wrong places. Twenty years earlier, when his office was high above the pornographic purgatory of Times Square, Leslie became involved with the adult-film star, Sky Pacifica. She needed a refuge, and he was ripe for the using. Following a brief fling, each went their own way. Two decades later, in 2001, Leslie is still working in Times Square--recently sanitized with its ESPN Zone and MTV window--and fraught with guilt about the "accident" with his wife.

LIKE JAY GATSBY pursuing an erotic American dream, Leslie, with the help of a private detective, hunts down Sky Pacifica, his latter-day Daisy. Across a landscape of S&M mistresses and porn producers, from L.A. of the '80s to New York of the new millennium, we see a modern-day tale of love and loss, innocence and corruption, crime and redemption.

Editorial Reviews

Suicide Casanova is very New York, perverse and filthy, funny and charming, and utterly compelling. Nersesian may have taken some of his cues from a few disparate starnds of literature such as crime and the existentialists, but he fuses them in a new unique way. His writing is convincing and controlled, but never too uptight. I kept expecting the characters to turn unrealistic or the plot to unravel, but there was never any danger of that happening. The only thing I don't like about this book is the way it comes packaged with a video box for a cover, which just makes it look like it needs a gimmick to sell. In fact, this is one of the best new novels I've read in a long time.

Any Cop?: Arthur Nersesian is a truly engaging and fresh writer who's got things to tell you that are worth knowing. Especially if you're into porn flicks and S & M.

Philadelphia City Paper
A tight, gripping, erotic thriller.
Publishers Weekly
Nersesian (Dogrun) starts this erotic thriller with a bang when rich, middle-aged lawyer Leslie Cauldwell accidentally strangles his wife during a bout of rough sex, but the novel degenerates into a long, labored account of Cauldwell's obsessive relationship with a porn star named Sky Pacifica. The protagonist's creepy intensity builds in the chapters immediately after the death (which takes place during his youth in New York City in the early '80s), particularly when he hooks up with a gorgeous dominatrix named Cecilia and the lovers concoct an extortion scheme to blackmail a libidinous judge. But the tight, tense narrative unravels in a hurry when Nersesian turns his attention to Cauldwell's relentless pursuit of Sky, and the story becomes downright listless when the author describes their brief but tumultuous midlife affair. Nersesian has some solid moments in which he nails the noir elements of his whacked-out story line, and his characters have more than enough erotic foibles and flaws for a gritty suspense story. But Cauldwell's twisted neediness devolves into a series of rants about sex, aging and the marketing of beauty in the world of pornography. The subplot in which he pretends to be a fashion photographer and stalks Sky and her daughter proves to be little more than a lurid tangent. Nersesian has developed a cult following based on the underground success of his previous books, but this flaccid, erratic effort is forgettable despite some promising characterizations and plot lines. (July) Forecast: Quirkily packaged in a videocassette case, this novel should do best in New York City, Nersesian's hometown and the setting for all his books. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Literary shock-jock Nersesian (The Fuck-Up) returns with his true muse-pre-Giuliani New York City. Leslie Cauldwell, a wealthy lawyer, is a porn-obsessed geek- turned-insatiable sadist. We discover that Leslie killed his dominatrix wife, Cecilia, during a rough sex act. But Leslie doesn't wallow long and goes in search of the girl who set him on the path of decadence and excess-adult-film sex-kitten Sky Pacifica. Sky, now a suburban mom, is just as bewitching as when the two met 20 years earlier-and Leslie will stop at nothing to get her back. Leslie is a signature "suicide casanova," a man who will risk success and security by giving in to his baser nature. Unfortunately, Nersesian's keen psychologist's eye for deviance and his native's grasp of the gritty city can't save a plot held together by smutty talk and sexual interludes. Not recommended.-Misha Stone, Seattle P.L. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Akashic Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Suicide Casanova

By Arthur Nersesian

Akashic Books

ISBN: 1-888451-66-1

Chapter One

Part One: Rewind

April 13, 2001, NYC

Except for the fact that it terminates life, death is such a little thing. Muscles cease to twitch, cells fail to regenerate, the body rots. Accidents are the perfect murder. Even the murderer doesn't know he's committing them. Until he finds the little gag ball of guilt somewhere inside himself. Opportunity was obvious, but I'm still trying to ascertain motive.

Dead skin-that's the primary ingredient of dust. My dearly departed would never have tolerated the fine skin of dust that now veils her room. Two cheesy paperbacks on her desktop say it all-The Disciplined Gentlemen and Love Bound-pop psychology attempts at explaining the phenomenon that my wife had turned into her deadlihood. She was forever curious about what drove sensitive, educated, wealthy men to her velvet rack.

In the two months since she died, I haven't once stepped inside her chamber-a spacious kitchen until she had the stove, sink, and fridge removed and it was converted into her office. We always ate out. Although she had impeccable taste, she always kept the room bare and functional: a large mission-style desk, two four-drawer filing cabinets against the far wall, a color TV with a VCR. No paintings, lamps, or knickknacks. A stack of boxes held the paraphernalia from her now-defunct dungeon.

For the first time, I am recalling her beautiful face,minutes dead, with Lana's drool and lipstick still slobbered around her mouth. Her blue lips, that red flush rising up from the black leather neck collar which was still dug deep into her throat. Her eyes, shocked, bulging up from death, eternally astounded as she gagged on that little red ball.

I draw the drapes in her office just a bit so that a poker of sunlight stabs across the wall, illuminating her oak bookshelf. Early editions in Mylar covers and boxed sets that she ordered over the Internet. Collectors copies of DeSade, de Maupassant, Flaubert, Zola, Jarry, Artaud-toward the last months she was buying up French Naturalists, working her way to the Surrealists. The bottom shelf is lined with videotapes, boxed and labeled.

When the phone rings in the next room, I can hear Beckwith's combed-over voice on the answering machine asking how the new medication is working.

Fine, that's why I'm not speaking to you, asshole.

Her videos are mainly old Hollywood flicks; Preston Sturges and John Huston films are among her favorites. There are some documentaries: Chicken Hawk, about NAMBLA, and Ken Burns's Civil War series. Yes, she was a dues-paying member of PBS. A lot of the tapes are TV shows she used to pull herself out of her moods. Seinfeld, The Simpsons. That sort of thing. There are roughly half a dozen porn films, mainly S&M, some starring friends and associates. She used to say that they gave her ideas for work.

In the late seventies, I used to be addicted to these films. Each one was a little amyl nitrite rush. Back then, watching hours of grainy porn in filthy, alkaline-smelling booths for about a quarter per minute, it would only cost about a buck before I would cum. On a horny afternoon I could even do it for fifty cents. Nowadays, I'd go broke having to pay by the minute, and with video technology, a sultan's orgy can be copied for peanuts.

Beckwith is still whining on my answering machine, pleading for me to return his calls. Did the court appoint me to look after him, or vice versa? I have a theory about these latter-day priests: to appease their own guilt they search out their confessions in the mouths of their patients. Why else would Beckwith be so insistent? "... you need help, Leslie, please!"

Well, he's not getting shit out of me.

Hidden sideways behind the videos, I see it-Teacher's Pet

With her firmly balanced breasts only eclipsed by her perfectly looped thighs, her holy body seemed the product of a salacious cosmetic surgeon's fantasy. But it was her face that stole the show-I simply couldn't get enough of it. For that matter, I couldn't get a fix on it. It seemed to change constantly, reflecting and refracting at various angles as if made of fleshy sequins. Sky epitomized pornography by being not just one drop-dead knockout but, at different angles, reminiscent of all of them. Early in her career she was thin, later she grew curvaceous. She was brunette, but at times would go blond.

Despite what legally had to be called wild infidelities on my dear wife's part, I never doubted her loyalties for an instant. And I never sensed a hint of her jealousy of me. Well, maybe just a hint. Toward the end-on that final night, anyway. The M.E. said the mouthpiece was loose enough, she should've been able to spit the ball out. There's only one reason she didn't stop it-she died to spite me.

In every relationship, to paraphrase Auden, doesn't one partner love the other just a bit more? Through the course of our relationship, I wondered if I was the one more or less loved. I was always testing her. If I had found this tape of Sky earlier, well, this is the pigeon feather that imbalanced the wings of our affection.

During our marriage, it had never occurred to me to reconnect with Sky. But now, the thought of seeing her sensuously penetrated makes me catch my breath. They try to teach sex offenders to avoid those pesky erotic triggers. And this tape is the button to a nuclear warhead.

In the kitchen I locate a can opener and a can-tuna fish. Lunch. I frantically start hooking and twisting.

My obsession with Sky started when I purchased every loop of hers I could get my sticky hands on, and there were plenty. Sky used three separate professional identities early in her career. I located four films in which she acted under the name Blue June. As Blue she was at her youngest, undoubtedly a minor. She had more of a girlish body: puffy breasts, a mischievous smile, gangly limbs, a torso not yet developed enough for its final erotic destiny. Her next nom de frame was Sarah Moreau; she was more self-conscious as an actress, her style more aggressive; less content to lie still and be done unto. Under this identity her physique was a bit more mature. Her breasts were still filling out, but the bony edges of her shoulders, rib cage, and knees contrasted with the spring baby-fat padded over all else.

One film called Missy's Tizzy featured young Sky under the playful pseudonym Sue De Grace. She appeared adolescent and smutty, like a naughty little girl who had been playing with her mother's cosmetics-there's a familiar fantasy. She confused trashiness with promiscuity and promiscuity with sophistication.

Trying to open the tuna fish, my fingers start trembling. Fuck tuna. Returning to the fresh dust of Cecilia's room, I look on her desktop blotter: bills to late-middle-aged men whose flabby asses she'd whip raw, lucky lads; an unmailed warranty for a cellular phone she'd never use. I spot a photograph of Britney Spears clipped out of some magazine, a reminder of youth eternal.

Able to resist no longer, I pop Teacher's Pet into the VCR and barely touch the play button.

There she is, or was: young Sky Pacifica. Not much more than sixteen years old, but easily passing for eighteen, pre-Tracy Lords. Teacher's Pet is about a student who needs an after-school tutorial. Sure she does. Right away she establishes a puppy crush on her much older teacher. Her red and white striped panties peek out whenever she bends over for a pencil. We know where she's heading. Too bad the adult entertainment industry only uses plot as a shield-the old First Amendment defense.

Back in the golden age, most porn sagged toward satire or campy dramatic. If the scenarios were just slightly credible, instead of opening around attractive, overly coiffed couples who happened to be sitting naked in hot tubs, and if the sex started out a bit awkwardly, even begrudgingly, instead of reducing the sacred act into something as blasé as a handshake, the orgasm would have spurted so much further.

Over the past ten years, the closest device the industry has come up with has been the straightforward interview, dropping all pretense and artifice, which has actually been quite an innovation since the actors speaking off the cuff are usually brighter and more interesting than the characters that were formerly scripted. On the other hand, porn actresses nowadays-with their dyed-blond bouffants, phony tits, collagen lips, plucked eyebrows, and shaved pubes-usually look alike, and can't get me hard.

In Teacher's Pet, the young and hairless Sky is chitchatting for far too long with the older teacher. The fast-forward button cuts through all that tedious exposition. Then play: Her pink little tongue is licking the salt off the droopy goat-like testicles of a man more than twice her age. Hairy, fat, and lecherous, he probably smells like a colostomy bag. The divining rod in my pants is my first erection in some time, and it's pointing to the past.

December 2, 1979, NYC

A distant and sporadic tweaking on the very brink of her still consciousness grew louder and more intrusive, until Sky finally opened her eyes. It was the repeated honking and screeching of traffic. Where the fuck am I? she thought. She sat up, filled with dread. Seeing a guy sleeping next to her, she wondered if another horny bastard had got a free fuck while she was under. She reached down and was glad to find that her panties were still on.

Regardless, her self-disgust turned to self-loathing and suddenly erupted as she slapped herself hard across the face. Why was she always doing this shit? She scratched her fingers down her face just short of tearing the skin, and finally boiled out, "What the fuck am I doing here?"

The guy next to her bolted up; she had now compounded her fuck-up. He swiveled his legs down and sat at the bed's edge. She could have rooted around while he was still asleep. He might've had some cash, then she could have just taken it and split.

"What's the matter?" he said, still half-asleep.

"My fucking life."

"Come on, you're only twenty-three."

"Twenty-two, asshole!" That was her second mistake. Don't insult strangers. She still had a scar on her chin from the time she had blithely insulted a Turkish importer with a callous cock. As a pressure built up behind Sky's eyes, she tried to push it back, but it was too much. All at once she seemed to give birth to woe. Tears flowed through her hands. She knew she was making her third mistake by crying, but she couldn't stop. When he opened the blinds, revealing a sunny new day, she restrained herself from shouting at him to leave them closed. The grief was turning her ugly, making her face splotchy red, diminishing her beauty and therefore her power. But in another moment the room began to feel humid with her tears. All self-consciousness was washed away and she stared starkly at the question, what am I going to do?

"Maybe you need to eat something," he said, responding to his own hunger.

"I'm never hungry in the morning, asshole!" she shot back.

"So now I know," he replied meekly.

She muttered, "Sorry," and remembered all the sleeping pills. That was why she felt particularly lousy. The man prepared and slid a cup of coffee next to her. She rose to the wooden cabinet, grabbed a bottle of Jack Daniels, spun open the black top so that it fell to the floor, and took a hard gulp before the guy pulled the bottle away. Finally she recognized him: It was the geek with the girl's name. He had met her by pretending to be a photographer. Harmless.

"Why does my head hurt so much?" she asked, feeling a sensitive rise in her scalp. The hot glow of Jack inside of her immediately did its job.

"You probably have a hangover," he said stiffly.

"Why do I have a bump?" She wondered what he had done with her last night. She remembered boarding a plane with him in California, but she didn't remember landing.

"Look," the guy replied, "do you recall what we discussed in LA? You said that at the end of this year you wanted a second chance." She sat perfectly still like a child being scolded. "You said you wanted to do something more with your life in 1980 than just fucking, coking, and partying."

She sighed. Yesterday morning she'd fled the West Coast. She remembered that he had proposed helping her get her life back on track. At the time it had sounded like a good idea. Now, she silently thought, okay. Things aren't so bad. I can call Janine. She lives here somewhere. I can get a dance gig, save some money, and within the month get my own place and be free of this geek.

She shook her head in contrite agreement, mumbled a brief apology, and said, "Look, I'm really embarrassed to be asking this, but I forgot your name."

"Leslie," he replied.


Excerpted from Suicide Casanova by Arthur Nersesian Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

Sick, depraved, and heartbreaking--in other words, a great read, a great book. Suicide Casanova is erotic noir and Nersesian's hard-boiled prose comes at you like a jailhouse confession.
—author of The Extra Man
Nersesian has written a scathingly original page-turner, hilarious, tragic, and shocking--this may be his most brilliant novel yet.
—author of In the Drink
A vivid, compelling psychothriller, Suicide Casanova confirms Nersesian's place as one of New York City's most important chroniclers. His unique psychological vision of the city rates with those of Paul Auster and Madison Smart Bell.
—author of Girl and User

Meet the Author

ARTHUR NERSESIAN is the author of The Fuck-Up (MTV Books/Simon & Schuster), Chinese Takeout (HarperCollins), Manhattan Loverboy (Akashic), dogrun (MTV Books/Simon & Schuster), and Unlubricated (HarperCollins). The former managing editor of the Portable Lower East Side, he currently lives in New York City.

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Suicide Casanova 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Suicide Cassanova starts off well, however, somwehere down the line the plot starts dragging for about 2 quarters of the book. It's full of cheesy similes and rants. I don't regret picking up the book, it did have its occassional intense moments, but not enough for a recommendation. Save yourself the 15 dollars. Maybe purchase it used.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This story is one of the best I've EVER read. I loved it from start to finish. Leslie Cauldwell is a very original, fresh character who draws you in from the beginning and doesn't let go until the last sentence of the book. Suicide Casanova is almost like a love story gone wrong. Yes, it does have some harsh language. But in order to convey the moods and attitudes throughout the plot, the language is perfect. I STRONGLY recommend it to everyone with a pulse.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This has got to be one of my all time favorite books. I read it and could not have been more impressed by not only Mr. Nersesian's writing style, but also the unbelievably seductive plot.
Guest More than 1 year ago
much diffrent the his others. but very good!