Cocaine is the story of a young man who runs off to Paris to seek fame, fortune, and fun. Pitigrilli’s classic novel charts the comedy and pathos of a young man’s tragic trajectory. Tito Arnaudi is a dandified hero with several mistresses he juggles. A failed medical student, Tito is hired as a journalist in Paris, where he investigates cocaine dens and invents lurid scandals and gruesome deaths that he sells to newspapers as his own life becomes more outrageous than his phony press reports.
Telling of orgies and strawberries soaked in champagne and ether, Tito lives with intensity as he pursues his Italian girlfriend Maud (née Maddalena) and wealthy Armenian Kalantan, who insists on making love in a black coffin. Provocatively illustrated, filled with lush, intoxicating prose, Cocaine is a wicked novel about the Lost Generation in 1920s Paris. Dizzy and decadent, Pitigrilli leaves nothing unexplored as he presents astonishing descriptions of upper class debauching — strawberries and chloroform, naked dancing, cocaine aplenty, and guests openly injecting morphine. Despite its wit, Cocaine is a sobering account of the dangers of drugs and sexual obsession. Tito happily trades in his twilight years for moments of wicked ecstasy.