The book world lost some of its bling when author Jackie Collins passed September 19 at the age of 77. Known as the Queen of the Steamy Hollywood novel, Collins was a dropout who followed her older sister, actress Joan Collins to Los Angeles in the late 1950s. “It was like, Hollywood or reform school,” she told the Telegraph, a British newspaper in 2012. It was there that she dated movie stars and started eavesdropping on the glitterati.
Collins developed a hunger to tell the kind of stories she listened to—full of glamor, gossip and, of course, sex. In 1968 she published her first novel, deemed so scandalous it was banned in Australia and South Africa. It’s no wonder that her books—all 32 of which have been fixtures on the New York Times bestseller list and sold more than 500 million copies—have been compulsory beach reading for decades.
Collins had no pretensions—she wasn’t a literary writer and didn’t aspire to be one. But no one else could write volcanic eruptions of the human heart, and other body parts, quite like Collins. Her scandalous reputation was international—Chinese Communist leader Deng Xiaoping once threatened her publishers with execution. She was steaming up readers’ glasses long before 50 Shades of Grey. We have a few suggestions if you’d like to find out what made Jackie Collins so compulsively readable.
The World is Full of Married Men (W.H. Allen, 1968; reprint 2013)
This is the book that started it all, was banned in multiple countries and made romance writer Barbara Cartland declare it as “filthy and disgusting.” The controversy put Collins on the map as a writer. She once said, “I write about real people in disguise. If anything, my characters are toned down. The truth is much more bizarre.” In her first book she tackles infidelity and consequences and what happens when women own their own sexuality — a topic far ahead of its time.
Hollywood Wives (Simon & Schuster, 1983; reprint 2002)
Collins tackled the real housewives of Beverly Hills long before they became a reality series. This was the first in an ongoing collection of Hollywood lifestyle exposés, and she held nothing back. Raunchy, racy and full of the privileged and demanding divas we have come to know and love, this was one scorching blockbuster of a novel.
The Santangelos (St. Martin’s Press; June 16, 2015)
Never one to rest on the laurels of her previous success, Collins went on a book tour to promote this novel despite her advanced breast cancer and gave her last interview only a week ago to People magazine. She loved writing about powerful, kick-ass Lucky Santangelo and her family so much that this was the ninth book in a series. It covered all the bases—love, lust, revenge and passion in a tale about a sex-crazed Italian family, a drug-addled Colombian club owner, a vengeful enemy, wayward children and the motto: “Never cross a Santangelo.”
Which Jackie Collins novels were your favorites? Share in the comments below.