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by Bamber Gascoigne

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Jackie Collins (b. 1941)


British bestselling novelist, now living in California. Collins's stories about lust, love, power, and violence in Hollywood have gained wide success. Part of the fun of her books is their not-so-well hidden references to well-known celebrities, hot shots, and juicy events reported in such magazines as National Enquirer. Collins's books have sold 200 million copies in more than 40 countries. She has said that "the important thing is I get people into the bookstores who probably wouldn't be there otherwise." Her younger sister of the actress Joan Collins.

"Being a studio head was the treacherous no-man's-land between high-powered agent and independent producer. The saving speech of every deposed studio head was: "I need more creativity. My talent is stifled here. Too much to do and too little time. We are parting amicably. I'm going into indie prod." In the industry, indie prod (independent production, to the initiated) equals out on your ass. Canned. Can't cut it. Tough shit. Don't call us we'll call you. And so... most indie prods faded into oblivion after one failed movie." (from Hollywood Husbands, 1986)

Jackie Collins was born in London. Elsa, her mother, had worked as a nightclub hostess. Jackie's father, Joe Collins, was a successful theatrical booking agent and intended both daughters to go into the theatre. Jackie and Joan grew around the enterteinment business and they both were encouraged toward acting career. But when Joan Collins established herself as a star in Hollywood, Jackie found her talents in popular fiction. However, her novels The Stud (1969) and its sequel, The Bitch (1979), were later made into films starring her famous sister, and Chances (1981) and Lucky (1985) have been made into television mini-series. The Stud and The Bitch were British-based novels, but later the scene changed from the clubs and discos of London to California. In The Stud the narrator says, "Yeah, I'm very popular now, everyone wants to know me. Funny thing isn't it? I'm the same guy, talk in the same voice, the clothes are a little more expensive, but that's about the only difference. You wouldn't believe it though, the ladies practically fight to climb in the sack with me. You would think I was doing them a big favor, and listen, they way things have been going I think I am!"

Collins has been an avid reader since her childhood. At the age of eight, she started to write. Especially Enid Blyton's books inspired her to become a storyteller. During a rebellious adolescence Collins was expelled from school for smoking. She read Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, and continued with Harold Robbins and Terry Southern. "I could't wait to start telling sexy stories myself," she once said in an interview. In 1959 she married Wallace Austin; they had two children. Wallace, who was 12 years her senior, was a wealthy businessman. They divorced four years later. In 1966 she married Oscar Lerman, a businessman and nightclub owner; he died in 1992. Collins's fiancé of five years, shopping mall developer Frank Calcagnini, died of cancer in 1996. Arnold Kopelson, her longtime companion, is a multi-awarded producer.

Like her sister, Collins went to Los Angeles in search of a film career. In 1968 she made her first bestseller, The World Is Full Of Married Men, achieving overnight success. At the time of the publication the book was considered shocking because of its sexual content. "It's a nasty book, filthy and disgusting" said Barbara Cartland, famous for her popular romantic fiction, and continued: "I hardly slept after reading it." In Australia the book was banned. Since the 1960s Collins has steadily published romance fiction- the manuscripts she had done by hand instead of typing.

After the death of Jacqueline Susan, author of Valley of the Dolls, Collins followed her as the "Queen of Trash Lit" – or the soap operatic romance with much sex. "I write very raunchy books, but they have a good moral in them," has Collins said in an interview. The French film director Louis Malle called her once a "raunchy moralist". Collins has described herself as "an insider who can write like an outsider about the inside".

Hollywood Wives (1983), which sold around 15 million copies worldwide, did not only pave the way for the new type romantic "blockbuster" such as those by Jilly Cooper or Joanna Trollope, but also to such celebrities as Pamela Anderson, Paris Hilton  and Courtney Love. The novel brought into the romantic genre more of everything from melodrama to sex and glamorous locations.

Though the formula is still the same as at the beginning of her career, Collins's stories from the glamorous world of Hollywood are immensely popular. Collins's style is fast-paced and draws on her own or her sister's experiences in the film industry. She writes her books in longhand on white typing paper or yellow legal pads.

During the years, the quality of her writing has improved, scenes with sex or drug abuse are closely woven into the plot, and the novels have much greater depth of characterization. Collins has also uses tongue-in-cheek humour – there are characters like Dick Cockranger. Her female figures are totally equal with male ones. An avid reader of hard-boiled fiction, her favorite male writers include Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Andrew Gross,Elmore Leonard, Robert B. Parker, Mickey Spillane, and Joseph Wambaugh. 

Hollywood Husbands (1986) covered the sinful lives of the rich and famous, who cruise the town in Ferraris and Rolls Royces. The central male characters are three friends – Jack Python, one of the most famous talk show hosts in America, Howard Soloman, the head of Orpheus Studios, and Mannon Calble, movie star, director, producer, hot property – "in Hollywood when you're hot you're hot – when you're not you may as well be dead". They have gone through expensive divorces and a number of affairs but the competition becomes serious when Jade Johnson enters the scene. "Jade Johnson was twenty-nine years old. She had shoulder-length shaggy copper hair, gold-flecked, widely spaced brown eyes, a full and luscious mouth, and a strong, square jaw that saved her from being merely beautiful, and made her face challenging and alert." Hollywood Kids (1994) focused on the spoiled, aimless children of the rich, powerful, and famous. Hollywood Wives (1983) was made into a television mini-series.

Collins's famous series heroine is Lucky Santangelo, the author's alter ego, who appeared first in Chances. This novel established the family feud between the Bonnattis and the Santangelos. Lucky's adventures continued in Lucky, in which she was married three times, Lady Boss (1989), depicting how she became the head of Panther Studios, and Vendetta: Lucky's Revenge (1996), in which she struggled with her arch-enemy, the Bonnatti family, and got back her kidnapped husband Lennie Golden, the handsome Hollywood writer-director.

Dangerous Kiss (1999) developed further the saga of the street-smart Lucky. "Well, to me, Jackie's Hollywood is the 60's with money," wrote Michiko Kakutani in his review of the book (The New York Times, June 15, 1999) "Free love still reigns in Jackie Land: people are still having promiscuous sex with many anonymous partners without protection, while at the same time experimenting with mind-expanding drugs in a consequence-free environment." In the story Lucky's supermodel goddaughter, Brigette Stanislopoulosis, is raped and force-fed heroin by her vicious Italian husband Carlo. But this is not all: her sister-in-law, the actress Mary Lou Berkeley, is murdered in a carjacking.

After a hiatus of 8 years, Lucky Santangelo made a comeback in Drop Dead Beautiful (2007), in which she has troubles with her daughter and faces an old enemy. Lethal Seduction (2000) and Deadly Embrace (2002) dealt with the loves and sins of the dangerous Castelli family. Madison Castelli's father, Michael, is accused of a double murder, and Madison's wonderful, sexy boyfriend is missing. Madison herself was first introduced in the L.A. Connections series. She is a well-respected journalist, "who specialized in insightful profiles of the rich, famous, and powerful." In Deadly Embrace Collins doesn't waste time in starting the action. Already on the page four three men burst into a restaurant, where Madison is sitting with her friend, and one of the men shouts: "Don'tcha move, assholes, or I'll blow your mothafuckin' heads off." Collins has planned to write a book about Lucky at the age of 15.

For further reading: Joan Collins's autobiography Past Imperfect (1978, updated in 1984); Hollywood Sisters: Jackie and Joan Collins by Susan Crimp, Patricia Burstein (1989); Contemporary Popular Writers, ed. by David Mote (1997); Encyclopedia of Pulp Fiction Writers by Lee Server (2002); 'Collins, Jackie,' in 100 Most Popular Genre Fiction Authors: Biographical Sketches and Bibliographies by Bernard A. Drew (20059; 'Jackie Collins: By the Book,' in The New York Times, February 21 (2013). Note: Joan Collins published her first novel, Prime Time, in 1988. It is set, of course, in the film world and is populated with nasty characters: "The network wanted a glamorous manipulating bitch, a rotten-to-the-core heartless tramp, a deviously ambitious but sexily elegant woman of the world, a female so mean and gorgeous that every man watching would either want to make love to her or give her a taste of her own medicine, and whom every woman would envy or emulate of the show was a hit." Other popular writers drawing their subjects from big business, the media, or the film industry: Judith Krantz, Shirley Conran, Harold Robbins

Selected works:

  • The World Is Full Of Married Men, 1968
    - Maailma on täynnä aviomiehiä: romaani (suom. Mario Talaskivi, 1968)
  • The Stud, 1969
    - film 1978, dir. by Quentin Masters, starring Joan Collins, Oliver Tobias, Sue Lloyd. A millionaire's wife installs her lover as manager of a discotheque, but he becomes bored and wants a place of his own.
  • Sunday Simmons & Charlie Brick, 1971 (published under the title The Hollywood Zoo,1975)
  • Lovehead, 1974 (retitled The Love Killers, 1989)
  • The World Is Full Of Divorced Women, 1975
  • Lovers and Gamblers, 1977
  • The Bitch, 1979
    - film 1979, dir. by Gerry O'Hara, starring Joan Collins, Kenneth Haigh, Michael Coby. Sequel to The Stud. A woman of much influence in London's underworld has a temporary liaison with a young gangster wanted by the Mafia.
  • Chances, 1981
    - Loistavia tilaisuuksia: romaani (suom. Sirkka ja Lippo Salonen, 1986)
    - NBC miniseries, 1990-, dir. Buzz Kulik, starring Vincent Irizarry, Michael Nader, Anne-Marie Johnson, Sandra Bullock and Nicollette Sheridan
  • Hollywood Wives, 1983
    - Unelmakaupungin naisia (suom. Sirkka Salonen, 1985) / Hollywoodin naisia: romaani (suom. sirkka Salonen, 1987)
  • Sinners, 1984 (originally published as Sunday Simmons & Charlie Brick in Great Britain in 1971, and Hollywood Zoo in the United States, 1975) 
  • Lucky, 1985
    - Lucky (suom. Leila Koivukangas, 1987)
    - NBC miniseries, 1990-, dir. Buzz Kulik, starring Vincent Irizarry, Michael Nader, Anne-Marie Johnson, Sandra Bullock and Nicollette Sheridan
  • Hollywood Husbands, 1986
    - Hollywoodin miehiä: romaani (suom. Leila Koivukangas, 1988)
  • Rock Star, 1988
  • Lady Boss, 1989
    - Lady boss (suom. Osmo Saarinen, 1993)
    - NBC miniseries, 1992, dir. by Charles Jarrott, starring Kim Delaney,  Jack Scalia and Alan Rachins
  • American Star: A Love Story, 1993
  • Hollywood Kids, 1994
  • Vendetta: Lucky's Revenge, 1995
  • Thrill!, 1997
  • Power, 1998 (paperback, L.A. Connections series)
  • Obsession, 1998 (paperback, L.A. Connections series)
  • Murder, 1998 (paperback, L.A. Connections series)
  • Revenge, 1998 (paperback, L.A. Connections series)
  • Dangerous Kiss, 1999
  • Lethal Seduction, 2000
  • Hollywood Wives: The New Generation, 2001
    - TV mini-series, prod. Renée Valente Productions, Puma Productions, Voice Pictures, dir. by Joyce Chopra, starring Farrah Fawcett, Melissa Gilbert,  Robin Givens, Dorian Harewood, Jeff Kaake  
  • Deadly Embrace, 2002
  • Hollywood Divorces, 2003
  • Lovers & Players, 2006
  • Drop Dead Beautiful, 2007
  • Married Lovers, 2008
  • Poor Little Bitch Girl, 2010
  • Goddess of Vengeance, 2011
  • The Power Trip, 2012
  • The Power Trip Prequel: An Original Short Story, 2012

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