Jackie Collins, the author who dominated bestseller lists in the 1970s and '80s with her sexy, salacious tales of women getting what they want, died Saturday at age 77, her publicist confirmed. She had been suffering from breast cancer.
Collins is said to have sold more than 500 million books. In 2004, she told the Los Angeles Times that she attributed her success to "a combination of luck and something I believe in. There are lots of sexy books out there that haven't made tuppence. I'm a storyteller; I write what I want to read."
Collins' first book, the 1968 novel "The World Is Full of Married Men," set the tone for her career. She wrote tales of women getting men, losing men, getting laid and getting revenge.
"My secret is that my women characters are the aggressors. My women are like Harold Robbins' men. I don't want my women stepped on. I haven't been stepped on, and that's why I can write these books," she told The Times.
To add intrigue to her sexy drama, sometimes her fiction read like she was telling tales ripped from the secret lives of the rich and famous.
Her books include "Hollywood Wives," "Hollywood Husbands," "Hollywood Divorces," "Rock Star," "Lucky," "Power Trip," "Chances," "Lethal Seduction," "The Bitch," "American Star" and "The Stud."
"After 'The Stud,' Ryan O'Neal, Warren Beatty and Mick Jagger all told me they knew it was about them," Collins told The Times. "People finish one of the books, and say, 'I know who so-and-so is,' and I just say 'Well, if you know, then you don't need me to tell you!' "
She was beloved by readers, who saw the fun in the heightened reality she portrayed.
Born and raised in England -- and sister to the glamorous actress Joan Collins -- Jackie Collins embodied both high and low culture.
"I'm a street writer who doesn't pretend to be anything else," she told the Times in 1985. "I'm not grammatical in the way I talk, or in the way I write, and I don't pretend to be. I'm a high school dropout who eavesdrops. I don't type, but I once told my typist--this dear lady who came every Friday to pick up the week's pages--'All right, you fix my grammar.' Well she did, and I couldn't bear it! 'Put it all back the way it was,' I told her."
This meant Collins was not a favorite of critics. "The sexual candor of 'Ulysses' is nothing compared to the multiple orgasms of Jackie Collins," Anthony Burgess once said. In 1990, Nikki Finke, then an L.A. Times staff writer, called Collins "the undisputed schlock jock of the sun-and-sex-on-Sunset genre." Perhaps her harshest critic was Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping -- who in 1988, finding her books too sexy, threatened her publishers with execution.
Collins was unfazed by the critical reception of her work. "I'm doing something I love to do, something I believe in," she told the L.A. Times in 1988. "I get up every morning and hope I have nothing else to do that day but write."
Book news and more; I'm @paperhaus on Twitter