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Harold Robbins

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Harold Robbins
Harold Robbins (1979)
Francis Kane[1]
Harold Rubin[2]

(1916-05-21)May 21, 1916
DiedOctober 14, 1997(1997-10-14) (aged 81)
Resting placeForest Lawn Cemetery, Cathedral City, California
Spouse(s)Lillian Machnivitz (1937–1962; divorced)
Grace Palermo (1965–1992; divorced)
Jann Stapp (1992–1997, his death)

Harold Robbins (May 21, 1916 – October 14, 1997) was an American author of popular novels. One of the best-selling writers of all time, he wrote over 25 best-sellers, selling over 750 million copies in 32 languages.

Early life


Robbins was born Harold Rubin in New York City in 1916, the son of Frances "Fannie" Smith and Charles Rubin. His parents were well-educated Jewish emigrants from the Russian Empire, his father from Odessa and his mother from Neshwies (Nyasvizh), south of Minsk. Robbins later falsely claimed to be a Jewish orphan who had been raised in a Catholic boys' home.[3][4] Instead he was raised by his father, a pharmacist, and his stepmother, Blanche, in Brooklyn.[3]

Robbins dropped out of high school at 15 to enlist in the U.S. Navy.[5] He claimed to have served on a submarine that was torpedoed, leaving him as the sole survivor;[6][7] in fact, no U.S. submarines were torpedoed during the 1930s.

Robbins worked a variety of jobs, including errand boy, bookies' runner, and inventory clerk in a grocers. He was employed by Universal Pictures from 1940 to 1957, starting off as a clerk and rising to an executive.[1]



His first book was Never Love a Stranger (1948). The Dream Merchants (1949) was a novel about the American film industry, from its beginning to the sound era in which Robbins blended his own life experiences with history, melodrama, sex, and glossy high society into a fast-moving story. His 1952 novel, A Stone for Danny Fisher, was adapted into a 1958 motion picture King Creole, which starred Elvis Presley.[8]

Among his best-known books is The Carpetbaggers (1961) – featuring a protagonist who was a loose composite of Howard Hughes, Bill Lear, Harry Cohn, and Louis B. Mayer.[9] The Carpetbaggers takes the reader from New York to California, from the prosperity of the aeronautical industry to the glamor of Hollywood. Its sequel, The Raiders, was released in 1995.

Film producer Joseph E. Levine acquired the rights to The Carpetbaggers in September 1962 and produced the 1964 film.[10] He also acquired the rights to Robbins' next book Where Love Has Gone (1962) with the film version also released in 1964.[11] In 1963, Levine paid Robbins $1 million for pre-publication and film rights for Robbins' upcoming book The Adventurers.[11] The book was released in 1966 and was based on Robbins's experiences living in South America, including three months spent in the mountains of Colombia with a group of bandits. The film version was released in 1970. Robbins also created the ABC television series The Survivors (1969-1970), starring Ralph Bellamy and Lana Turner.[citation needed]

Robbins' editors included Cynthia White and Michael Korda and his literary agent was Paul Gitlin.[12]

In July 1989, Robbins was involved in a literary controversy when the trade periodical Publishers Weekly revealed that around four pages from Robbins' novel The Pirate (1974) had been lifted without permission and integrated into Kathy Acker's novel The Adult Life of Toulouse Lautrec (1975), which had recently been re-published in the UK in a selection of early works by Acker titled Young Lust (1989).[13][14]: 232  After Paul Gitlin saw the exposé in Publishers Weekly, he informed Robbins' UK publisher, Hodder & Stoughton, who requested that Acker's publisher Unwin Hyman withdraw and pulp Young Lust. Representatives for the novelist explained that Acker was well known for her deliberate use of literary appropriation[13][14]: 234 —or bricolage, a postmodern technique akin to plagiarism in which fragments of pre-existing works are combined along with original writings to create new literary works. After an intervention by William S. Burroughs—a novelist who used appropriation in his own works of the 1960s—Robbins issued a statement to give Acker retroactive permission to appropriate from his work, avoiding legal action on his publisher's part.[13][14]: 234–5 

Since his death, several new books have been published, written by ghostwriters and based on Robbins's own notes and unfinished stories. In several of these books, Junius Podrug has been credited as co-writer.

From the Hodder & Stoughton 2008 edition of The Carpetbaggers "about the author" section:

Robbins was the playboy of his day and a master of publicity. He was a renowned novelist but tales of his own life contain even more fiction than his books. What is known is that with reported worldwide sales of 750 million, Harold Robbins sold more books than J.K. Rowling, earned and spent $50m during his lifetime, and was as much a part of the sexual and social revolution as the pill, Playboy and pot. In March 1965, he had three novels on the British paperback bestseller list – Where Love Has Gone at No.1, The Carpetbaggers at No.3 and The Dream Merchants in the sixth spot.


Robbins is mentioned by name (along with Jacqueline Susann) in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home by Admiral James T. Kirk. His first officer, Spock, then comments that Robbins was one of the 20th century "giants" of literature. Robbins is also mentioned by name by Basil Fawlty in the Fawlty Towers episode "Waldorf Salad"; he refers to Robbins' work as "transatlantic tripe, a sort of pornographic muzak". The band Squeeze mentions "a Harold Robbins paperback" in their song "Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)". In Roger Corman's 1970 post-apocalyptic Gas! -Or- It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It., a young couple uses a public library's copies of the collected works of Jacqueline Susann (who took inspiration from Robbins in writing her first novel in Valley of the Dolls)[citation needed] as kindling after the woman's initial objection to burning library books to keep warm. She says, "OK, but what if we run out?" Her boyfriend says, "Don't worry, there's an entire shelf full of Harold Robbins." In the movie Educating Rita, Dr Bryant, played by Michael Caine said he doubts that the examiner of the English Literature course has read Where Love Has Gone.

Personal life


Robbins was married three times, first to his high school sweetheart, Lillian Machnivitz.[15] In 1965 he wed Grace Palermo, who went on to pen an account of her life with Robbins in 2013.[16] Divorced in the early 1990s,[17] Robbins married Jann Stapp in 1992; they remained together until his death.[1]

He spent a great deal of time on the French Riviera and at Monte Carlo until his death from respiratory heart failure, at the age of 81 in Palm Springs, California.[1] His cremated remains are interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Cathedral City.[18] Robbins has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6743 Hollywood Boulevard.



Posthumously published novels credited to Robbins


Works bearing Robbins name continued to appear after his death. The earliest three posthumous Harold Robbins novels (The Predators (1998), The Secret (2000) and Never Enough (2001) are generally thought to have been completed by ghostwriters, but may have been partially or even substantially based on completed work or notes written by Robbins.[citation needed] Junius Podrug has been identified as the uncredited ghostwriter of Sin City (2002) and Heat of Passion (2003). From 2004-2011, a series of novels credited to Robbins and Podrug appeared, although they are strictly the work of Podrug, writing in Robbins' style.[citation needed]

  • The Predators, 1998
  • The Secret, 2000 (sequel to The Predators)
  • Never Enough, 2001
  • Sin City, 2002
  • Heat of Passion, 2003
  • The Betrayers (with Junius Podrug), 2004
  • Blood Royal (with Junius Podrug), 2005
  • The Devil to Pay (with Junius Podrug), 2006
  • The Looters (with Junius Podrug), 2007, Madison Dupree No. 1
  • The Deceivers (with Junius Podrug), 2008, Madison Dupree No. 2
  • The Shroud (with Junius Podrug), 2009, Madison Dupree No. 3
  • The Curse (with Junius Podrug), 2011, Madison Dupree No. 4


  1. ^ a b c d Harold Robbins, 81, Dies; Wrote Best Sellers Brimming With Sex, Money and Power The New York Times via Internet Archive. Retrieved October 3, 2023.
  2. ^ Robbins, Harold 1916-1997 (Francis Kane, Harold Rubin) Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved October 3, 2023.
  3. ^ a b Wilson, Andrew (January 11, 2011). Harold Robbins: The Man Who Invented Sex. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 7, 14. ISBN 978-1608196586. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  4. ^ Liukkonen, Petri. "Harold Robbins". Books and Writers (kirjasto.sci.fi). Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on October 14, 2013.
  5. ^ Harold Robbins interview: Gide, Mann and me - archive, 1970 The Guardian. Retrieved October 3, 2023.
  6. ^ Revisiting Harold Robbins, the Forgotten “Dirty Old Man of American Letters” The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 3, 2023.
  7. ^ Never Enough: A Writer’s Life of Sex, Drugs and Excess The New York Times via Internet Archive. Retrieved October 3, 2023.
  8. ^ Harold Robbins: The Man Who Invented Sex The New York Times via Internet Archive. Retrieved October 3, 2023.
  9. ^ Thompson, Thomas (December 8, 1967). "A Tour through the Harold Robbins Industry". Life – via Google Books.
  10. ^ "Levine Makes Sound Deal With Paramount". Boxoffice. January 28, 1963. p. 6. Retrieved February 21, 2024 – via Internet Archive.
  11. ^ a b "That Money Writer, Harold Robbins, Sells Third (Unwritten) To Levine". Variety. September 18, 1963. p. 3. Retrieved February 20, 2024 – via Internet Archive.
  12. ^ Korda, Michael (1999). Another life: a memoir of other people (1st ed.). New York: Random House. ISBN 978-0679456599.
  13. ^ a b c Kraus, Chris (August 19, 2017). "Sex, tattle and soul: how Kathy Acker shocked and seduced the literary world". The Guardian. London. Retrieved September 27, 2017.
  14. ^ a b c Kraus, Chris (August 18, 2017). After Kathy Acker: A Literary Biography. Semiotext(e). ISBN 978-0241318065.
  15. ^ Morrison, Blake (November 10, 2007). "The Pleasure Principle". The Guardian. Retrieved January 22, 2015.
  16. ^ The Guardian
  17. ^ Robbins, Grace (2013). Cinderella and the Carpetbagger: My Life as the Wife of the "World's Best-Selling Author," Harold Robbins. Bettie Youngs Books. ISBN 978-0988284838.
  18. ^ Wilson, Scott (August 22, 2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons (3d ed.). McFarland. p. 634. ISBN 978-0786479924. Retrieved September 16, 2020.