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 penned over 25 best-sellers, selling over 750 million copies in 32 languages.
Robbins was born Harold Rubin in New York City, 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, south of Minsk. Robbins later claimed to be a Jewish orphan who had been raised in a Catholic boys' home. He was raised by his father, who was a pharmacist, and his stepmother Blanche, in Brooklyn.
Robbins dropped out of high school in the late 1920s to work in a variety of jobs including errand boy, bookies' runner and inventory clerk in a grocer's. He was employed by Universal Pictures from 1940 to 1957, starting off as a clerk but attaining promotion to executive level.
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. As usual, 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.
Among his best-known books is The Carpetbaggers – featuring a loose composite of Howard Hughes, Bill Lear, Harry Cohn, and Louis B. Mayer. 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.
After The Carpetbaggers and Where Love Has Gone (1962) came The Adventurers (1966), based on Robbins's experiences living in South America, including three months spent in the mountains of Colombia with a group of bandits. The book was adapted into a film in 1970, also titled The Adventurers. He created the flop ABC television series The Survivors (1969-1970), starring Ralph Bellamy and Lana Turner.
Robbins' editors included Cynthia White and Michael Korda and his literary agent was Paul Gitlin.
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). After Paul Gitlin saw the exposé in Publisher's 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—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 retrospective permission to appropriate from his work, avoiding legal action on his publisher's part.
Robbins is mentioned by name in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home by Admiral James T. Kirk, his first officer Spock mentions 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.' The band Squeeze mentions "a Harold Robbins paperback" in their song "Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)".
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.
His widow, Jann Robbins, previously republished 12 of his most famous titles with AuthorHouse Publishing. In 2016, she contracted to republish thirty-three of his titles with Oghma Creative Media, including bestsellers 79 Park Avenue, Spellbinder, and The Adventurers. Oghma will also publish a non-fiction book she wrote about her life with Harold, entitled Harold and Me. Robbins' novels will all include new forewords by Michael Frizell, the leading authority on Harold Robbins. Frizell has spent two years interviewing Jann Robbins and others who knew Harold Robbins, as well as curating the collection of Robbins' books.
Robbins was married three times. His first wife, Lillian Machnivitz, was his high school sweetheart. His second wife, Grace Palermo Robbins, whom he married in 1965 and divorced in the early 1990s, published an account of her life with Robbins in 2013. He subsequently married Jann Stapp in 1992, and they remained together until his death. 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. His cremated remains are interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Cathedral City. Robbins has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6743 Hollywood Boulevard.
- Never Love a Stranger, 1948 (made into the 1958 film Never Love a Stranger)
- The Dream Merchants, 1949 (made into a 1980 TV miniseries)
- A Stone for Danny Fisher, 1952 (made into the 1958 film King Creole)
- Never Leave Me, 1953
- 79 Park Avenue, 1955 (made into a 1977 TV miniseries 79 Park Avenue)
- Stiletto, 1960 (made into the 1969 film Stiletto)
- The Carpetbaggers, 1961 (made into both the 1964 film The Carpetbaggers and the 1966 film Nevada Smith)
- Where Love Has Gone, 1962 (made into a 1964 film, Where Love Has Gone with Bette Davis)
- The Adventurers, 1966 (made into the 1970 film The Adventurers)
- The Inheritors, 1969
- The Betsy, 1971 (made into the 1978 film The Betsy)
- The Pirate, 1974 (made into a 1978 TV movie The Pirate)
- The Lonely Lady, 1976 (made into the 1983 film The Lonely Lady)
- Dreams Die First, 1977
- Memories of Another Day, 1979
- Goodbye, Janette, 1981
- The Storyteller, 1982
- Spellbinder, 1982
- Descent from Xanadu, 1984
- The Piranhas, 1986
- The Raiders, 1995 (sequel to The Carpetbaggers)
- The Stallion, 1996 (sequel to The Betsy)
- Tycoon, 1997
- 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