In Depth

Five things you didn't know about Jackie Collins

Novelist, whose Hollywood 'bonkbuster' tales were read by millions, dies of breast cancer at 77

British-born author Jackie Collins has died of breast cancer in Los Angeles, aged 77. She will be remembered for her multimillion-selling, sex-filled romps about the lives of the rich and restless, but preferred a quiet married life herself. 

Jackie was diagnosed with her illness six-and-a-half years ago, but kept the news mostly to herself, not wanting to "burden" others, reports The Independent. Even her sister, the actress Joan Collins, only found out in the past fortnight. 

Joan, 82, said farewell to her "beautiful brave baby sister" on Twitter, joining a host of celebrity fans, from Oprah Winfrey to Sandra Bullock, who paid tribute to the author.

Collins never aspired to literary greatness, but she sold over 500 million books in more than 40 countries during her career, and all her 32 books appeared on the New York Times best seller lists. Her writing style, dubbed "the bonkbuster", combined Hollywood glamour, crime and sex. She was among the first female authors to write about powerful, independent women who unashamedly enjoyed sex.

Jackie was a teenage delinquent on screen and off

Born in 1937, Collins was the daughter of a theatrical agent. By the age of 13 she began charging her classmates to read sex scenes she had written herself, says The Times. She started drinking and experimenting with drugs, and was finally expelled from boarding school at 15 for smoking and "waving at the resident flasher". After being sent to live with her movie star older sister, Joan, in Hollywood, she got a part as a juvenile delinquent in the film The Pay Off.

Her first novel was banned

When her acting career failed to take off, Jackie returned to England and began to write in earnest. Her first novel was The World is Full of Married Men, published in 1968. It was so steamy it was banned for a time in Australia and South Africa, says the New York Times. The romance writer Barbara Cartland called the book "filthy and disgusting" and blamed her "for all the perverts in England". Collins reportedly replied: "Thank you."

China hated her

Collins described herself as "a street writer who doesn't pretend to be anything else". She admitted that her writing wasn't always "grammatical" and said that she wrote the way she talked – "I'm a high-school dropout who eavesdrops." But her harshest critic, says the Los Angeles Times, may have been Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. In 1988, after finding her books too sexy, he suggested that her publishers should be executed.

She wrote by the pool

Jackie's writing career took off in earnest after she published The Stud in 1969. She was accused of using a "sex and shopping" formula with a sex scene every 20 pages, but claimed that she didn't write to any sort of outline, and never edited, says the Daily Telegraph. Collins did, however, have a fixed writing schedule: at least ten pages a day, seven hours a day, seven days a week. "I like to write by the pool," she said, "listening to Lionel Richie and surrounded by all those phallic cacti."    

Jackie liked a quiet life

Despite many sexual escapades in her early years, including "a very brief but fabulous affair" with Marlon Brando at 16, Jackie always claimed to be quite moralistic, says the Daily Mail. In interviews, she argued for the virtues of monogamy in marriage and said that her amoral fictional characters always got their come-uppance in the end. After a failed first marriage to the drug-addicted fashion entrepreneur Wallace Austin, she married nightclub entrepreneur Oscar Lerman. They had two daughters and were happily married for 26 years, until his death from cancer in 1992.

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