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Jackie Collins: nothing's shocking

February 12, 2010 |  9:44 am


Jackie Collins hit it big in 1983 with her novel "Hollywood Wives." Scandalously sexy -- Anthony Burgess wrote, "the sexual candor of 'Ulysses' is nothing compared to the multiple orgasms of Jackie Collins" -- the book was on bestseller lists for more than six months, selling 5 million copies. Is there any chance that Collins' new book, "Poor Little Bitch Girl," will achieve similar success?

On the back of "Hollywood Wives," Collins, the younger sister of actress Joan, became a massive force in publishing, churning out shiny, tawdry Hollywood novels. In the late 1980s, Jackie Collins was one of the country's four top selling authors, alongside Stephen King, Sidney Sheldon and Danielle Steele. In 1988, Jackie Collins' books were among those that Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping found to be too sexy -- he threatened their publishers with execution.

By 1990, Nikki Finke, then a staff writer, called Collins "the undisputed schlock jock of the sun-and-sex-on-Sunset genre." Collins took the inside stories of Hollywood, changed the names and slid the most salacious details between book covers.

But these days, people don't have to read a novel to see inside Hollywood: they can watch videos of lunch at the Ivy shot by paparazzi on TMZ. Anybody can catch a celebrity's racist rant on video and soon we're all watching. Shock, sex and Hollywood are served up in daily doses online by Perez Hilton and a fleet of other celebrity bloggers.

Can Jackie Collins compete? She tries for shock, opening with a physically perfect, surgically enhanced Hollywood madame admiring her naked self in a mirror. But Heidi Fleiss was busted 17 years ago, her story played out on the daily news; even Hollywood prostitution is tired. That same year, our reviewer found Collins' latest book -- "American Star" -- "chock full of all the expected plot twists" and "fabulous cliches."

As far back as 1985, Jackie Collins told the LA Times, "scandals in the '40s and '50s wouldn't be scandals today. Nothing is lurid now. When an actor gets arrested for driving around coked out of his mind, nobody blinks." These days, it takes driving around coked out of your mind without any undergarments, with photographers at the ready -- and scandals rarely ruin careers. Take Charlie Sheen, who has been charged with assault -- he's still starring on TV's most-watched show, "Two and a Half Men."

What room is left for a novelist to scandalize? Jackie Collins' "Poor Little Bitch Girl" follows the intertwined lives of 20-something starlets, Hollywood offspring and lawbreakers, which sounds, well, like the daily gossip roundup. Readers may be feeding their need for glitzy trash elsewhere; although the book reached the Amazon top 100 in its first week of release, it's languishing at #81.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Jackie Collins, right, with her sister, the actress Joan Collins, in 1988. Credit: Tim Rue / Associated Press