His final wife sends bestselling novelist Harold Robbins a valentine.
Jann Stapp met the 66-year-old author in 1982. By then, Robbins had been enjoying hefty royalty checks for 34 years, ever since Never Love a Stranger raised eyebrows and pulse rates with its dirty talk and steamy sex. (Subsequent novels like The Carpetbaggers adhered to that winning formula, eventually giving Robbins total sales of more than 750 million copies.) Stapp, who had written print, radio and television commercials in Oklahoma City, had recently moved to Los Angeles and was applying for a job as the writer’s assistant. He interviewed her while sitting cross-legged on his bed, sunglasses hiding his eyes, holding a cigarette, wearing a white T-shirt above red briefs and sipping coffee from a mug inscribed “Too much sex blurs your vision.” He started by making sexual comments about Stapp’s looks, peppered his conversation with profanity and hired the young woman without asking about her office qualifications. She immediately felt comfortable with the profane, generous Robbins, and never took offense at his suggestions that they sleep together. Three years later, admitting to herself that she loved him despite his wedded state, she gave in, sexually and otherwise. They married seven years later, and by her account she remained his loving wife until his death in 1997. Significant portions of the memoir consist of quotations from Robbins’s books and his own recollections. Dishing out a fair amount of schmaltz and low-level gossip, Jann writes clearly and occasionally even gracefully. Her husband did not write great literature by any standard, she admits, but his books resonated for reasons transcending sensationalism. She tries hard to make the case that the novels carried prescient messages of social significance, such as the rise of terrorism (The Pirate), corruption among TV evangelists (Spellbinder) and the dominance of Japanese automobile manufacturers (The Betsy).
An intimate look at the production of glitzy megabooks by a money machine.