A serial liar, a vulgar and debauched individual, but most importantly, one of the bestselling authors of all time!
Ladies and gentlemen, Harold Robbins (Harold Rubin)!
Harold Robbins was a best-selling author in the 20th century whose novels often, or should I say always, were about sex and money. His books left his critics unamused but were savored by thirsty readers.
Some have called him “the dirty old man of American letters,” others have said that he was “the Onassis of supermarket literature,” but one thing he wasn’t was an unsuccessful writer.
This article is your Harold Robin’s starter pack—and it takes a look at the man, the myths, and the books he authored.
Let’s get started!
Harold Robbins: The Man Behind the Myths and the Books
Harold Robbins, whose original name is Harold Francis Rubin, was born on 21 May 1916 in New York City, New York, U.S.
He was the son of well-educated Jewish emigrants from the Russian Empire: Frances “Fannie” Smith, his mother was from Neshwies (Nyasvizh), and Charles Rubin his father was from Odessa.
There is contradictory information about Rubin’s early life because he lied a lot about childhood. It is rumored that he falsely claimed to be a Jewish orphan raised in a Catholic boys’ home—in actual fact, he was raised by his father and stepmother in Brooklyn.
Robbins also claimed that he dropped out of high school in the late 1920s to find work, but some sources say he graduated in 1934.
So, it would not be a bad guess if we said that he fabricated another lie when he claimed to have become a millionaire at the age of 20 and frittered it away a year later. But what’s true is that he started work as a shipping clerk for Universal Pictures in Hollywood in 1937.
He worked his way up to the executive level and started writing novels.
In 1948, Robbins wrote his first novel, Never Love a Stranger while working for the studio. It was a hit—and, of course, it contained scenes with sex and violence.
During the 1950s he took up writing novels full-time and wrote several bestsellers including his most successful novel, The Carpetbaggers, which was published in 1961 and was made into a movie in 1964.
His subsequent releases were huge hits as well; in addition to his 1961 bestseller, books like Where Love Has Gone (1962), The Adventurers (1966), The Betsy (1971), and Dreams Die First (1977) were all huge successes.
The money was pouring in!
And, Harold Robbins, being the profligate man that he was, spent it on boats, homes, travel, prostitutes, and drugs.
Then life-changing health issues stopped him in his tracks: first, a stroke in 1982, then a seizure that left him with severe bone injuries in 1985. The two unfortunate events left Robbins wheelchair-bound and incapable of producing the same amount of material as before.
As the health—and rate of output—of the biggest playboy in literature deteriorated, so did his finances.
It is estimated that Harold Robbins’ books enjoyed worldwide sales of about 750 million—and he also rumored to have earned and spent $50m during his lifetime.
He died of pulmonary arrest on 14 October 1997 at the age of 81 in Palm Springs, California.
Harold Robbins Books in Order
Harold Robbins Standalone Novels
- Never Love A Stranger (1948)
- The Dream Merchants (1949)
- A Stone for Danny Fisher (1952)
- Never Leave Me (1953)
- 79 Park Avenue (1955)
- Stiletto (1960)
- Where Love Has Gone (1962)
- The Adventurers (1966)
- The Inheritors (1969)
- The Pirate (1974)
- The Lonely Lady (1976)
- Dreams Die First (1977)
- Memories of Another Day (1979)
- Goodbye, Janette (1981)
- The Storyteller (1982)
- Spellbinder (1982)
- Descent from Xanadu (1984)
- The Piranhas (1986)
- Tycoon (1997)
Posthumous Standalone Novels
- Never Enough (2001)
- Sin City (2002) (Junius Podrug and Harold Robbins)
- Heat of Passion (2003) (Junius Podrug and Harold Robbins)
- The Betrayers (2004) (Junius Podrug and Harold Robbins)
- Blood Royal (2005) (Junius Podrug and Harold Robbins)
- The Devil To Pay (2006) (Junius Podrug and Harold Robbins)
Harold Robbins Book Series
Predators (Posthumous Releases)
Madison Dupree (Harold Robbins, Junius Podrug)
(All posthumous releases)
Top 5 Books by Harold Robbins
1. The Carpetbaggers (1961)
This is Robbins’ most successful novel—and the story is set in the aviation industry and Hollywood of the 1930s. It follows a young New Yorker’s life of crime and his rise and fall.
When playboy Jonas Cord inherits his father’s industrial empire, fame, and his young, beautiful wife, Rina Marlow.
He ruthlessly rises to power and—with the help of Rina—takes Hollywood and the airplane industry by storm.
They break a few hearts along the way, but they soon find out that money, power, and revenge would never be enough.
Where will their ambitions take them?
2. The Pirate (1974)
Harold Robbins liked telling playboy tales, rich playboys.
This one is a story about Badyr Al Fay, one of the richest men in the Middle East, who has convictions and behaviors that are somewhat contradictory. He is devoted to his business and his Muslim faith but he also loves a Western lifestyle replete with sensuous pleasure.
He controls one of the most powerful oil-producing regions in the Middle East, but Badyr Al Fay’s past is after him.
He has a hidden past that even he is ignorant of—although he was raised an Arab, he was a Jew.
He was born in a desert sandstorm that took his mother’s life, and he was unaware of his Israeli identity.
Baydr’s past threatens his safety, his family’s safety, and the safety of his business empire. He has to look for friends in the unlikeliest of places to protect everything that he holds dear.
3. The Dream Merchants (1949)
The Dream Merchants takes us back to the early days of Hollywood before it became known as the world’s most glamorous industry.
The novel spent 11 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, maybe because it was super good or because it explored Robbins’—almost everyone’s—favorite themes of passion, intrigue, power, and money.
The book chronicles a time when men and women flooded California with dreams of making it in Hollywood at all costs.
The paths of three ambitious individuals are about to collide. There is Peter Kessler, a man who turns his back on a quiet and noble life in a small town to bet his fortune on the movie business, Johnny Edge, a former carnival barker armed with schemes and ambition, and starlet Dulcie Warren, a beautiful woman who is ready use her sexuality to get to the top.
Will these three ambitious individuals make a successful team or will they destroy it all?
4. Never Love a Stranger (1948)
Never Love A Stranger is Harold Robbins’ debut novel and it was first published in 1948. A crime and gangster film based on this novel—and with the same title—was made in 1958.
The novel tells the tale of Francis Kane (Frankie), who came from needy beginnings to become one of New York City’s most dangerous men.
It is Harold Robbins so don’t expect Frankie’s life to lack the usual themes such as passion, power, sex, and the glamorous side of city life.
Francis Kane is an orphan growing up in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen. He gets kicked out of a Catholic orphanage when it is found out that he is of Jewish descent. He quickly turns to a life of crime and works his way up.
As Frankie rules the city with an iron fist, his childhood friend, Jerry, becomes a tenacious district attorney—hell-bent on bringing Frankie down.
The funny inspiration behind this novel is a $100 bet. He was challenged that he couldn’t write a bestseller, and that bet led to the book that launched Robbins’ prolific career.
5. Dreams Die First (1977)
It’s a 1960s California and Gareth Brendan, a miserable Vietnam vet is surviving off his unemployment checks.
His luck changes when his wealthy, powerful uncle tells him to take control of a failing underground newspaper. Gareth wants to turn the newspaper into a porn magazine, which will feature a new cover girl each week.
After this period of Brendan’s life, the story becomes a Rollercoaster, as it narrates Brendan’s fight with hired goons before moving to a period when Brendan is mega-wealthy and owns a resort in Mexico.
Some critics have said that Dreams Die First has a plot that jumps around. Read the novel to find out for yourself!
Harold Robbins, a writer renowned for pioneering a lewd style of mass-market fiction that capitalized on people’s thirst for tales of extravagant and lascivious lives of famous people.
To his critics, he was a talentless writer who only produced potboilers and “airport novels,” but to his fans, he’s a legend that wrote about things that excited and satisfied them.
Doesn’t matter which side of the argument you are, we can all agree that whatever formula he used worked for him, for the most part.