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Harold Robbins: The Man Who Invented Sex Hardcover – September 18, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Harold Robbins (1916–1997), whose potboilers sold 750 million copies worldwide during his lifetime, was born into a middle-class Brooklyn Jewish family. But as Wilson relates in this shallow biography, Robbins often fabricated a past as Czar Nicholas's illegitimate son or a lonely orphan who became a sailor indulging in gay sex on a submarine. Early works like the autobiographical, Depression-era A Stone for Danny Fisher showed talent, and his fictionalized portrait of Howard Hughes, The Carpetbaggers, was made into a film and catapulted him to fame. But, Wilson says, Robbins's novels grew schlockier and repetitive as he wrote to sustain his cocaine-fueled lifestyle of fancy cars and mansions, prostitutes and gambling. Particularly damning is the testimony of Robbins's Simon & Schuster editor, Michael Korda, who recalls a bitter, sneering writer tossing off pages in exchange for a check. Hustler founder Larry Flynt's inflated claim that Robbins was as much a celebrity as Tom Cruise is repeated by Wilson with scant skepticism or analysis, and it's doubtful that this lackluster effort will gain Robbins new fans. This misfire by the Edgar-winning biographer of Patricia Highsmith (Beautiful Shadow) is more an extended magazine article intended to titillate than a serious biography or a fruitful dissection of the American bestseller. 8 pages of photos. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“Meticulously researched...Wilson debunks the lies in between a thorough accounting of Robbins' career as novelist and Hollywood celebrity.” ―Chicago Sun Times

“Besides answering nearly every question about its subject…[Harold Robbins is] also better written than an of Robbins's own behemoths…I doubt any future biography of Robbins will equal this one…Wilson is impressively…determined to uncover the reality behind Robbins's fabulations.” ―New York Times Book Review

“[An] interesting book for anyone who wonders what set of circumstances produced Robbins and his wild imagination.” ―Janet Maslin, New York Times

“Andrew Wilson's even-handed biography is both fascinating and deeply disturbing. Wilson illuminates the emotional bankruptcy of a self-made man who got everything he ever wanted -- but who died bitter and alienated. You don't have to remember or even to have read Robbins to relish this spooky bio. Wilson has written a cultural exploration of post-World War II America, when the country appeared to cast off the last shackles of Puritanism in order to embrace guilt-free hedonism--sex, drugs, money and pleasure.” ―USA Today

“Reading this excellent biography, you can't help but think of ' The Great Gatsby, ' as though stacks of silk shirts or plates of lettuce with a lot of fish roe on it would be the ticket -- to what? -- to something bigger, stranger, wilder, weirder. ...Andrew Wilson has written perhaps a better biography of Robbins than Robbins deserved...a fascinating narrative.” ―Washington Post

“The writer's life is almost as fantastic and riveting as his debauchery-driven plots.” ―Columbus Dispatch

“A titillating portrait.” ―Sacramento Bee

“A frank look at the not-always-likable man behind the blockbusters.” ―Bookpage

“Today's Hollywood movers and shakers think they know how to throw wild parties - but none of them can hold a candle to best-selling author Harold Robbins.” ―New York Post

“[A] lot of juicy stuff.” ―Chicago Sun Times


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First edition (September 18, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596910089
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596910089
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,914,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Randall Juge on May 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Man Who Invented Sex was an objective fact finding look at the life and lies of a very mysterious vulgar writer. It almost discouraged me from wanting to be a successful writer if that the price of success. However, I admired this man who wrote The Adventurer; a book I picked up to read on my flight to Vietnam. That one book turned me on to reading other books, besides science books. For years I didn't even remember who wrote the book. As famious as Robbins was to the world, I was clueless to who he was. It was such a delight to rediscover this author but sad at the same time to find out what a fool was behind his genus.
I believe Andrew Wilson did an unbias presentation of the facts about Harold's life.
It was confusing sometimes trying to maintain the timeline because some of the interviews were out of sequence with the story line. Overall it was well done.
Thanks Andrew for sharring it with me.
Randy Juge Author of To Nam and Back
Mandeville, La.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jim Lester on April 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is not only a solid biography but is also an excellent addition to the often neglected history of American popular fiction. Robbins was a fascinating figure whose personal life mirrored some of the heroes of his sex and money best sellers. At the height of his career he sold millions of books and lived a life of glamor and extravagance. The best selling writer as rock star. During his lifetime he often lied about his early years, making them far more dramatic than they actually were and Wilson does an excellent job of separating truth from invention.

The book also confirms something I've always suspected--that A STONE FOR DANNY FISCHER and THE CARPETBAGGERS were actually pretty good novels and after Robbins penned those books he sold out to the temptation to get lazy, write to formula and enjoy the glamor of his jet set life style while producing a string of poorly written, poorly plotted potboilers that were gobbled up by his devoted fans. All of this makes for interesting biographical fare and I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of American popular fiction or anyone who just likes reading about the lives of the rich and famous.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An interesting biography of the rise and crash ( in old age ) of one who excelled in presenting sex as often as possible in pulp form. It shows the old age results of not preparing for decline in earning power.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Eric Rogers on April 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am not quite sure why this book was written other than maybe for the money (after all that is why Robbins wrote) or because the author had some grudge against Robbins. The author lack any of Robbins flair and knack for storytelling whatsoever. The book is written in a way that makes the reader wonder why the author would devote so much time to a subject that he did not care for. If you are looking for a book that will paint maybe your favorite author in a poor light and maybe never like him or his books quite as much again, this is your book. The dust jackets (I have seen two) do envoke the Robbins style of the 70's. There are also a good selection of photos of Robbins over the years, somthing Jann Robbins book lacks at all. True Robbins fans will not care but I would still skip it. This is one of those "warts and all" books that make one wonder if there is not some embellishment taking place. Purchase at own risk, but don't say I didn't warn you.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Traven on May 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Wilson hews to an explicitly stated premise, namely that Harold Robbins only wrote, or did anything else, for money, which is disproven by most facts Wilson relates. Robbins made so little from writing at first that he couldn't quit his day until after his fourth book -- and even that was a gamble. (How much of a gamble is unclear, since Wilson either doesn't know or doesn't tell us what Robbins' day job paid.) He was a devoted family man and friend who took months off to care for a friend who had cancer. He spent lavishly, often on friends, without ever seeming to keep track of money. He called writing "The most fun you can have by yourself except masturbating."

Yes, after he succumbed to drugs (originally taken to increase his writing output) he became crazy and demanding, and yes he was competitive. But to look at his bizarre and interesting life and see someone always looking out for a dime just seems strange, and maybe anti-Semitic. Wilson certainly doesn't back his argument with anything else.
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