Last week, I donned my very best leopard print and heading deep into the basement of Waterstones Gower Street to join a cult. That cult was similarly shrouded in animal hide and gathered to worship the wonder that was Jackie Collins.
A relatively new convert to the ways of Jackie, what I lack in the length of my devotion I make up in enthusiasm. I read my first Jackie Collins novel, Thrill, last month. Opening the illicit paperback which had none of the usual comforting smell of decades of neglect and feel of foxing that I am used to in my old history books, I was instantly transported into another world. I was in the recent past (imagine that) in Hollywood in the 1990s.
The people were glamorous and their journeys had not been easy; they had killed, shagged, cheated, survived, to be in this world of mansions and movie sets. They had everything and nothing, love was not a guarantee, sex a certainty. I devoured the book in a couple of lengthy sittings, my arse numbing quietly as I lost myself in Jackie’s world. When I emerged, I wanted more.
I am addicted. I am not going to call this a guilty pleasure though because I feel no shame in it. None whatsoever. If you ask me, I will tell you openly and honestly, I love a good Jackie Collins.
It feels daft to say that I am new to fiction – as someone who has written pretty much constantly for many years without always really realising it. I have always been working on a book, or a tutorial, or an article, a blog post, a podcast. Reading has always been a pleasure for which I have struggled to make time. As a result, my reading has been limited to that which I love – history. New history books, old history books, all on the same theme.
It was my friend Sara-Jade Virtue, AKA Book Minx, who encouraged me to make time for fiction. I made short work of her recommendations and enjoyed losing myself in a good book so much that I found an extra hour or two for reading by setting my alarm an hour early and not watching breakfast television. Instead of bombarding myself with current affairs or morose chatter before I’ve even had a chance to put on a pair of knickers, I treat myself to a little distraction from reality.
I’m not perfect – this last week or so has been hard to avoid. I really should not look at Twitter before knickers either.
The worlds that Jackie Collins created are full of unapologetic women who take up space in the world, with men who may try to use them but will often get their comeuppance, with glamour, with grit, with sex. There’s just enough sex to titillate without going into the ins and outs – cheeky, burlesque, racy without being too much to contemplate over breakfast. I’m English – I need a cup of tea before anything else, thank you very much. I adore these women. I celebrate in their triumphs and I give a cheeky wink to their indiscretions.
It is hard not to be impressed with Jackie Collins; her first novel The World is Full of Married Men was published in 1968 and it drew the ire of established veteran of romantic fiction, Barbara Cartland, who went on to blame Jackie for creating all of Britain’s perverts. That is quite an accolade! Appearing with Barbara on Wogan several years later, Jackie was cool and gracious in the face of persistent haranguing from the pink lady.
Jackie Collins published 32 novels between the late 1960s and the 2010s, all of which appeared on the New York Times’ bestsellers list. That is a remarkable achievement. She sold over 500 million copies of her books which have been published all over the world in 40 different languages. Her books continue to sell after her death in 2015 and I am sure that I will not be the only one to find her and to fall in love with her posthumously.
If you love Jackie, or if you have not yet fallen, I have fabulous news for you. Simon & Schuster are reissuing some of Jackie Collin’s works with new introductions written by current authors who adore these books. The first of these is The World is Full of Divorced Women with an introduction by Veronica Henry. You can pick up a paperback for £7.99 or a 99p Kindle edition on Amazon and I dare say that you will be able to find the book in good bookstores too.
Reading is such a pleasure – such a precious pleasure – that I genuinely believe that you should read things that make you happy. Get your nose stuck into a good Jackie Collins soon.