Jackie Collins will always be one of those writers who has a special place in my heart, because I discovered her at exactly the right age.
I read Chances (stolen from my mother’s bookshelf, of course – like me, she has a particular fondness for a well-executed potboiler) when I was about 13 and reading ‘adult’ books for the first time. Among my favourites were Jilly Cooper, JD Salinger, John Wyndham and, um, Bret Easton-Ellis (I had somehow procured a copy of Less Than Zero under false pretences). Chances quickly joined my list of favourites.
It was unimaginably exciting.
I’m not saying she was Tolstoy, but I think Jackie Collins was a very misunderstood writer. Even the articles in the wake of her death have been saying things like ‘a sad loss to the romance novel world’. Jackie Collins never wrote a romance novel in her life. I like to think she would be appalled by the very suggestion.
There was sex, but there was mostly crime, intrigue, glamour and ridiculous drama. Her greatest inspiration was The Godfather, and it shows. Chances is basically a gangster novel with a bit of extra sex and glamour (which makes it extra fun).
Honestly, if you love a classic gangster novel, read the Santangelo series. Starting with Chances, then Lucky, and then Lady Boss and beyond. The Santangelos are one of the great crime families and Lucky is one of my all-time favourite heroines. She’s ‘kickass’, as Jackie herself was wont to say.
In small tribute to kickass Jackie, I will be re-reading the Santangelo series in its entirety, for the first time since my teenage years.
I was genuinely sad to hear of her death. She wasn’t that old, at 77 – but because she looked so bloody great for her age, it felt like the death of someone much younger. Of course, we are all so familiar with her family that I immediately thought ‘oh, poor Joan’, as if I actually knew them. There was something admirably old-school about the way she kept her illness quiet, completing her book tour and all media commitments only days before she died.
She was one of those women who seemed so indestructible. She was staunch. Women like her seem as if they will go on forever. I wish they could.