Harold Robbins: The Man Who Invented Sex by Andrew Wilson - review by Sam Leith

Sam Leith

Hanky Panky

Harold Robbins: The Man Who Invented Sex


Bloomsbury 311pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

The comic Viz has a character in it called Aldridge Prior the Hopeless Liar. ‘I'm Napoleon Bonaparte,’ he will declare, his expression dimly blank. ‘No, I'm not. I'm Jimi Hendrix. I invented Mickey Mouse, you know. I've got the Nolan Sisters living in my fridge. Fact.’

Harold Robbins – described in his pomp as ‘the Onassis of supermarket literature’ – was in fact the Aldridge Prior of 1970s pulp. He claimed to have been an orphan; to have been raised by a strict Catholic order; to have been the sole survivor of a submarine torpedoed at sea; to have been a dope-runner; to have been a casual rent-boy; to have made and lost a million dollars by his early twenties...

Actually, Harold Robbins was a short, squat, balding filing clerk from a respectable Jewish family, who never went anywhere near the navy and married a nice but dowdy girl-next-door. Or that, at least, was how he started out.

Then came the success of novels like Never Love a Stranger, The Betsy,

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