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Novelist Jackie Collins dead of breast cancer at 77

LOS ANGELES — Jackie Collins, the bestselling author of dozens of novels including “Hollywood Wives” that dramatized the lives of the rich and treacherous, has died.

Collins died of breast cancer Saturday in Los Angeles at age 77, says publicist Melody Korenbrot.

“It is with tremendous sadness that we announce the death of our beautiful, dynamic and one-of-a-kind mother, Jackie Collins, who died of breast cancer today,” the Collins family said in a written statement.

“She lived a wonderfully full life and was adored by her family, friends and the millions of readers who she has been entertaining for over four decades. She was a true inspiration, a trailblazer for women in fiction and a creative force. She will live on through her characters, but we already miss her beyond words.”

Collins had been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer more than six years ago but had kept the diagnosis private, according to People magazine, which broke the news of her death.

Author Jackie Collins, seen in February 1968 holding her first book “The World Is Full Of Married Men,” at her apartment in London. Collins died in Los Angeles on Saturday of breast cancer. She was 77. AP file photo
Author Jackie Collins, seen in February 1968 holding her first book “The World Is Full Of Married Men,” at her apartment in London. Collins died in Los Angeles on Saturday of breast cancer. She was 77. AP file photo

Collins had three daughters: Tracy, 54, Tiffany, 48, and Rory, 46.

People reported that Collins did her last interview on Sept. 14 at her home in Beverly Hills, telling the magazine her treatments for her cancer had included a lumpectomy, radiation and different types of chemotherapy.

She also said in the interview that she had no regrets about keeping her illness private — nor anything else.

“Looking back, I’m not sorry about anything I did,” she said in the interview.

“I did it my way, as Frank Sinatra would say. I’ve written five books since the diagnosis, I’ve lived my life, I’ve traveled all over the world, I have not turned down book tours, and no one has ever known until now, when I feel as though I should come out with it.

“Now, I want to save other people’s lives.”

Collins sold more than 500 million copies of her novels, including the latest, “The Santangelos,” published in June. All 32 of her novels have appeared on The New York Times bestsellers list, and nine were adapted into movies or TV miniseries.

Unlike her older sister Joan Collins, the “Dynasty” actress who was a direct part of the 1980s Hollywood glitterati, Jackie Collins chose to document LA lives in her pulpy, page-turning fiction.

Collins wrote what she knew, and that meant stories of sex, glamour, power and more sex —a lot more sex. She began her literary career saying more than some wanted to hear and eventually became the kind of author from whom readers could never get enough, providing a precursor to the culture of “Desperate Housewives” and “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”

Collins told The Associated Press in a 2011 interview that she “never felt bashful writing about sex.”

“As a writer, you can never think about who is going to read your books. Is it going to be my mom? My children? A lot of people say to me, ‘Oh, I read your books under a cover with a flashlight when I was really young, and I learned everything I know about sex from you.’

“I think I’ve helped people’s sex lives. Sex is a driving force in the world, so I don’t think it’s unusual that I write about sex. I try to make it erotic, too.”

Born Jacqueline Jill Collins in London in 1937, her first novel, “The World is Full of Married Men,” was a story of sex and show business set in “Swinging London” in the mid-1960s. It came out in 1968 and became a scandalous best-seller, banned in Australia and condemned by romance writer Barbara Cartland.

“Barbara Cartland said to me, ‘Oh, Miss Collins, your books are filthy and disgusting and you are responsible for all the perverts in England,’” Collins told Porter Magazine in 2014. “I pause for a few moments and said, ‘Thank you.’ ”

Collins followed in the 1970s with books like “The World is Full of Divorced Women” and “Lovers & Gamblers.”

By the 1980s, she had moved to Los Angeles and turned out the 1983 novel she is still best known for, “Hollywood Wives,” which has sold more than 15 million copies. It came at the same time that her sister hit the height of her own fame on “Dynasty.”

“Dynasty” producer Aaron Spelling would also produce the 1985 hit TV miniseries of “Hollywood Wives,” which featured Candice Bergen, Angie Dickinson and Suzanne Somers among others.

It led to follow-ups like “Hollywood Husbands” (1986), “Hollywood Kids” (1984) and Hollywood Wives: The New Generation (2001).

The book made Jackie Collins a celebrity in her own right, and she loved the part, looking, living and behaving more like an actress than an author. In many ways her own persona was her greatest character.

Collins embraced Twitter in her later years and loved the engagement with her over 150,000 followers.

“I love tweeting. I have so much fun with my fans,” she said in an interview in 2011. “I’ve asked them for reviews. I answer people’s questions. Sometimes, I’ll do a little survey and say, ‘Who is hot this week?’ ”

Many were using Twitter to mourn her Saturday night, including Oprah Winfrey who tweeted “RIP Jackie Collins. I always loved our interviews.”

Collins’ books didn’t stick strictly to Hollywood. She penned a series of mafia novels documenting the lives of the Santangelo family, focusing on its patriarch Gino and his daughter Lucky. She wrote nine novels based on her family including her last, “The Santangelos.”

Collins was married twice, the second time to art gallery and nightclub owner Oscar Lerman in 1965. Lerman died in 1992. She was then engaged to Los Angeles businessman Frank Calcagnini, who died in 1998.

Asked in 2011 if she was dating anyone, Collins said ,“I have a man for every occasion.

“When I was a kid growing up, I used to read my father’s Playboy, and I’d see these guys, and they had fantastic apartments and cars,” she said. “I have all of that now. Why would I want to hook myself up with one man when I’ve had two fantastic men in my life? One was my husband for over 20 years, and one was my fiance for six years.”

Her family — which also includes brother Bill and six grandchildren — is planning private memorial services in the United States and Great Britain and asked that any memorial donations be made to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Organization.