The Lonely Lady, Harold Robbins, 1977

Smut King Goes Faux-Feminist


Spoilers ahead.

Harold Robbins is the one best selling author whose novels are closest to straight-up pornography without actually belonging to that genre. His later day novels tended to become increasingly formulaic with their down-on-his-luck-guy-makes-good premises thus The Lonely Lady makes a somewhat curious exception as the main protagonist here is a female, an ambitious but troubled writer Jerilee Randall who tries to make a career for herself in New York theatre world and Hollywood.

In contrary to Robbins’ male heroes who start in a rut but thing gets gradually better after that in their chosen line of business (writer, men’s magazine editor, sexy lingerie manufacturer etc.) Jerilee starts as a small town girl who becomes a trophy wife of wealthy novelist, whom she divorces, but whilst trying to make it on her own she faces evermore devastating setbacks, in no small part because of her tendency to rely on all the wrong people and make the stupidest of choices. The reader gets to follow as Jerilee goes through series of ill-advised professional and/or sexual relationships with a string of men -and women- which transforms her from mentioned trophy wife to a failing play writer, go-go dancer, porn actress, prostitute and drug-ravaged mental ward patient. She does eventually bounce back and makes a name as an novelist with her book, aptly titled Good Girls Go to Hell, which sees her being nominated for Academy Awards for the best script. But her triumph is a pyrrhic victory as on the moment of her greatest glory she decides to throw it all away to protest the exploitation that women face in a show business.

Regardless what the latter sounds, make no mistake, Lonely Lady is no more a feminist book than Gone With The Wind is anti-slavery, it only seems as if Robbins wanted a somewhat respectable disguise for his usual raunch-fest by taking the “victim’s”, the female’s point of view. However, Lonely Lady is, as far as I know, the closest thing Robbins became to make an artistic statement and there is some downbeat, been-there-done-that authenticity to be sensed in Jerilee’s failures and creative dead ends. The book also provides a portrait of an cultural climate change of 1960’s and 1970’s United States as Jerilee moves from champagne cocktail sipping member of New York’s high society to a beatnik playwriter and a B-movie actress and further to an barbiturate devouring wreck in cheap porn studios. Unfortunately she does not make particularly layered or occasionally not even sympathetic heroine and reader is not given much explanation what has brought upon her inner demons apart of her clichéd, oppressive small town upbringing. It is not until final pages that we learn that the true source of misery is –surprise- her unkind and uncaring mother.

In 1983 The Lonely Lady was made to a movie of the same name which nowadays is widely regarded as one the all time turkeys starring an equally reviled early eighties starlet Pia Zadora as Jerilee.

Windmills of the Gods, Sidney Sheldon, 1987

If It Looks Too Good To Be True…


Spoilers ahead.

Windmills of the Gods is Sidney Sheldon’s best novel, a tight political thriller completely free of his besetting writer’s sin, long flashbacks and mostly unnecessary character history. WOTG starts with a presumption that Donald Reagan did not rule his second term or that George Bush lost and US has a new liberal President Paul Ellison. In his campaign, Ellison promised to improve relations with the Soviet Union and other countries behind the then-existing Iron Curtain and is moving forward in a timely manner to open an embassy in Romania, which is ruled by dictator Alexandros Ionescu (an obvious alter ego of the real life dictator Nicolae Ceausescu). The new ambassador is a real wild card, Mary Ashley, mother of two in Kansas and a professor of political sciences at the local university. Selection of a total amateur for such important position causes great disapproval and ridicule but no one knows that there is a secret group behind it, they are called Liberators and their members include high level politicians and prominent people around the world. They resent President Ellison’s plan and have sworn to destroy it by killing sweet Mary and her children when the time comes and casting the blame of the assasination on Russians. Though the tragedy has already hit Mary’s life because she was initially reluctant to take the post due to family reasons and the Liberators had her loving doctor husband Edward killed by arranging a fatal car accident.

Mary Ashley is probably Sheldon’s most multi-layered and real heroine and he shows versatility as a writer by describing Mary’s everyday family life in Kansas as well vividly paints a picture of a high-level diplomat’s life in Washington and Bucharest. WOTG provides an entertaining information package of how daunting it actually is as an ambassador. Early wake up, office work grind all day, afterwards a delegation dinner in one or another embassy, ​​followed by 1-5 cocktail parties to attend, sleep at midnight and wake up again in the morning at six o’clock for another similar day. By his eighth book, another Sheldon trademark, globetrotting, is well presented as the story moves from Buenos Aires to Paris, Rome and Romania, whilst The Liberators hold their sinister meetings in English castles, Russian factories, Finnish farmhouses. They are only known as code names after ancient gods, Thor, Zeus, Vishnu… thus the book title Windmills of the Gods.

The mystery concerning the identity of the high-ranking assassin only known as Angel hired do the dirty deed is very clever and copied at least once in a Mission Impossible episode. Highly exciting is also Mary’s, her children’s as well a few hundred of top-ranking guest’s rescue out of the harm’s way during the US embassy’s 4th of the July reception in Bucharest.

4038D28F00000578-4504798-image-a-51_1494777831599 Jaclyn Smith, best knows as Kelly Garrett in original Charlie’s Angels, plays Mary Asley in a miniserie based on Widmills of the Gods.


Nicolae Ceausescu, 1918-1989, former president of Romania to whom the fictional character of Alexandros Ionescu is based.


Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest, Romania, built Originally by Nicolae Ceausescu is the largest administrative building in the world with a floor space in  excess of  365,000m2.

Master of the Game, Sidney Sheldon, 1982

Evil Rich Granny


Spoilers ahead.

It has been a century since the birth of late Sidney Sheldon, Great Silverhead of Bestsellers, and I have decided to dedicate this and several following blog posts to celebrate the anniversary. I start with Master of the Game; whilst Sheldon was already massively successful back in the 1970’s, this was the book that catapulted his fame into a new level in early eighties. Maybe fittingly for the decade, the keyword seemed to be “more!” as everything is overstated in this saga of the super rich Blackwell family; characters, emotions, locales, situations and space of time.

The story begins back in 1880’s when a young and dreamy Scottish lad Jamie McGregor arrives to South Africa among tens of thousands other hopefuls during the Diamond Fever. He has to fight all odds and go through a terrible ordeal on a hellish route to cutthroat mushroom town of Klipdrift and further in the hostile South African desert only to see his miraculously found diamonds conned away by his lecherous financier, Afrikaner merchant Salomon Van Der Merwe who also tries to have him murdered.

Jamie escapes death with unexpected help from Banda, a young brave of oppressed Bantu-tribe who has his own axe to grind with Van Der Merwe. The two embark on a suicidal foray for a mercilessly guarded diamond field of Van Der Merwe in Namibian desert and manage to loot diamonds worth of half-million pounds, which proves to be the nest egg of the McGregor-Blackwell fortune. Until this point I can firmly recommend MOTG because the usually shallow on details Sheldon makes a good effort to bring the colourful Diamond Fever era South Africa to life. Also Jamie’s and Banda’s sea cliff-, bloodthirsty dog-, rifle touting guard- and landmine defying escape from the diamond field is one of the most exiting things he ever wrote.

Unfortunately right after that the story sets gears for a melodramatic soap opera when Jamie disguises himself as a wealthy heir and returns to Klipdrift where he puts his revenge into motion by seducing Van Der Merwe’s innocent daughter Margaret and ripping off his entire fortune penny by penny. During the process Jamie established his own company Kruger-Brent, which grows and grows until he is one the richest men in a world, whilst growing colder and colder himself until he is not all that different than his would-be father in law Van Der Merwe. Jamie’s only relative soft spot is Banda and he makes some valiant efforts to help his suffering people in throes of South Africa’s apartheid regime (back in the eighties it was nearly impossible to write a book set in South Africa without making some statement about the country’s then-current political situation). All this before the actual protagonist, Jamie’s daughter Kate has not even been born and there is still 90 years worth of story to go. Kate is the sole heir of his father’s fortune and in her need/drive/obsession to the “Master of the Game” she mounts the MacGregor wealth until Kruger-Brent is a largest company in the entire world with a net worth of 10 billion dollars.

The problem is, that whilst the reader is able to understand the reasons behind Jamie’s terrible deeds, Kate is just plain terrible person who does not hesitate to use her money and her skills of manipulation to drive away her future husband David Blackwell’s true love, to secretly destroy their son Tony’s budding painting career to keep him in the family company and sleeping with a lovelorn executive manager Brad Rogers for the same reason. Later Kate gets a run for her money –no pun intended- by her evil and cunning granddaughter Eve, who seeks to destroy Kate and her angelic 100% identical twin sister Alexandra. Rather lurid plotting ensues, involving sadistic Greek playboy George Mellis, botched plastic surgery and murder, before the saga ends to year 1982 as Kate celebrates her 90th birthday.

By then Eve has been defeated and Alexandra has given birth to a bright and delightful grandson Robert, who shows remarkable talent on a piano. On the last line Kate offers to help Robert with his music career but it is left to a speculation if she’s sincere or up to her old tricks again all in the name of Kruger-Brent.


Sidney Sheldon 1917 – 2007