Yesterday (Sunday 19th September) I had an unusual experience. I found out that a writer I had loved and read voraciously had died. Nothing especially odd in that, I hear Enid Blyton isn’t exactly going strong these days. Except that, it was a writer from so long in the mists of my own reading life, that I had forgotten I ever read her, enjoyed her, been influenced by her.
I can’t really pinpoint when I first discovered the Jackie Collins canon, but I know I was in primary school, probably about 10 years of age. I also can’t remember how I came across a doorstop-sized bonkbuster aimed at grown women, suffice to say that I have a dim memory of being into gangster films around this time and being attracted to what, I now know to be, the first of her books about Lucky Santangelo, Chances.
But I do remember reading and re-reading that book. I do remember the yellowed pages, the smell of cheap paperback glue disintegrating and the pencil written 25p jumble sale price tag.
Oh, and the sex. I remember the sex as only a little boy in a pre-internet age could. Jackie Collins taught me anatomical details hitherto unmentioned in south coast Church of England primary school education and hinted towards untold riches for the gainfully exploratory. A lesson stored for the (all too distant) future, I remember thinking even then…
I remember action, gangster stories told with brisk clarity and swift violence. This was The Godfather but with more sex. A heady brew for the time. So much so, that I went on to read Lucky, the sequel, and – memorably startling the wee Reading Assistant who came into hear the year 6s read – Lady Boss the third instalment.
It occurs to me now, I was probably quite an odd child. But, no one really seemed concerned in the late 80s that what I was reading was probably vastly inappropriate. They just liked that I was reading at all.
I drifted away from Jackie. I dipped back in during my mid-teens but I never really took up the habit again – like smoking in reverse. I remember seeing her face on the back of the novels and being a bit alarmed (I don’t know what her stance on plastic surgery was, but all I can say for decorum sake is I found her disturbing).
Anyway, as I said, I drifted away from Jackie. But in her genre she could write. Effectively, efficiently and – I know realise – she did things for women readers (and, clearly, some men too) that stuffier ‘artsy’ writers couldn’t.
So, I’m sorry she went out of my mind for all this time. She deserved better. Now, I wonder if I can get hold of her back numbers on my i-pad…
If you are interested, you can find her work here:
And there’s a lovely obituary here: