My Life In Books: Jackie Collins

The books that shaped her life

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We re-visit our interview with the late, great best-selling author and queen of Hollywood glamour Jackie Collins.

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

‘I read this at school where I didn’t find 
much interesting, but 
I loved Dickens. 
I remember they tried to force Shakespeare down our throats and 
I had absolutely no interest in it whatsoever – I thought it was flowery 
and ridiculous and I couldn’t see the characters. But I thought Dickens’s 
novels really gave you an impression 
of what London was like at the end of 
the 19th century. Once you can bring 
the character off the page in a single sentence then you know you’ve got 
a master storyteller.’

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The Adventurers by Harold Robbins

‘I was about 13 when 
I read this; I liked racy books! But I found that Robbins’ female characters were always in the kitchen or the bedroom, so it was either cooking or f***ing! 
I said to myself, “When I start to write, they’re going to be very well-rounded women who can do anything.” I think I was one of the first people to write strong women who didn’t dissolve into tears at the end of the story and say, “Oh, you’re going to marry me, how wonderful!”’

The Godfather by Mario Puzo

‘This is my favourite 
book of all time. I was one of the first people to read 
it – I asked the publisher 
to get it for me in proof form and 
I thought, “This is fantastic!” It was one of those books that inspired me to write more. When I wrote the first book in the 
Lucky Santangelo series, I said it was 
my Godfather because it was about 
a gangster with a heart of gold. I’d 
met all the characters in The Godfather 
so I based Chances on them. It really 
changed everything – and that’s what 
a book should do.’

The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton

‘I remember reading this when I was young, under the covers at night, and thinking, “Wow.” It’s about these children who live in a wood and discover a tree that’s home to incredible characters – like Silky the Fairy and Saucepan Man – and they’re all very cleverly drawn. I’ve always thought that reading should fire your imagination with strong pictures. Nobody read in my house – my parents weren’t encouraging at all. In fact the only book 
I ever saw was Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which my father kept in a brown-paper wrapper beside his bed! But I fell in love with books. I was a loner at school, and I much preferred reading to going out to parties.’

Heartsick by 
Chelsea Cain

‘This is about 
a serial killer called Gretchen who’s the most devious and dangerous killer since Hannibal Lecter. I’m completely obsessed with her. I love crime fiction – 
I’m not down with fancy, romantic, chick-lit books. This 
is so compelling; I read it in five hours. 
I’m saving the latest installment to read 
on the plane. Flights are my time to read.’

Tropic of Capricorn by
 Henry Miller

‘When I was a teenager we holidayed in France. There was a store that sold books that were banned in England. I came home with a copy of this – it makes Fifty Shades of Grey look like a school book. 
I thought, “Why are they banning a book about sex?” I’ve always said you can’t enjoy sex in a book unless you enjoy the characters – otherwise it’s just boring porn. And sex doesn’t have to be graphic. If you’re a good writer, you can take your reader to a point and then their imagination will take over.’

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