CriminOlly thinks: 1980s doorstop bonkbuster is fun when it comes to sex and showbiz but falls flat when it tries to be a crime novel 3/5
Title: Hollywood Wives | Author: Jackie Collins | Series: Hollywood #1 | Publisher: Simon & Schuster | Pages: 705 | Publication date: 1983 | Source: Self-purchased | Content warnings: Yes | Tolerance warning: Yes
Hollywood Wives might seem like a strange book to feature on a blog that focuses on crime and pulp fiction, but it is a mystery at heart. What’s more it’s a novel that is more than happy to the kind of mix of kinky sex and violence that any pulp hack would be proud to feature in one of their books.
Published in 1983 it remains author Jackie Collins’ most successful book, having spawned sequels and TV spin offs. As the title suggests it focuses a number of women in Los Angeles either in or connected to the movie industry – the wife of a male star, an ageing sex kitten who wants to take on more serious roles, a screenwriter married to a successful director, and a ruthless agent. There are a pretty much equal number of male characters, most notably an ex-hustler trying to make it as an actor, as well as the various husbands.
A lot of the Hollywood related action revolves around the production of a movie, Street People, which most of the characters end up having some connection to. The crime element is present right from the start, the book opens with the brutal machete murders of three people and chapters involving both the murderer and the detective pursuing him are interspersed and ultimately entwined with the Street People story.
The plot isn’t what draws readers to this book though. It’s all about the sex really and there’s a lot of it. Most of the characters end up sleeping with at least one other of the cast at some point (often more) and the variety of the erotic activity described is impressive. Most memorably perhaps an amorous medical emergency which results in the participants literally locked together like dogs.
Aside from that creativity around all things sexual, the writing is fairly perfunctory. The characters are broad stereotypes, the dialogue is serviceable and there’s no lack of incident, even if Collins doesn’t often squeeze as much tension out of the events as a better writer might have. Crucially, for this review, the crime elements are much less well handled than the sex and showbiz. The investigation into the initial murder feels like a tacked on afterthought rather than an integral part of the novel. The storylines do converge towards the end, but in a fairly unconvincing way.
There are also some strange attempts at humour which fall very flat – things like a British character with a very strange mockney accent and a PI called Little Schitz. For all that it’s very readable, sleazy and schlocky and fun in the same way trashy TV is. At 700 pages it’s way longer than it needs to be, but clearly lots of readers have managed to and in a way the length is part of the fun.
They lunch at Ma Maison and the Bistro on salads and hot gossip. They cruise Rodeo Drive in their Mercedes and Rolls, turning shopping at Giorgio and Gucci into an art form. They pursue the body beautiful at the Workout and Body Asylum.
Dressed by St. Laurent and Galanos, they dine at the latest restaurants on the rise and fall of one another’s fortunes. They are the Hollywood Wives , a privileged breed of women whose ticket to ride is a famous husband.
Hollywood. At its most flamboyant.
Content Warning: Racism, homophobia, rape, incest, child abuse, underage sex, drug addiction, alcoholism
Tolerance Warning: Homophobia, racism