Harold Robbins

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Robbins, Harold

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Robbins, Harold 1912–

Robbins is a best-selling American novelist who specializes in sex-and-violence and exposé of modern industry. His books include The Carpetbaggers and The Betsy.

The Inheritors, set in New York and Hollywood, is a glossy, beautifully-wrapped package deal in which everything is king-size and ostentatious. The men are hard-drinking, ruthless and dedicated to the fast buck. Sharper even than C P Snow's careerists, they never miss a trick. The girls are California-tanned, exquisitely clothed and still more exquisite unclothed. The men live for success, the girls for the men who have made it big. Copulation thrives but business always comes first. Nice guys finish last….

Nobody can accuse Harold Robbins of not telling a story. He knows how to handle narrative and keep the novel on the move. As for style, it's crisp and throwaway. You won't need a dictionary to help you read this book. He drops in the occasional Hippie word ('uptight'), a few Yiddish ones ('schmuck') and comes up with a good deal of Americanese ('He sold like crazy').

There are hardly any births, an incredible number of fast copulations and only one death…. (p. 42)

This … is the story of the growth of American TV and the late flowering of the Dream City. It goes a long way to explain the revolt of the American young against the gods worshipped by their parents. (p. 43)

Robert Greacen, in Books and Bookmen (© copyright Robert Greacen 1971), April, 1971.

It is difficult for me to say how disgusting I find [The Betsy]. Not because of the sex which afflicts almost everyone in it to an alarming degree, but because of its tone. The Betsy is the name of a brand new motor car—the car everyone will buy and which will sweep the market. It is the dream of 91-year-old Loren Hardeman, Number One of Bethlehem Motors, the family firm he started…. As the complications, board-room chicanery and industrial espionage get underway, we are given a full-length history of Loren in flashback form. This book is described hopefully as 'a devastating look at modern business', but is about as realistic and pungent as Batman. When in doubt unzip your flies seems to be the motto of everyone involved, and when cornered take off your belt and lay about you.

The superficiality of the characters is beyond belief; the mechanical setting-up of the sexual bouts is crude and the fact that everyone in the saga seems either vicious or bats or both doesn't help at all. (p. 67)

Roger Baker, in Books and Bookmen (© copyright Roger Baker 1971), April, 1971.

Yes, junk fans, it's a mano a mano for novelists who are all thumbs. Two of the greatest schlockmeisters in the history of solid waste have just published novels about the auto industry. Arthur Hailey's Wheels appeared at the beginning of the fall season…. Now comes Harold Robbins to gun down Hailey with—The Carburetors? No, with The Betsy….

Despite the literary failings of Hailey's and Robbins' competing car novels, the awards committee will announce its selections:

Worst title: basically a standoff with a slight edge for Robbins.

Number of pages: Robbins, 502 to Hailey's 374.

Most sensitive writing: Robbins' "giant shaft of white-hot steel" and "searing sheet of flame" far outclass Hailey's modest "her heart beat faster."…

Neatest reach for historical verisimilitude: Robbins, who in a flashback has Hardeman telephone Walter Reuther in 1937 to warn him that the Battle of the Overpass (in which auto company goons beat up unsuspecting union organizers) is about to occur.

John Skow, "Internal Combustion," in Time (reprinted by permission from Time, The Weekly Newsmagazine; copyright Time Inc.), December 13, 1971, p. E7.

A Stone for Danny Fisher , published during the year that Dwight D. Eisenhower won office as President of the United States on the campaign formula K1 C2 (Korea, Communism, and Corruption), captured the agony of urban dwellers hungering to transmit their hopes, fears, dreams, and nightmares to their offspring. To some readers the book...

(The entire section is 1,469 words.)