Friday, October 04, 2013


The Carpetbaggers, Harold Robbins, Simon & Schuster Inc, 1961, 679 pp

Harold Robbins wrote many bestsellers over his long career and this one was the #4 bestseller in 1961. It was also made into a movie. Robbins hits all the tropes of a big fat trashy page turner. I read tons of books like this when I was in my thirties, raising my sons and dreaming of adventure. It was kind of fun to read one again now that I am such a literary fiction reader.

Jonas Cord, a motherless kid with a Native American cowboy named Nevada Smith as his male nanny, was raised in the Nevada desert on his father's ranch. Mr Cord Sr was a fabulously wealthy, hard bitten tycoon whose tough love left Jonas feeling unloved. When his father keels over from a stroke, Jonas inherits the business at age 20. 

He does his best to become his father, even trying to marry his father's wife. Within a few weeks he suddenly develops business savvy, though he loses out with the wife. He is already a pilot, a womanizer, a hard drinking fearless dude. On it goes through WWI, WWII, the rise of Hollywood, airplanes, and modern life as it was known in the late 1950s.

The women are all beautiful and sexy, the men ruthless and violent, and everyone has something in the past making them act the way they do. Very entertaining, especially the Hollywood parts. I suppose most men wanted to be tycoons and most women wanted to be movie stars in 1961; heck, many still do!

How satisfying to read that the rich and famous also have hard times. Reading it today with all its sex and glamor and business high jinks, I saw that business ethics and Hollywood's methods have always been on the shady side, that human nature craves such stories, and that women are only a couple generations beyond the objectification and exploitation that was simply taken for granted in 1961.

But I never did figure out why the book was called The Carpetbaggers.

(The Carpetbaggers is available in mass market paperback by order [and subject to availability] from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)