I wish I could say that Harold Robbins had a glorious career. But the truth of the matter is, by the late ‘70s, the author had become a shadow of himself. Partying took a toll on his writing and his work suffered. So it came as no surprise that by the time GOODBYE JANETTE (1981, Pocket) was released my appreciation of him had started to dwindle. However I got to admit that this novel was some sort of a turnabout for him. Gone are those male-dominated central characters filling his pages. Just like in 1976 THE LONELY LADY (Robbins at his sleazy best) the focus this time is on a heroine; well, four of them since it’s a multi-generational piece. The setting: the haute couture world—not very macho for a Robbins book. His unfavorable view of women, however, is still an ongoing thing.
Indeed, every female in this book is the scapegoat of his wicked pen. Including the title character who, still a pre-teen, gets used and abused and loves it (!). The culprit is a closeted homosexual (of course he is) who has the biggest peen (of course he does) and has misogynistic tendencies (gasp, double gasp—not). The apparels chosen for her (and his other conquests) could easily rival those of Christian Grey but not his technique. He’s more the sadistic kind. Just like its author, it seems, who clearly gets off making his readership his bitch.
Another thing that is technically omitted from GOODBYE JANETTE is the author’s first-person POV, which is more than fine with me since I’ve never been too keen on this trademark of his. The novel is cut into four parts, spawning over many years and continents. When the story diverges from smut and focuses solely on the business side of fashion GOODBYE JANETTE is a fine read. You can even tell that Robbins has some knowledge on the subject. But these feel-good moments are pretty scarce. Of course, everyone is one-dimensional, and though you feel as if you should at least connect with some character, however big or small, you don’t. Instead you just go with the flow of bad writing and silly situations while shaking your head in dismay.
GOODBYE JANETTE was Robbins’ last hit before being stricken with a heart attack and confined to a wheelchair. He did manage to write other novels until he passed away in 1997. Junius Podrog took over posthumously in the early 2000s. Though his books are supposedly well-tailored I doubt I will get to them. My reading choices have evolved somewhat since then. But if in doing so he has succeeded in putting Robbins name back in lights, more power to him I say. Robbins certainly deserves at least that.
Until next post—Martin