Judith Krantz: a nice Jewish girl who became queen of the ‘bonkbuster’
With competent, ambitious and ravishing heroines, she weathered sharp criticism as she pioneered a genre
Judith Krantz, who has died at the age of 91, became one of the world’s bestselling authors as a pioneer of the “sex’n’shopping” novel, the genre known in Britain as the “bonkbuster”.
After many years as a successful magazine journalist, when she was 50 she published Scruples, the first of 10 brick-thick, glossy-covered novels about life in the jet set and the fashion world, in 1978. It was the story of Billy Winthrop, an overweight, nicely brought-up Boston girl who goes off for a spell as a paying guest with a countess in Paris and comes home a svelte, sex-ridden tough cookie. After a lovingly documented period of sexual experimentation, she marries an elderly millionaire whose death leaves her with the capital to found Scruples, the most upmarket boutique in Los Angeles.
It set a template from which Krantz’s subsequent novels rarely deviated. Her heroines were competent, ambitious and ravishing – “I could write a book about a plain woman,” she told one interviewer, “but it would be damned hard” – and her heroes were handsome, devious and on the make. The backdrops comprised the glitzy, bitchy worlds of the Paris fashion houses and artists’ studios, the model agencies and board rooms of New York, the casting offices of Hollywood and the seething underworld of White Russian émigrés...