Let me state right up front that I understand it is almost an oxymoron to equate Harold Robbins‘ writing to both art and influence. A few weeks ago when I wrote about Herman Wouk, someone commented about one of his books as a “potboiler.” Well, Robbins’ entire career is seemingly potboilers. Yet that does not preclude him from being influential. This review of a bio of Robbins from the New York Times covers part of the reason:
He’d found his gimmick: exploitation, with garish facsimiles of Lana Turner (“Where Love Has Gone”), the South American playboy Porfirio Rubirosa (“The Adventurers”) and the Ford automobile dynasty (“The Betsy”), among others, paraded en déshabillé for our enjoyment.
Robbins’ wiki intro is sparse:
Harold Robbins (May 21, 1916 – October 14, 1997) was an American author of popular novels. One of the best-selling writers of all time, he penned over 25 best-sellers, selling over 750 million copies in 32 languages.
Robbins apparently created a bit of a myth of Harold Robbins, claiming to be:
a Jewish orphan who had been raised in a Catholic boys home. In reality he was the son of well-educated Russian- and Polish-Jewish immigrants. He was raised by his father, who was a pharmacist, and his stepmother in Brooklyn.
Robbins did not invent sex for his books but it looks like he was the first to exploit fairly explicit sex scenes for the best seller lists. The review of his bio from The NY Times linked above is fairly adamant about Robbins being without talent and only in it for the money yet it is hard to sell that many books with no talent at all.