LOS ANGELES • Best-selling romance novelist Jackie Collins, whose first book was so steamy that it was banned in some countries, died of breast cancer in Los Angeles on Saturday, her family said. She was 77.
"She lived a wonderfully full life and was adored by her family, friends and the millions of readers who she had been entertaining for more than four decades," her family said in a statement, adding that she had battled breast cancer for more than six years.
"She was a true inspiration, a trailblazer for women in fiction and a creative force. She will live on through her characters, but we already miss her beyond words," added the statement from her daughters, Tracy, Tiffany and Rory.
Britain-born Collins wrote more than 30 books, many of them filled with explicit, unrestrained sexuality and depicted the boardrooms and bedrooms of Hollywood's power crowd. The books sold more than 500 million copies worldwide.
Her first novel, The World Is Full Of Married Men, was published in 1968. Australia and South Africa banned it because of its frank depiction of extramarital sex.
Other early efforts included The Stud, in 1969, and The B****h,
10 years later.
Her 1983 book, Hollywood Wives, was about women living glamorous lives behind the scenes of the industry. The 1985 Lucky and 1990 Lady Boss from her series focused on the ravishing and ambitious character Lucky Santangelo, who was born into an organised crime family.
She followed her elder sister, actress Joan Collins, to Los Angeles when she was a teenager.
She promised readers unrivalled insiders' knowledge of Hollywood and said she wrote about "real people in disguise".
"If anything, my characters are toned down - the truth is much more bizarre," she wrote on her website.
She said people in Hollywood trusted her with their stories because she knew the rules the town lived by and because she was devoted to marriage.
However, she said her life lacked the scandal of her novels. She described writing as her lifelong obsession and confessed to rising at dawn to write out pages in long hand, regularly churning out prodigious numbers of pages.
Many were turned into movies and television miniseries.
In 2001, for instance, she published Hollywood Wives: The New Generation, which followed Hollywood Wives (1983), Hollywood Husbands (1986), Hollywood Kids (1995) and Hollywood Divorces (2001).
It became a New York Times bestseller and, in 2003, was made into a TV movie starring Farrah Fawcett, Melissa Gilbert, Robin Givens and Jack Scalia.
Joan Collins, 82, told People magazine she was "completely devastated" by the loss of her sister.
"She was my best friend," she told the publication. "I admire how she handled this. She was a wonderful, brave and a beautiful person and I love her."
People magazine said the prolific author had been diagnosed with end-stage breast cancer 61/2 years ago and "chose to keep her illness almost entirely to herself".
Her sister learnt of her illness "within the past two weeks," People reported.
"She was very shocked," the author recently told the magazine of her sister's reaction to the news. "She had no idea. But she was great. We were emotional."
Born Jacqueline Jill "Jackie" Collins in London, she became a naturalised United States citizen.
Since her diagnosis in 2007, she has written five books.
In an interview with The New York Times Magazine that coincided with the publication of her 25th book, Drop Dead Beautiful, she said she did not care what reviewers would say about it.
"I never pretended to be a literary writer," she said. "I'm a school dropout."
Tributes poured in as word spread of her passing.
"An amazing woman. Talented. Funny. Kind. One of my very favourite producers ever. She will be deeply missed," actress Melissa Gilbert tweeted.
TV personality Sharon Osbourne tweeted a picture of herself with Collins, adding that she was "Shocked & devastated at the death of @JackiejCollins. Loved & respected her. Thoughts & prayers go out to her family."
Fellow best-selling author Christopher Rice also took to Twitter: "For many readers, Jackie Collins was their first encounter with fully formed, non-self loathing gay characters."
Fans flocked to her official Facebook page in droves to express their shock and sadness.
"RIP Jackie Collins, thanks for all the great reads through the years," wrote Ms Cheryl Englehart. "Though I read them at an age that was probably too young, her books helped me to see that there was a larger world out there, an exciting world."
In addition to her romance novels, Collins wrote a cookbook connected to her Santangelo character, which was published last year.
Her first husband, Oscar Lerman, died of cancer in 1992 after they had been married for 27 years.
Four years later, her fiance, Frank Calcagnini, died of brain cancer. She is survived by her daughters and her sister.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS