Obituary

She overcame fear of flying and began writing

After 10 novels, Judith Krantz retired from writing fiction when she was 70.
After 10 novels, Judith Krantz retired from writing fiction when she was 70.PHOTO: NYTIMES

LOS ANGELES • Judith Krantz, the writer of best-selling novels such as Scruples (1978) and Princess Daisy (1980), who stoked women's yearnings for professional success, romantic adventure and Rodeo Drive fashion, has died. She was 91.

Krantz died at her home in California of natural causes, the Associated Press reported, citing her son Tony Krantz, a television and movie producer.

Judith Krantz was among the most commercially successful female novelists, selling more than 100 million copies in dozens of languages.

She became an author at age 50 after gaining inspiration from conquering her fear of flying. Ten novels later, at age 70, she retired from fiction writing, saying she had nothing more to tell her readers.

Each Krantz book usually involved a beautiful young heroine who satisfies her taste for glamorous clothing and powerful men while navigating her way through the cut-throat worlds of fashion, advertising and the Hollywood movie industry.

From the stylish heiress Billy Winthrop in Scruples, her first novel, to the movie star Tessa in The Jewels Of Tessa Kent (1998), her last one, Krantz presented female characters who encountered emotional dilemmas and obstacles on their path towards opportunity.

"I strongly suspect that the difficulties I lived through are the elements in my life that finally made me a storyteller," she wrote in her autobiography, Sex And Shopping: The Confessions Of A Nice Jewish Girl (2000). "Looked at as a stream in which one thing led to another, the events of my life and how I coped with them tell me who I am. A woman should have a clear idea of who she is."

The circumstances of her main protagonists were sometimes drawn from Krantz's own life, from the young woman living in Paris, reflected in the Scruples storyline, to a distant relationship with her mother, a relative who often disappeared early from the lives of her main characters. In Princess Daisy , Krantz also recreated the sexual abuse she endured as a teenager.

Scruples was on the New York Times bestseller list for more than a year. In 1979, the paperback rights to Princess Daisy fetched a then-record US$3.2 million, the New York Times reported.

Seven of Krantz's books were adapted for television in the form of a mini-series or TV movie.

Some of them, including Mistral's Daughter (1982) and Dazzle (1990), were produced or co-produced by her husband Stephen Krantz. She did not publish any books after her autobiography in 2000.

Judith Tarcher was born on Jan 9, 1928, in New York. The eldest of three children, she had a sister, Mimi, and a brother, Jeremy.

Her father, Jack Tarcher, ran an advertising agency and her mother, Mary "Mickey" Brager, was a Legal Aid Society lawyer born in present-day Lithuania. Krantz, who said both parents paid her little attention, attributed her passion for fashion to her mother's habit of dressing the children in cheap clothing.

After earning a bachelor's degree from Wellesley College, in Massachusetts, in 1948, she moved to Paris, where she worked as a fashion publicist.

She returned to New York and worked as a fashion editor at Good Housekeeping magazine before meeting television producer Stephen Krantz at a party in 1953 through pioneering television journalist Barbara Walters, a school friend. Judith and Steve Krantz married in 1954.

Krantz had two sons, Nicholas and Tony, and lived in the Bel-Air section of Los Angeles. Her husband died at age 83 in 2007.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2019, with the headline 'She overcame fear of flying and began writing'. Print Edition | Subscribe