10 Best Books by Harold Robbins For a Thrilling Read

Check out the 10 best books by Harold Robbins for a racy historical read. Each will keep you turning pages until the thrilling and often compelling conclusion.

When thinking about the best historical fiction authors, a writer known for his sensual scenes may not be the first that comes to mind. Still, best-selling author Harold Robbins tackled several historical concepts in his books. Considered one of the best-selling writers of all time, he had over 25 best-sellers in the New York Times and sold over 750 million copies of his books.

Robbins was born in 1916 as Harold Rubin and grew up in New York City. He claimed to be a Jewish orphan raised in a Catholic boy’s home, but this was a false statement. He dropped out of high school in the 1920s before becoming part of the Hollywood scene in the 1940s. He published his first book in 1948 and launched a successful literary career. The author died in 1997 in Palm Springs, California.

1. The Carpetbaggers

Best Books by Harold Robbins: The Carpetbaggers
Rob Croes for Anefo, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Carpetbaggers, which Robbins published in 1961, was the first of two books about Jonas Cord and Rina Marlow. In the book, Jonas, a Howard Hughes-like character, is the adult son of a wealthy man who was married to a young star, Rina Marlow. When the father dies, Jonas takes his fortune and his wife’s. Yet their lust for power and ambition take them where they never thought possible. 

The Raiders is the sequel to this book, and it continues the story, taking it to Mexico, New York, and Cuba. It even takes the reader to Sin City for a portion of the story. Interestingly, the sequel didn’t come out until 1995. If you liked this round-up of history books, you might also like our guide on the best Catherine Cookson books.

“Every man has his price. For some it’s money, for some it’s women, for others glory. But the honest man you don’t have to buy – he winds up costing you nothing.”

Harold Robbins

2. Never Love a Stranger

Never Love a Stranger was his first book. It tells of Francis Kane, also known as Frankie, who grows out of squalor to work his way up and become one the most dangerous people in New York City. The book shows that Robbins could capture the ugly side of life while still developing characters that people wanted to read about. Interestingly, Robbins wrote this book because someone made him a $100 bet that he couldn’t write a book that made it to the best-seller list. When he published the book in 1948, he won that bet.

“Friends are more than just people who will listen to what you have to say and agree with you. Sometimes they have to tell you things you don’t want to hear for your own sake. Please listen to what we have to say.”

Harold Robbins

3. Where Love Has Gone

Where Love Has Gone was published in 1962, and it takes on the story of Johnny Stompanato, Lana Turner’s murdered lover. Though the story is a fiction work about a man named Luke Carey, it was pulled from a real-life murder tale. In this story, Luke is enjoying his life when he suddenly gets contacted by his estranged teenage daughter. This forces him to face his ex, creating a compelling drama full of mystery. In addition, it pulls the reader into San Francisco in the 1960s.

“‘You have a daughter named Danielle?’ A sudden fear clutched at my insides. ‘Yes, I have,’ I said quickly. ‘Is anything the matter?’ ‘I reckon there is,’ he said slowly. ‘She just committed murder!’”

Harold Robbins

4. A Stone for Danny Fisher

A Sone for Danny Fisher, published in 1952, is a gritty book that tells of the ambition and hope of a Jewish teenager against the backdrop of Depression-era New York City. It takes a teenage boxer named Danny Fisher and puts him in league with a prostitute named Ronnie, a bookie named Sam, and a girl named Nellie. They all work together to help Danny survive on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. This book was groundbreaking for its time because of its racy undertones. It is not a feel-good story, but it moves the reader as they follow Danny through his challenging life and his love story.

“I was not a great man whose history has been recorded for children to study in school. No bells will ring for me, no flags descend upon their mast. For I was an ordinary man, my son, one of many, with ordinary hopes and ordinary dreams and ordinary fears.”

Harold Robbins

5. The Dream Merchants

In 1949, Robbins published his second novel, The Dream Merchants. It tells of the passionate women and influential men of early Hollywood who would do whatever it took to push their way to the top. It brings together three people against the backdrop of Magnum Pictures, a Hollywood studio, as they show just how deep they will go to find success. This book drew on Robbins’ experiences with Universal Pictures. It eventually became a miniseries featuring a star-studded cast that included Morgan Fairchild and Mark Harmon.

“The story that followed was the usual thing. History of the picture company. History of me. I found a little at that. They didn’t skip the fact that I had been divorced from that famous actress, Dulcie Warren.”

Harold Robbins

6. The Pirate

The Pirate deviates from America and takes the reader to the Middle East; Robbins published this work in 1974. It tells the tale of Badyr Al Fay, one of the wealthiest men in his area, who was raised as an Arab. However, he’s an Israeli, and that fact, combined with two women in his life, sends him on a political web of mystery, allies, and lies. This particular book takes on the world of Mideast oil and terrorism, which shows why Robbins is such a great storyteller. It has a less suggestive nature than some of his other works but is still true to his style.

“It was the eighth day of the storm. There had never been a storm like this one before. Not even in the memory of old Mustapha, the camel keeper.”

Harold Robbins

7. The Curse

The Curse is part of the Madison Dupre series. This series is unique because it bears the name of Harold Robbins as an author but was written and published in 2011 after his death through his estate. Junius Podrug was the co-author of this series. The Curse opens with art investigator Madison Dupre tracking down a fake Egyptian artifact. Unfortunately, she ends up entangled in a world of murder and sexual cult worship that is true to the classic literature books of Harold Robbins. Other books in the series include The Looters, The Deceivers and The Shroud.

“A man was standing just off the curb below with a bullhorn, a skinny runt with big black frame glasses and acne on his face. The bullhorn didn’t fit. Guys with bullhorns were hostage negotiators who tried to talk wackos with guns and hostages out of buildings. He looked like a computer nerd.”

Harold Robbins/Junius Podrug

8. The Betsy

The Betsy is the first in a series of two books that follows Angelo Perion, a racecar driver, and Loren Hardeman, an automobile tycoon, as they set out to create the most advanced automobile, called The Betsy. It takes readers into the shocking world of the automotive industry and the passion and ambition that characterize it. Because of its automotive themes, The Betsy starts in Detroit. Robbins published The Betsy in 1971. The sequel, The Stallion, was published in 1996, just before his death. Some biographers believe a ghostwriter wrote it.

“No. But this isn’t my bag. You know that. These cars don’t make any noise.” “Someday all cars won’t make noise,” he said.”

Harold Robbins

9. Never Enough

Never Enough is one of several works published after Robbins’ death. It is possible he wrote some of the novels, or it could have been the work of a ghostwriter. It takes on his style, though, and was published in 2001. When investment banker David Shay doesn’t show up to his high school reunion, he walks away from his past and a crime he committed as a youth. Eventually, fate catches up with him, and this book tells how the secret comes to be known. You might be interested in exploring fiction books, such as the best William Faulkner novel.

“Four of them were together that evening: David Shea, Cole Jennings, Bill Morris, and Tony DeFelice. These four had minor reputations as more than troublemakers.”

Harold Robbins

10. The Piranhas

The final book on this list, The Piranhas, was published in 1986. This book takes Jed Stephens and his cousin on a trip down the Amazon river, where they unexpectedly see a crime happen. Like most Robbins books, it has Hollywood, and New York City woven into the mix, even if it starts in a tropical setting. But, unfortunately, the mafia also shows up.

“I was sweating from every pore, even though it was supposed to be cooler in the late afternoon. I wiped myself with the soaking towel dipped in warm Amazon river water.”

Harold Robbins

FAQs About The Best Books by Harold Robbins

What were Harold Robbin’s books made into movies?

The following Harold Robbins books were made into movies:
1. The Carpetbaggers
2. The Adventurers
3. Never Love a Stranger 
4. The Betsy
5. A Stone for Danny Fisher (King Creole)
6. Where Love Has Gone?
7. 79 Park Avenue (miniseries)
8. The Lonely Lady
9. The Pirate
10. Stiletto
11. The Dream Merchants (miniseries)

What is the first book Harold Robbins wrote?

The first book Harold Robbins wrote was Never Love a Stranger. He published this in 1948, and it became a movie in 1958.

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  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.