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Guns n’ Prose

NEW YORK — Earnest Jackie Collins fans — and those who couldn’t resist the idea of Barneys’ Simon Doonan interviewing the diva — gathered at the 92nd Street Y on Monday night for a little entertainment of the literary...

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NEW YORK — Earnest Jackie Collins fans — and those who couldn’t resist the idea of Barneys’ Simon Doonan interviewing the diva — gathered at the 92nd Street Y on Monday night for a little entertainment of the literary sort. "The late Louis Malle called her Hollywood’s own Proust," Doonan tells the audience, peering over his reading glasses. "She is the Shaq of erotic thrillers." He sits and listens with a contemplative look while Collins takes the podium to read from her latest work, "Deadly Embrace." She dons her own reading glasses and sets off, with just a hint of a faded British tone, to describe a beautiful, predatory magazine editor, a mysterious mafioso past and a gaggle of men in ski masks who burst into a restaurant with Uzis. Doonan struggles to keep his giggling at bay. The audience is in hysterics. And by the end, Collins herself is laughing. She’s loving it. "And that’s just the first three pages," she says.

"Deadly Embrace," the writer’s 22nd book, draws not only on Collins’ wickedly vivid imagination, but her own experiences in Los Angeles. "I was driving this new Mercedes, putting in the code at my friend’s gate, when this guy appears with an Uzi at the window," she says casually. "He says, ‘Don’t move, bitch, or I’ll blow your bleeping head off,’ and I thought if I wrote that, no one would believe it. It’s too corny. So I wrote it. I hit the accelerator and left him standing there holding his Uzi, so to speak."

But Collins has always chosen a life in the fast lane. "As a girl, I was always climbing out of the window," she says. "My parents said, ‘Reform school or Hollywood,’ so I chose Hollywood." At 15, she was shipped off to live with her movie-star sister, Joan, who tossed her the keys to the apartment, told her to learn how to drive and promptly took off for a location shoot.

She’s loved Hollywood ever since. Every morning, Collins rolls out of bed there, plays a little Alicia Keys or cues up an Usher disc, then puts pen to paper, writing about the brassy, ambitious women who are her hallmark. "I’ve always written strong women. They’re never sitting around waiting for a cold phone to ring," she says.
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