Based on a $100 bet with his boss that he couldn't write a novel, Harold Robbins penned his first book, Never Love a Stranger. Not only did Robbins win the bet, the novel became a best seller, was adapted into the classic noir gangster film of the same name starring John Barrymore and Steve McQueen, and launched the career of one of the world's best-selling authors of all time.
Never Love a Stranger, still considered one of Robbins' most powerful books, tells the story of Francis "Frankie" Kane, an orphan growing up in the dirty world of New York's Hell's Kitchen. After being kicked out of a Catholic orphanage when it is discovered that he is of Jewish descent, a confused and deeply distraught Frankie turns to a life of crime, the only life he knows, and he's good at it. Frankie quickly makes a name for himself and becomes one of New York's most dangerous men, ruling the city with an iron fist and indulging in his passion for sex, power, and the best things life has to offer - regardless of whether they're for sale. But Frankie's childhood friend, Jerry, grows to become an ambitious, tough-as-nails district attorney - determined to bring Frankie down.
In Robbins' writing debut, he takes an unflinching look at the menacing New York of a bygone era when the syndicate ruled without mercy - and the world was introduced to a writer who would influence pop culture worldwide for decades to come. More than 25 New York Times best sellers later - many, like his most famous novel, The Carpetbaggers, reaching the number-one spot - and with over 750 million copies sold to date, Robbins became one of the most successful authors of all time. This is the novel that started it all - giving the world its first taste of Robbins' world of sex, corruption, and intrigue.
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"Robbins's books are packed with action, sustained by strong narrative drive, and are given vitality by his own colorful life." (The Wall Street Journal)
This was probably one of the first 'adult' books I read. It has lost nothing of its intrigrue and fascination over the years
This is probably very autobiographical
There is nothing wrong with the narrative. You ARE on the streets of New York
An excellent listen
This book engaged me from the beginning. It was a masterful character study made possible by a great script and a narrator who brings each character to life. Will Patton, as always, is a magician who excels in his craft.
I laughed in places but overall it left me thinking about the main character for a couple days and 'what might have been' had he been given the love and opportunity he craved.
"Robust Rags 2 Riches of Hell's Kitchen Orphan"
My first novel by Harold Robbins was this, his debut. NEVER LOVE A STRANGER is the story set between 1925 and 1945 of Francis "Frankie" Cain, who was raised in a Hell's Kitchen Catholic orphanage until around 14 when he was taken in by the brother of his Jewish mother who died in childbirth. It is mostly the story of Frankie's journey from his high school days and friendships to his travels and loves after returning from a stint in the Navy and skips to after his rise to the head of a NYC gambling racket and his marriage.
I thoroughly enjoyed this resonant, robust story told mostly in the first person by Frankie, with interludes of a discussion by his 3 closest high school friends.
I wasn't sure if I wanted to take a chance buying an audiobook by Harold Robbins, though I saw his name on enough books while growing up (he sold 150 million worldwide in his career). Yet when I saw that Will Patton was the narrator, that sealed the deal. For my money, he's the best male audiobook narrator out there, by a mile. If you are new to Audible, the narrator, particularly in fiction with lots of dialogue, makes a huge difference to the whole listening experience. [For example, had the narrator been Dick Hill, with that thick Chi-town accent and the awful Marge Schott impersonation he uses for EVERY female character in dialogue, I wouldn't have touched this book].
"Guilty Pleasure (Another Will Patton Triumph)"
When Harold Robbins’ Never Love a Stranger was published in 1948, it became a bestseller. Robbins hit upon a winning combination of elements to draw readers into his story, that he would go on to repeat multiple times in the future. “Power, sex, deceit, and wealth: the four main ingredients to a successful story,” he was quoted as saying. Of course, not all members of the public were pleased with Robbins racy use of sex in his first novel, and Never Love a Stranger was banned under pornography restrictions in the city of Philadelphia. Robbins and his publisher sued the city and won. In his decision, the judge proclaimed, “I would rather my daughter learn about sex from the pages of a Harold Robbins novel than behind a barn door.”
For me, Never Love a Stranger gets filed under the category of “guilty pleasure.” The plot follows the life of Frankie Kane, a street-wise orphan who scraps his way to the top of a criminal empire during the Great Depression. The story is narrated by the incomparable Will Patton, who lifts this glorious piece of tripe to a place wholly beyond its station. Patton has obvious fun with the novel’s terse, Cagneyesque main character, and the listener can’t help but enjoy it, too. If you are bothered by strong and obvious 1930s gender stereotypes and scenes of violence in the tone of “smacking a moll for getting wise,” steer clear of this novel. Otherwise, you are in for some dialogue that will have you chuckling in your recliner. I knew that I had reached a new level of noir ecstasy, when at the end, the book provided this nugget of sap: [note: virtually nothing is lost in reading it, as plot always comes secondary to tone]
She looked at me. Her face had grown very pale. “Loved you?” she asked. “I’ve loved you so much ever since we were children that at night I couldn’t sleep for the wanting of you, that when we didn’t know where you were I would dream about you, that all these last months I was longing for you to take me -- I wanted your child inside me under my heart.” Her voice was strained and shaking with emotion. “That’s why I won’t bargain with you, Frankie. That’s why I’m not going to marry you.”
I crushed my cigarette out in the tray and took her by the shoulders roughly, squeezing my fingers into her arm. She made no sound, just looked up into my face.
“You stupid little fool!” I was raging mad. I could feel the pulse pounding in my forehead. “Maybe that’s the way it started, but can’t you see what I’ve done is for you -- that what I’ve thrown away has been for you? Don’t think I couldn’t have cleaned up this mess if I didn’t want to. I had a dozen places in the United States I could have gone to and operated from, and they never would have been able to touch me. I didn’t have to quit. I quit because of you. If it weren’t for the way I felt about you, I would have beat this the same way I beat everything else that got in my way; I’d have ruined Jerry’s career as I could have.
“You were the only reason I threw in the towel -- because I fell for the line you gave me. Maybe I always knew deep inside you were right, but it was for you that I did it.
“I didn’t make any bargain with you. I’ve turned my life inside out for you. I’ve traded a fortune for you, I’ve traded a loaf of bread for a pie in the sky, steak and potatoes for an ideal. And if you still think I don’t love you, baby, you can go to hell!”
I was fully prepared to give the story three stars, but felt this glorious exchange was worth an additional star. And with Will Patton narrating, what more can you ask?
"Real Book, Real Characters, Real Writing"
Thank you Audible for signing up some of Harold's work. I love his stories. Real stories. You feel like you are right there in the story.
"The beavers are still gnawing" line to describe his enemies plotting against him.
His accent is perfect for Francis. You feel like Will is Francis.
The Real Deal
Please sign up "The Carpetbaggers".
"Why was this categorized as a mystery?"
Good enough as modernish historical fiction, but I didn't see the kind of plot and clues that I personally think should be the basis to all mysteries. This just tells a fictional life story for almost 15 hours. I kept listening, since it wasn't bad writing and I kept thinking it could become a mystery at some point, but it never did. Please, Audible, if you're trying to sell mysteries, give me something to SOLVE. A story isn't a mystery merely because it's about criminals. Look it up.
A story about a charismatic man that is smart, has a good heart and a strong work ethic. Oops, more than 3 words.
Troublesome situations of Franky
Great as usually. What a joy to have Will Patton narrate so many audible books.
"great time piece"
Great book. loved hearing about the way it was back in the depression and how cheap everything was and how simple things were then. Good lesson in humility.
"A never fail."
Harold Robbins is and will always be an artful and masterful storyteller. A great read.
"A man can be alone, even when surrounded by 1000's"
I love books narrated by Will Patton. This book was no exception. The story was well told and the author developed the characters so well, you loved them because of their flaws.
"very cool book"
don't miss this one. I think this is the best book I have listened to in the past two years. I love the history of the times.
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