John Gibson: As close as you’d get to debauchery

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Debauchery. I was dabbling in it a long time before most of you knew me. More than dabbled. Before any of you got up close to it, as close as I was to Harold Robbins, at one time universally acknowledged as master of the art.

We met in a one-to-one encounter first in Edinburgh’s George Hotel and, ten years later, in London in the Savoy. At the George he spilled his drink on my trousers. Wish I hadn’t sent them to the cleaners. Women the world over would have paid a fortune for pants soiled by Robbins, as “soiled” as were his novels. He sold 750 million.

Now Grace, his wife from 1965-91, is selling her memoirs as an ebook, Cinderella and the Carpetbagger, My Life as the Wife of the World’s Best-Selling Author.

Reasons enough for me to raid the Gibpress File to mop up a few snippets from our drink-soiled table, Robbins ranting as his eyes roamed the room: “I love a good party but this isn’t one of them. Your basic ingredients should be either six persons or 600. With six persons you can meet everybody. With 600 you can be alone.

“If you are going to judge literature, remember that Dickens and Dumas were considered pop writers in their day but they were valid for their time. All my books have been published in Russia where generally they’ve had enthusiastic criticism and you know why, because I reflect my world and my times.

“You ask for my conclusions about marriage? This last one is proving that the whole business is worthwhile. I’ve made it but only after they gave me another shot at it. If you put all the people together in this room, I’ve been married more than any of them.”

That you’ve learned here from roarin’, rantin’ Robbins is that he lived a lusty life and (see the picture) Bradley Wiggins got his sideburns from an Edinburgh hack.