Jackie Collins: she is her own genre

 How’s this for an attention-grabbing opening?:

“Belle Svetlana surveyed her nude image in a full-length mirror, readying herself for a thirty-thousand-dollar-an-hour sexual encounter with the fifteen-year-old son of an Arab oil tycoon.”

Yes, Jackie Collins has a new novel out — “Poor Little Bitch Girl” (St. Martin’s) — and it is her usual, all-but-irresistible, up-to-the-minute survey of the lifestyles of the rich and famous in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

No one should feel sorry for a woman who has sold 400 million books in 40 countries — all 27 novels remain in print — but Collins has never been taken with the seriousness she deserves.

Collins started writing long before publishers began ruthlessly categorizing books, so she has existed outside of any of the contemporary genres like chick lit or the many thriller and mystery subdivisions.

“Poor Little Bitch Girl” throws an amazing variety of characters and plot threads into a juicy 472-page read that shows us how prostitution rings and hot clubs operate on both coasts (and in Vegas); how movie stars deal with legal jams; the extreme measures that politicians will take to clean up personal messes; and the way that celebrities can do just about whatever they want most of the time.

The high price call girl of the book’s opening chapter is Annabelle Maestro, who has adopted her New York sex worker name of “Belle Svetlana” in order to shield her real identity as the daughter of two of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Annabelle and her drug addict boyfriend Frankie have set up one of Manhattan’s most lucrative — and most discrete — escort services.

The clients are all high-end — who else can pay $30,000 an hour? — and the “girls” are the creme de la creme: actresses and models who love the amazing dough they can make in an hour or two. Best of all, Annabelle and Frankie run a cash only business: the customers leave no financial trails and the escorts pay no taxes. Isn’t deregulated capitalism great?

The trouble starts when Annabelle’s movie star mother is murdered in her Beverly Hills mansion and it appears that the perp could be the victim’s Bruce Willis/Mel Gibson-style action movie superstar husband.

As if that plot was not enough to keep us going, Collins shifts the scene to D.C. where an old high school pal of Annabelle’s — political aide Carolyn Henderson — finds out she is pregnant by her married U.S. Senator lover and hopes this will mean he leaves his wife and marries her. Guess what? The politician has other ideas and suddenly Carolyn is in terrible jeopardy.

Collins keeps all of her subplots smoothly on track and ends nearly every chapter with a new development or a shock that demands the reader keep going — I polished the book off in two very entertaining sittings. One of Collins’s least written-about virtues is her wild sense of humor: who else can write sex scenes that are steamy and laugh-out-loud funny? 

Non-Collins readers — who are some of her harshest critics — won’t believe this, but the veteran best-seller creator has few peers when it comes to telling a good story (with the bonus of fascinating background material on the madder precincts of show business).