Writer and exemplar of the sex-and-shopping novel

Born: January 9, 1928;

Died: June 22, 2019

JUDITH Krantz, who has died aged 91, was a hugely successful romantic novelist who found a formula, based on stories of the rich and beautiful, that shifted 85 million copies over her career. Novels such as Scruples and Princess Daisy were part of the genre that came to be known as the sex and shopping: beautiful homes, beautiful objects and beautiful people.

Krantz came to writing novels relatively late, having written for Cosmopolitan and Ladies Home Journal magazines before discovering, at the age of 50, that she a talent for fiction. It made her rich and famous like the characters she created.

Her first novel Scruples, which was published in1978, became a best-seller, as did the nine that followed. They have been translated into 52 languages and inspired a series of hit mini-series, made with the help of her husband, film and television producer Steve Krantz.

“I always ask myself if what I’m writing will satisfy a reader who’s in a plane that can’t land because of fog, or who’s recovering from an operation in a hospital or who has to escape to a more delightful world for whatever reason,” Krantz said in 1990. “That is the test.”

While her work was decidedly less than highbrow, Krantz made no apologies for the steamy novels with titles like Mistral’s Daughter, Lovers, I’ll Take Manhattan and The Jewels of Tessa Kent.

“I write the best books I know how,” she once said. “I can’t write any better than this.”

She filled her stories with delicious details about her characters’ lavish lifestyles — designer clothes, luxurious estates — and enviable romances. And she spared no specifics when it came to sex.

“If you’re going to write a good erotic scene, you have to go into details,” Krantz said. “I don’t believe in thunder and lightning and fireworks exploding. I think people want to know what’s happening.”

So appealing were her sensational stories of high-powered heroines that each novel was reimagined for television as an episodic miniseries. Steve Krantz, a millionaire in his own right, helped translate his wife’s work for TV.

The author was also famous for living a glamorous life that paralleled that of her characters. Her home in Bel Air featured a soundproof writing room flanked by an immaculately kept garden.

The eldest of three children, Krantz was born Judith Bluma Tarcher in 1928 in New York City. Her father owned an advertising agency, and her mother worked as an attorney.

Growing up, Krantz was a precocious student at New York’s exclusive Birch Wathen school, once describing herself as the youngest, smartest and shortest girl in her class. After skipping two grades, she enrolled at Wellesley College at the age of 16.

She was also, by her own account, an indifferent college student. She said she only enrolled at Wellesley to date, read and graduate and claimed to have set a record for her dorm by once dating 13 different men on 13 consecutive evenings.

“I got only one A-plus, and that was in English 101,” she said in 1982. “I had a B-minus average in English, my major, and made Cs and C-minuses in everything else.”

When she could earn no better than a B in a short story class, she decided she wasn’t good enough to write fiction.

“Just in time for my 50th birthday, I discovered that I could write fiction. My husband had urged me to try fiction for 15 years before I did,” she said. “I believed that if I couldn’t write ‘literature,’ I shouldn’t write at all.

“Now, I would say to young women, do something you have a true feeling for, no matter how little talent you may believe you have. Let no masterwork be your goal — a modest goal may lead you further than you dream.”

Krantz met her husband through her high school friend Barbara Walters, who introduced the two in 1953. They married the following year. “I fell in love with him the minute I saw him,” she once said.

Her husband died in 2007 aged 83. The couple had two sons, Tony and Nick, a stockbroker, and two grandchildren.

Krantz’s memoir, Sex and Shopping: The Confessions of a Nice Jewish Girl, was published in 2001 and it reflected on her penchant for telling sex-drenched tales about the pretty and the privileged.

“In my opinion, there are two things women will always be interested in: sex and shopping,” she said in 1994. “And if they’re not, they’ve left out a large part of the fun in life.”

Krantz’s son Tony Krantz, a TV executive, said he had hoped to re-create the Scruples miniseries before her she died but it was still in the works.