cover image Tycoon


Harold Robbins. Simon & Schuster, $24 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-684-81068-3

The enduring Robbins's 23rd novel chronicles the obsessively lustful life and times of a mythical cavalier of radio and TV in an impish, sometimes romanticized history of American broadcasting. Newly graduated with honors from Harvard in 1931, Jack Lear marries the snobby debutante daughter of a prominent Boston arms manufacturer. Grandson of a Jewish intellectual who fled Prussian oppression and made a fortune as a California junkman, Jack resists his boorish father's demand that he work in the family business and returns to Boston to buy a pioneer radio station, bolstered by his grandparents' gift of a cool $1 million. The narrative traces Lear's entrepreneurial career over 60-odd intrepid years during which, flying by the seat of his pants, he builds a dominant TV network. In trademark Robbins fashion, the plot unfolds in a constant parade of freewheeling adultery, sibling incest, sadomasochism and bondage. Recounted in his flat narrative style, Robbins's litany of erotic exercises quickly becomes boring. Nevertheless, the complex cast of charismatic characters is well-calculated to spark speculation in the posh power rooms and boardrooms of New York, Boston and Hollywood over ""who's actually who."" Wooden prose notwithstanding, the intricate blend of corporate intrigue and carnal gymnastics makes this a highly seductive read. (Feb.)