A novel situation for Joan Collins

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The Independent Online

New York

Joan Collins, the British actress with a screen repertoire of scheming and lustful women, took centre-stage in a real-life drama yesterday in a New York courtroom. The storyline: a multi-million-dollar squabble with her publishers.

Random House, the publishing combine headed by another British expatriate, Harold Evans, is suing her, demanding she return a $1.2m (pounds 800,000) advance for two books it claims were never finished and were, in any event, unpublishable.

Ms Collins is counter-suing Random House for the $3.6m she says it still owes her. "I am confident of winning," she said outside the courthouse. "I did my part in the $4m deal and they reneged."

Her lawyers said that both manuscripts were finished and delivered. The first, A Ruling Passion, depicted romance and politics in a small European kingdom.

The second book was tentatively called Hell Hath No Fury. The original deal was apparently negotiated for Ms Collins in 1990 by her late Hollywood agent, Irving "Swifty" Lazar. Her lawyers said it guaranteed her $4m even if the books were rejected, which was the fate of A Ruling Passion.

Yesterday Robert Callagy, a lawyer for Random House, said that Ms Collins should return her advance.

"The material she submitted was not . . . ready for press. Ms Collins should be treated like any other person. If you sign a contract, you must perform."