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Arts: Harold Robbins, blockbuster king, dies aged 81

The author Harold Robbins, who chronicled the lives of the jet- set in books such as The Carpetbaggers, has died at the age of 81 in California.

He died from respiratory heart failure in the Desert Hospital, Palm Springs, his publicist said last night. His wife, Jan, was at his bedside.

He had been ill for some time following a stroke in 1982 which left him with aphasia, which sometimes blocked his ability to put thoughts into words. He also suffered from hip ailment that kept him in a wheelchair.

Robbins, who sold over 750 million copies of his books, wrote his first, Never Love a Stranger, to win a $100 bet with a former executive of Universal Pictures where he worked at the time. It became a bestseller and was followed by 22 other novels, most of which were made into films. His novels, which were often criticised for their steamy sex and outrageous situations, were translated into 32 languages.