Collins novels `were fixable', court hears

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Joan Collins had no need for the Kleenex yesterday in her court battle with Random House as experts defended her claim that she fulfilled a multi-million-dollar book contract signed with the company five years ago.

With studied composure, Ms Collins sat erect at the defence table in the New York court room and repeatedly nodded in appreciation as two successive witnesses offered testimony casting doubt on Random House's allegation that she had failed to honour the contract, under which she was to deliver two novels.

"There is some neat stuff in this, I can tell you," Lucienne Goldberg, a literary agent and herself an author of several heavy-breathing books, said of one of the two manuscripts penned by Ms Collins. "I know the controversy is: `Is this fixable?' It is absolutely fixable," she said.

Ms Collins, 62, said on the witness stand yesterday that Random House did not provide her with editing or guidance. "I said I needed a hands- on editor . . . I needed considerable work," she said. "I'm queen of the adjectives and the adverbs. I write slightly over the top . . . melodramatic."

In her collision with Random House, Ms Collins has become ensnared in a real-life drama well worthy of the Dynasty soap opera in which she used to star as Alexis Carrington. An exchange between her and the publishers' lead lawyer, Robert Callagy, on Thursday, left the actress dabbing her eyes as she stood down from testifying on the stand.

"No Way To Treat A Diva!" was the banner headline in the New York Post here yesterday, as New York's tabloid editors showed their sympathy for the British star. Following Thursday's proceedings, Ms Collins, 62, suggested she had been treated no better than a murderer. Yesterday she said outside the courtroom: "If right is on my side, which it is, I shall win."

The original contract signed between Random House and Ms Collins' super- agent, the late Irving (Swifty) Lazar, gave her an advance of $1.2m for two novels, which she entitled The Ruling Passion and Hell Hath No Fury. Ms Collins was to receive the balance of a total of $4m on the books' completion, regardless of whether Random House actually published them.

Random House is suing Ms Collins for the return of the $1.2m advance, claiming that what they received from her was unusable and incomplete. She is counter-suing for the $4m, on the grounds that she delivered manuscripts as required.

While the quality of Ms Collins' fiction writing has fallen under the spotlight in the trial - to her obvious chagrin - the central legal issue is the contract's stipulation that "complete" manuscripts were to be delivered to Random House.