Born in New York City, Harold Robbins spent his childhood in an orphanage. He was educated at George Washington High School and after leaving school he worked in several jobs. Robbins made his first million at the age of twenty by selling sugar for the wholesale trade. At the beginning of World War II, Robbins had lost his fortune and moved to Hollywood where he worked for Universal Studios, first as a shipping clerk. Later he became a studio executive.
His first book, Never Love a Stranger, (1948) drew on his own life as an orphan on the streets of New York and created controversy with its graphic sexuality. The Dream Merchants (1949) was about Hollywood's film industry, from the first steps to sound era. Again Robbins blended his own experiences, historical facts, melodrama, sex, and action into a fast-moving story.
He would become one of the world's bestselling authors, publishing over 20 books which were translated into 32 languages and sold over 50 million copies. Among his best-known books is The Carpetbaggers. It was loosely based on the life of Howard Hughes, taking the reader from New York to California, from the prosperity of the aeronautical industry to the glamour of Hollywood. It's prequel, "The Raiders," appeared in 1995.
Robbins was married five times. From 1982 he was obliged to use a wheelchair because of hip trouble, but continued writing.
He spent a great deal of time in France and Monte Carlo until his death on October 14, 1997 from respiratory heart failure. He is buried in the Palm Springs Mortuary & Mausoleum, Palm Springs, California.
Harold Robbins has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6743 Hollywood Blvd.