Judith Krantz, whose novels have more than 80 million copies in print, has died. She passed away from natural causes on June 22 in her Bel Air, California home at age 91.
Krantz was born Judith Tarcher on January 9, 1928 in New York City, the eldest child of an advertising executive and an attorney. After growing up in New York City where she graduated from the Birch Wathen School at age 16, she enrolled at Wellesley College, graduating in 1948.
After graduating, Krantz moved to Paris, where she worked as a fashion publicist. The following year, she returned to New York, where she embarked on a career in magazine journalism. She worked at Good Housekeeping before being promoted to Fashion Editor.
In 1953, Krantz attended a Fourth of July party hosted by her high school friend Barbara Walters. There she met her future husband, film and television producer and writer Stephen Falk Krantz. They were married for 53 years, with Steve Krantz dying in 2007.
Krantz wrote many freelance articles for Macleans, McCalls, Ladies Home Journal and Cosmopolitan, spending 27 years as a journalist. Her best-known article was “The Myth of the Multiple Orgasm,” which was published in Cosmopolitan.
In 1977, never having written fiction, she completed her first novel, Scruples. Krantz began writing fiction only after her husband kept insisting that she was a natural storyteller. Krantz turned 50 the year that book was published, a remarkable beginning to her second act in life.
It took four months for Scruples to reach the #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list. Talking to the Los Angeles Times, she said, “Halfway through the first chapter, I felt I was flying without wings.” Krantz was known to write 10,000 words per week, keeping a rigorous, disciplined daily writing schedule.
About Scruples, she told the New York Times, “My novel gives women a big bubble bath. It’s a chocolate eclair. It’s the kind of novel people love. I loved it myself.” And when asked about her favorite periods in literature, Krantz responded with, “My favorite period is the Victorian. I also love Proust and Colette.”
Her second novel, Princess Daisy, as well as many of her other novels also became #1 New York Times bestsellers in hardcover and paperback. Princess Daisy set the record for the highest price ever paid for a novel at the time.
Krantz’s novels were historically accurate, thanks to countless hours of research about the people, places and historical eras in which she set her books. Female empowerment, achievement and artistry were themes in her novels, decades before this era. Her heroines were working women exploring choices and opportunities largely unavailable to women in their day.
Although hugely popular worldwide, Krantz’s novels had a rare combination for commercial fiction: intelligence, complex characters, intricate plots and a wicked sense of humor. But it was the strong women she wrote about that captivated her audience in a whole new way. Her books received wide-spread critical acclaim while being addictive reads for her millions of fans.
More than 80 million copies of her books are in print in over 50 languages. Seven of her novels were adapted for television as miniseries, with her husband serving as executive producer for most of them. She also wrote one original miniseries for television, Judith Krantz’s “Secrets”, in 1992.
In recognition for her many years of support, the Los Angeles Public Library has named the Judith Krantz Fiction Collection in her honor.
Krantz is survived by her son, Tony, daughter-in-law Kristin Dornig Krantz, and son Nicholas.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to:
The Library Foundation of Los Angeles
630 West 5th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90071
Dazzle (1990) (adapted as a 1995 miniseries)
Scruples Two (1992)
Spring Collection (1996)
The Jewels of Tessa Kent (1998)
Sex and Shopping: The Confessions of a Nice Jewish Girl (2000) (autobiography)