Picks and Pans Review: Life with Jackie

updated 02/28/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/28/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Irving Mansfield with Jean Libman Block

When the author's mother met his prospective bride, she said, "My, but you're a tall girl." Mansfield recalls: "Jackie wasn't all that tall. She was five feet seven, but my mother came from Vienna where I guess women are smaller. And everyone knows that all mothers are five feet two." There is something endearing about that kind of sweeping generalization, but for the most part this biography of the late novelist Jacqueline Susann is dreary. The woman who turned sleaze fiction into big bucks with promotional savvy started life as the daughter of a successful portrait painter in Philadelphia. Bored by school, she went to New York as a teenager to be an actress. She was an awful singer, couldn't dance, and had only minor success on the stage. Mansfield, a press agent, picked her up in a soda fountain off Broadway where young hopefuls hung out. Later she proposed to him, and their 35-year marriage worked admirably. She was a driven woman, and he was an easygoing guy who apparently believed in her absolutely. His writing, Block's assistance notwithstanding, is inept at best (Mansfield says that Jackie was blessed with a "photographic ear"). It's no help, either, that while he probably would have liked to present Jackie's life story as if it were a Susann novel, the tragedies of their brain-damaged son and her more than 10 years of illness with the cancer that killed her are too grim. She was not a Susann fictional paper doll; her suffering, obviously, was all too tangible. (Bantam, $14.95)

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