Judith Krantz, romance novelist, dies at 91

Krantz has sold over 80 million books

By Leah Asmelash and Melissa Gray, CNN
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Judith Krantz, whose best-selling romance novels told racy tales of the rich, died of natural causes Saturday, her publicist said. She was 91.

Krantz is known for her novels "Mistral's Daughter" (1983), "I'll Take Manhattan" (1986) and "Scruples" (1978). She's sold more than 80 million copies of her novels, and they've been translated into over 50 languages, her publicist said. She wrote her first book at age 50, launching her into the romance novelist stratosphere.

Krantz, who settled in New York, became wealthy from the sale of her books. In a letter to readers in her 2001 autobiography, "Sex and Shopping: The Confessions of a Nice Jewish Girl," she said she had a different life from the majority of women of her generation and background.

"While I seemed like another 'nice Jewish girl,' underneath that convenient cover I'd traveled my own, inner-directed path and had many a spicy and secret adventure," she wrote. "I grew up in a complicated tangle of privilege, family problems, and tormented teenaged sexuality."

In 1948, Krantz graduated from Wellesley College and spent the following year in Paris working in fashion public relations. When she returned to New York she began her career in magazine journalism.

Krantz worked primarily in fashion, working as the fashion editor for Good Housekeeping and writing for outlets such as Cosmopolitan, for which she wrote her best-known article, "The Myth of the Multiple Orgasm." She was a journalist for about 30 years before she published "Scruples," her first novel.

The book, which chronicled the over-the-top lifestyle of the people who work in a Beverly Hills boutique, became a huge success, remaining on The New York Times Best Sellers list for more than a year. Her novels were known for their focus on the wealthy, love and sex. Some of her novels were produced into television miniseries as well.

Krantz married Steve Krantz, a film and television producer, in 1954. He died in 2007 from complications with pneumonia.

Authors across genres reacted to the news of her death on Twitter, including Kellye Garrett, Sarah Weinman and duo Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan.

"I literally just gasped when I read that Judith Krantz passed away. A legend," Garrett tweeted. "I remember thinking I was grown at 13 because my mom let me read her books."

CNN's Hollie Silverman and Dylan Miettinen contributed to this report.

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