Once Is Not Enough

Once Is Not Enough is the third novel by Jacqueline Susann, following her huge bestsellers Valley of the Dolls (1966) and The Love Machine (1969). With Once Is Not Enough, Susann became the first writer in publishing history to have three consecutive #1 novels on the New York Times Best Seller list.[1]

Once Is Not Enough
Grove Reissue
AuthorJacqueline Susann
CountryUnited States
PublisherWilliam Morrow
Publication date
March 1973
Media typePrint (Hardcover & Paperback)
Pages467 pp (First edition, cloth)
Preceded byThe Love Machine 
Followed byDolores 

Plot summary

The young and beautiful January Wayne, daughter of stage and film producer Mike Wayne, returns home to New York City after being hospitalized in Switzerland for nearly three years. But home is not what it used to be: the world which January knew has changed considerably.

As the naive January finds her way in this brave new world, she encounters such mortal souls as Deirdre Milford Granger, the fifth richest woman in the world, as well as Deirdre's virile young cousin, David Milford; Linda Riggs, the vulgar but successful editor of Gloss magazine; Tom Colt, the macho novelist who harbors a secret; and Dr. Preston Alpert, the dirty but invigorating "Dr. Feelgood." Also in the mix is Karla, the reclusive former movie queen who has more than one secret of her own.

It's a world of money and spiritual incest, of drugs and frontal nudity, in a complex story which reflects the social upheavals of the late 1960s and early 1970s.


Jacqueline Susann initially called the novel The Big Man, but changed her mind after visiting comedian Joe E. Lewis on his deathbed. Lewis, who had famously said, "You only live once - but if you work it right, once is enough," apparently reconsidered, for he told Susann, "Once is not enough."[2]

Susann was diagnosed with cancer two months before the book's scheduled publication date. Her usual efforts at promotion—including a grueling book tour—had to be curtailed. But Susann soldiered on; as her husband, Irving Mansfield, said, "The day the book came out, she was booked on the Today show. She left Doctors Hospital after a blood transfusion, did the show, walked around the corner, got into an ambulance and went back to the hospital.”[3]

Susann was candid about the theme of the book, stating that it was one of "mental and spiritual incest."[4] After her death, film critic Andrew Sarris pointed out that "If there is any single key to the oeuvre of Jacqueline Susann it is to be found in an extended Electra complex."[5]

Susann dedicated the book to her father, Robert Susann (1887-1957), and to her husband.


The book, published by William Morrow on March 20, 1973, met with negative reviews, as was typical for a Susann novel. A writer for The New York Times complained that the book had "nearly 500 steadily monotonous pages," populated by "a cast of obscure, unpleasant, implausible, stupid or sly characters [who] lurk in the mind for weeks only because one wants to meet and kick them."[6] But sales were enormous: the book spent 36 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list, with eight of those weeks at #1.[7] It became the second highest-selling novel of 1973, behind only Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach.[8]

Film adaptation

In 1975, Paramount Pictures released a film adaptation, Jacqueline Susann's Once Is Not Enough, directed by Guy Green and written by Julius J. Epstein (Casablanca). Starring Kirk Douglas as Mike Wayne, Alexis Smith (in her first film since 1959) as Deirdre Milford Granger, Melina Mercouri as Karla, and Deborah Raffin as January, the film was produced by Howard W. Koch and executive-produced by Susann's husband, Irving Mansfield. The musical score was composed by Henry Mancini.

The film received negative reviews; Vincent Canby, in The New York Times, offered a multiple-choice "audience participation" review, in which the reader was given four choices (ludicrous, bad, terrible, horrendous) by which to evaluate the movie.[9]

Despite the reviews, the film was a commercial success, earning $15.7 million at the box office (equivalent to $65.2 million in 2017).[10] Brenda Vaccaro, as Linda Riggs, received an Oscar nomination for her performance.


  1. Kasindorf, Martin. Jackie Susann Picks up the Marbles. The New York Times. August 12, 1973. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  2. Seaman, Barbara. Lovely Me: The Life of Jacqueline Susann. 2nd ed. (New York: Seven Stories Press, 1996), p. 441.
  3. Clifford, Garry. Mr. Jacqueline Susann Honors His Late Wife by Hawking Her Final Book. People. August 9, 1976. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  4. Seaman, Lovely Me, p. 231.
  5. Seaman. Lovely Me, p. 233.
  6. O'Reilly, Jane. Once Is Not Enough: A Guide to the Good Parts of Jaqueline Susann. The New York Times, April 1, 1973. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  7. Adult New York Times Best Seller Lists for 1973. Hawes Publications. [n.d.] Retrieved January 10, 2017.
  8. The 20th-Century American Bestsellers Database: 1970s. University of Virginia, via Publishers Weekly, 2016. Retrieved January 10, 2017.
  9. Canby, Vincent. Film: If Once Is Not Enough, Then.... The New York Times. June 19, 1975. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  10. Once Is Not Enough. [n.d.] Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 8, 2017.

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