The Story of Judith Gould

Did you ever wonder why there is no author’s photograph or biography on any Judith Gould novel? Well, here’s the story: there is no Judith Gould. And lest you get confused, here I have to switch to third person—because not only is there no Judith Gould, what there is are two friends, Nick Bienes and Rhea (pronounced “Ray”) Gallaher, co-authors who collaborate on writing novels under the pseudonym Judith Gould.

So how did Judith Gould come about? You’re about to find out!

Rhea Gallaher
Nick Bienes
Click on photos above

Way back in 1979 in New York City, Nick was working on a novel in his spare time, and Rhea was a free-lance medical editor. Every story has a fairy godmother, and this one does, too. Our fairy godmother was Lucy Gaston, a very cultured, beautiful, and sophisticated lady of advanced years who had led a life that was the stuff of novels, and who had a nose for talent and loved to surround herself with promising young people. (Several years before matching Rhea’s talent with Nick’s, Lucy had given Rhea’s childhood friend, Jack Geasland, and Bari Wood, the idea for writing Twins, a huge bestseller which was eventually made into the film Dead Ringers by David Cronenberg and which starred Jeremy Irons.

Lucy Gaston
Judith Gould’s
Fairy Godmother

Putting their heads together, Nick and Rhea came up with the idea for a novel, called Sins, and Nick ditched the project he was working on. In due time, they completed an outline and the first 100 pages. Luckily, they chanced upon an agent who sold Sins to New American Library. As columnist Liz Smith would subsequently write about it in a New York Daily News column, Sins was the result of Nick and Rhea’s “applying the seats of their pants to the seats of their chairs.”

Sins was a very long novel (709 printed pages) and took over two years to write. As no editor wanted to take responsibility for the cost of producing a book this size, it kept getting kicked “upstairs”—and the powers that were got very excited, decided to market it as a lead title for November of 1982, but suggested the use of an easily remembered pseudonym—preferably female.

Thus was Judith Gould born.

Sins Book Jackets (l. to r.)
The Original Cover
The Miniseries Edition
The 18th Printing

Upon its publication, Sins instantly hit the New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, and every other major bestseller list and remained there for many weeks. Meanwhile, Nick and Rhea worked on another novel, and with “Judith Gould” having been an overnight success, it only made sense to stick with the pseudonym, as it was a known commodity, and “Judith” had gained readers anxious for another “Gould.”

The second Judith Gould novel was LoveMakers, but its publication was delayed. Why? To coincide withe the televised miniseries of Sins, to which Dynasty’s Joan Collins had acquired the film rights, and which CBS made into a 7-hour miniseries. Filmed in Paris, Venice, and on the French Riviera, Sins starred Joan Collins as Hélène Junot. The famous couturier Valentino designed 36 of the gowns and dresses of her 84 costume changes.

Joan Collins in a
scene from Sins

Co-stars in Sins included Timothy Dalton (who played 007 in two James Bond movies), James Farentino, Gene Kelly, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Giancarlo Giannini, Marisa Berenson, Capucine, Steven Berkoff, Lauren Hutton, and Arielle Dombasle. Aired during 1986's February “Sweeps “Week,” it trounced the competition—NBC’s even costlier Peter the Great—and won the Nielsen ratings. The rest is television history.

With the success of their first novel, and then the miniseries, Rhea Gallaher (once married) and Nick Bienes (a perpetual bachelor), jealously guarded their privacy and decided to continue keeping a low profile and hiding behind Judith Gould’s skirts. Along the way they have written 15 novels, all under the pseudonym Judith Gould, and have seen their works translated into 22 languages. And although they will continue to write novels by “Judith Gould,” they have decided it was time to come out from behind “Judith’s” skirts and reveal their true identities.

Green Acres
Back behind the barns is the garden, with the fenced-in pool beyond.

Several years ago, after over two decades spent living and working in Manhattan, Nick and Rhea moved permanently to what was initially intended as a weekend retreat—two barns and several outbuildings that were once a summer stock theater in upstate New York. And, irony of ironies, they purchased the complex, part of which dates back to before the American Revolutionary War, without knowing that what is now the study in which they write the Judith Gould novels is actually the former stage where—would you believe it? it’s true!—none other than Barbra Streisand had her very first walk-on and speaking roles!

Petticoat Junction: Peonies do rather look like layers and layers of petticoats under a hoop skirt, don’t you think? Here in the garden is a row of them, and who can resist planting more and more each year? Inevitably, tons of them end up indoors, filling every vase and every room with fragrant beauty.
Summertime and the Weeding’s Not Easy: Hollyhocks and buddleia (butterfly bushes) back a herbaceous border around the white picket fence-enclosed pool area. This is a favorite spot in July and August.
Their favorite Iris: This pink-and-purple cluster has reproduced itself from a single root, for which Nick and Rhea are eternally grateful since they haven’t been able to track down any more of this variety.

This bucolic Hudson Valley compound is shared with lots of visiting family and friends and 3 permanent residents—two dogs, Billy and Jeffrey (Heinz 57 variety), and Mina, an 18-pound Maine Coon cat. All three came from the local animal shelter and are very happy—except when travel and research trips take Nick and Rhea to various places around the world. Besides liking to travel, it’s necessary to scout out potential new locales for new novels. Last year it was a trans-Atlantic cruise for Dreamboat, which was published in the autumn of 2005. Plus there’s always a few weeks every summer spent in the Greek islands—a direct result of having to do research for The Greek Villa.

And there you have it. That’s the story of Judith Gould!

Left: Nick (second from left) and Rhea (fourth from left) partying with friends on Mykonos, Greece.

Right: Rhea (with binoculars) doing research on the bridge of the real-life Dreamboat, Olympia Voyager.

Now that you’re in the loop, and in order to avoid confusion, the rest of this web site shall revert to first person singular—back to Judith Gould “speaking” as one person....

©2023 Judith Gould