Sidney Sheldon's rise to success
"I try to write my books so the reader can't put them down. I try to construct them so when the reader gets to the end of a chapter, he or she has to read just one more chapter. It's the technique of the old Saturday afternoon serial: leave the guy hanging on the edge of the cliff at the end of the chapter."
-Sidney Sheldon in an interview from 1982
With an Oscar, a Tony, and Edgar and a Guinness World Record to his name, 16-time bestselling novelist Sidney Sheldon is one of the most successful authors to date. Sheldon has garnered widespread fame in two other careers: as a playwright for Broadway, a Hollywood screenwriter (both TV and movies).
Born on February 11th, 1917 to Jewish Russian mother Natalie and Jewish German father Otto Schechtel, Sheldon, originally named Sidney Schechtel was born and brought up in Chicago, Illinois. Sheldon lost no time in his youth- he sold his first poem for $10 when he was 10 years of age. Nobody in his family had made it past grade 3, and so Sheldon, with his degree from Northwestern University, was one step closer to achieving his dream- writing. In one radio interview, Sheldon stated, “I have no idea why I wanted to write, but I knew that's what I had to do.”
In 1937, Sheldon moved to Hollywood, where he got a job as a script reader at Universal Studios for $17.00 a week. He collaborated on several “B” movies with Ben Roberts. 4 years later, Sheldon joined the War Training Service during World War II, and served in the military as a pilot. The following year, he moved to New York where he continued to write screenplays for MGM Studios and Paramount Pictures. At the same time, he had written three hit musicals for Broadway, the revised Merry Widow, Jackpot, and Dream with Music, which were playing simultaneously. Sheldon returned to Hollywood and won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer in 1947 which starred Cary Grant and Myrna Loy. The movie also won the 1947 Box Office Blue Ribbon Award for its screenplay. Sheldon's Easter Parade won the Screen Writers Guild Award for Best Musical in addition to the Box Office Blue Ribbon Award. After a few more award-winning musicals, Sheldon decided to try his hand at television in 1963, which was gaining popularity at the time. He produced The Patty Duke Show, which went for 7 years, having written an unprecedented 78 scripts in 3 years. He also wrote scripts for Hart to Hart and Nancy. Sheldon went on to create and produce the hit series I Dream of Jeannie for which he received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Comedy.
It was during the 5 years for which I Dream of Jeannie ran that Sheldon concocted his first novel. The Naked Face was published in 1969, and won Sheldon the Best First Novel Edgar Allen Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America. After his bestseller debut, Sheldon went on to write 15 other chart topping novels in the crime fiction and thriller genres. His second book The Other Side of Midnight hit the New York Times bestseller list in 1974, and held the record of 52 weeks on the charts. Bloodline, Sheldon's fourth novel was a #1 bestseller. In 1980, Rage of Angels became #1 on the bestsellers lists a week before its official date of publication; it held that position for 18 weeks, and stayed on the list for a total of 42 weeks. Sheldon's popularity as a novelist was in full swing.
Sheldon's novels mostly portray strong, independent, determined women who persevere in a difficult world run by hostile men. Most of his readers are women too, apparently. Sheldon's thought on the matter are "I like to write about women who are talented and capable, but most important, retain their femininity. Women have tremendous power their femininity, because men can't do without it.”
In 1983, "Sidney Sheldon Day" was celebrated by Mayoral proclamation in his hometown of Chicago. Windmills of the Gods and The Sands of Time both debut on the bestseller lists before their releases, and advance orders were the heaviest in the publisher's history, the latter exceeding one million copies. In 1988, Sidney Sheldon received a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 1991 saw the publication of Sheldon's first international bestseller, The Doomsday Conspiracy. While Sheldon continued writing, some of his work was made into motion pictures and TV miniseries. After producing several other bestsellers, and breaking sales records, Sheldon received the prestigious Prix Literature 1993 at the Deauville Film Festival. The next year, he was named National Spokesman for Libraries for the Future. Sheldon started being honored by libraries across the United States; the American Library Association and The Los Angeles Public Library awarded him their Honorable Citizen Award. In 1997, Sheldon went into The Guinness Book of World Records as the Most Translated Author in the World. 2 years later, the Mayor of Beverly Hills declares Sidney Sheldon Day, and he is honored with "Great Authors of the Twentieth Century" Stamp. In 2005, Sheldon published his last work, a memoir called The Other Side of Me.
Sidney Sheldon passed away earlier this year, on the 30th of January, 12 days short of his 90th birthday. His second wife Alexandra Kostoff was by his side when complications from pneumonia eventually took his life at the Eisenhower Medical Centre in California.
(R) thedailystar.net 2007