LOS ANGELES – Sidney Sheldon, who won awards in three careers – Broadway theater, movies and television – then at age 50 turned to writing best-selling novels about stalwart women who triumph in a hostile world of ruthless men, has died. He was 89.
Sheldon died Tuesday afternoon of complications from pneumonia at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., said Warren Cowan, his publicist. His wife, Alexandra, and his daughter, author Mary Sheldon, were by his side.
“I’ve lost a longtime and dear friend,” Cowan said. “In all my years in this business, I’ve never heard an unkind word said about him.”
Sheldon’s books, with titles such as “Rage of Angels,” “The Other Side of Midnight,” “Master of the Game” and “If Tomorrow Comes,” provided his greatest fame. They were cleverly plotted, with a high degree of suspense and sensuality and a device to keep the reader turning pages.
“I try to write my books so the reader can’t put them down,” he explained in a 1982 interview.
Analyzing why so many women bought his books, he commented: “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.”
Sheldon was obviously not aiming at highbrow critics, whose reviews of his books were generally disparaging. He remained undeterred, promoting the novels and himself with genial fervor.
Several of his novels became television miniseries, often with the author as producer.
Sheldon began writing as a youngster in Chicago, where he was born Feb. 17, 1917.
During World War II, he served as a pilot in the Army Air Corps. In the New York theater after the war he established his reputation as a prolific writer. His Broadway success brought about his return to Hollywood.
With the movie business hurting because of television’s popularity, Sheldon decided to try the new medium, eventually producing series such as “The Patty Duke Show” and “I Dream of Jeannie.”
“During the last year of ‘I Dream of Jeannie,’ I decided to try a novel,” he said in 1982. The result was “The Naked Face,” which was scorned by book reviewers and sold 21,000 copies in hardcover. The novel found a mass market in paperback, reportedly selling 3.1 million copies. Thereafter Sheldon became a habitue of best-seller lists, often reigning on top.