- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 30, 2007

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sidney Sheldon, who won awards in three careers — 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.

Mr. Sheldon died yesterday 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,” Mr. Cowan said. “In all my years in this business, I’ve never heard an unkind word said about him.”

Mr. 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. “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.”

Mr. Sheldon was 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.

He was born in Chicago on Feb. 17, 1917. He established his reputation as a prolific writer in the New York theater after World War II. At one time, he had three musicals on Broadway: a rewritten “The Merry Widow,” “Jackpot” and “Dream with Music.” He received a Tony award as one of the writers of the Gwen Verdon hit “Redhead.”

Mr. Sheldon’s first Hollywood assignment, “The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer,” starring Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Shirley Temple, brought him the Academy Award for best original screenplay of 1947. With the movie business hurting in the 1950s because of television’s popularity, Mr. Sheldon decided to try the new medium.

“I met Patty Duke one day at lunch. So I produced ‘The Patty Duke Show’ [in which she played two cousins], and I did something nobody else in TV ever did. For seven years, I wrote almost every single episode of the series,” he said. “I Dream of Jeannie,” which he also created and produced, lasted five seasons.

“During the last year of ‘I Dream of Jeannie,’ I decided to try a novel,” Mr. Sheldon 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. Thereafter, Mr. Sheldon became a habitue of best-seller lists.

Along with his wife and daughter, survivors include his brother Richard, two grandchildren and other family members. Private funeral services were pending.

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