Sidney Sheldon, a writer whose keen grasp of popular tastes fueled a string of feverishly romantic and suspenseful books that made him a perennial bestseller with millions of copies in print around the world, died yesterday. He was 89.
Mr. Sheldon died of pneumonia at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., according to his friend and publicist Warren Cowan.
A multifaceted writer, Mr. Sheldon won a screenwriting Oscar, a Tony award, and had created popular television sitcoms before starting his first novel at the age of 52.
But it was through the novels that he gained his overriding fame. His books usually revolved around characters of great wealth, beauty, brilliance, and bedroom prowess, none of which protected them from infidelity, betrayal, and indiscretion. Mr. Sheldon's protagonists were usually women, and his plots were so artfully constructed that his books are the very definition of a page-turner.
He was one of the world's most translated authors, selling more than 300 million books in 180 countries. They were printed in 51 languages, including Urdu, which is spoken in Pakistan and India, and in Swahili.
With his second novel, "The Other Side of Midnight" (1974), Mr. Sheldon broke into the blockbuster ranks; the book remained on The New York Times bestseller list for 53 weeks, then a record.
About half of his 18 novels -- with such titles as "Rage of Angels" (1980) and "Memories of Midnight" (1990) -- were turned into television movies or miniseries. Demand for his stories was so great that CBS executives reportedly paid Mr. Sheldon $1 million for the rights to make a miniseries of 1985's "If Tomorrow Comes" before they had read it.
Some critics said that his dialogue was banal and that his plots were unbelievable, but many grudgingly acknowledged the author's unusual talent at producing what The Washington Post once called "good junk reading time after time."
After Mr. Sheldon's 1987 novel "Windmills of the Gods"...
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