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Best-selling author Sidney Sheldon dies at 89

Sidney Sheldon, an Oscar-winning Hollywood screenwriter who went on to become one of the world's most prolific novelists, died in California on Tuesday at the age of 89.

Sheldon died of complications from pneumonia at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, near his Palm Springs home, said Sean Rossall.

"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. "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."

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. A big, cheerful man, he bragged about his work habits.

Unlike other novelists who toiled over typewriters or computers, he dictated 50 pages a day to a secretary or a tape machine. He corrected the pages the following day, continuing the routine until he had 1,200 to 1,500 pages.

"Then I do a complete rewrite -- 12 to 15 times," he said. "I spend a whole year rewriting."

Several of his novels became television miniseries, often with the author as producer, the AP reports.

Sheldon became an American icon in the 1970s with novels like The Other Side of Midnight and Bloodline, bestsellers spun out of international intrigue and the sexual liberation of the era. Strong women were often the main characters.

He published 18 novels and sold 300 million copies, making him a paperback stand staple for decades. Translations into 71 languages in 180 countries won him a listing in The Guinness Book of Records as "the world's most translated author."

But before his career in fiction took off after turning 50, the Chicago native had made his mark in Hollywood movies and television and in Broadway theatre.

After heading to Los Angeles at 17, he started as script reader at major studios, and then had three Broadway musical hits by the age of 25.

His big break came five years later in 1948 when he won an Academy Award for original screenplay for The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer starring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy.

Working as a screenwriter at both MGM and Paramount Pictures, Sheldon went on to write 25 films including Easter Parade, showcasing Judy Garland and Fred Astaire, Annie Get Your Gun, Jumbo, and Anything Goes, featuring Bing Crosby.

In 1963, he turned to the fledgling television industry as screenwriter for The Patty Duke Show and followed up in 1964 by creating, producing and writing the hit show I Dream of Jeannie.

In 2005, he wrote his memoir The Other Side of Me in which he offered a rare glimpse into the lives of stars like Grant and Garland.

As a child born during the Depression to parents who dropped out in third grade and rarely read books, Sheldon considered his writing success somewhat of a miracle.

Sheldon is survived by his wife, Alexandra, a daughter, Mary and a brother Richard.

The family did not give details of funeral arrangements, but said a "celebration of his life" will be held at a date to be determined, reports.

Source: agencies

Prepared by Alexander Timoshik

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