Sidney Sheldon and his works (no.121 and 32)

Before Sheldon Cooper, I fell in love with another Sheldon. His name was Sidney and he was an American writer, the 7th best selling writer of all time, in fact.

I first learned about him in one National Bookstore branch. I only had a few books under my belt at that time, mostly works of J.K. Rowling and Dan Brown and I was looking for another author to read. Og Mandino was my first choice but his work that I bought (The Christ Commission) was never returned to me (note to self: never lend a book you haven’t read). Then a particular novel with a woman’s back on the cover caught my eye partly because I was intrigued by the title “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” and mostly because in huge bold letters it said “more than 200 million books sold”. Then began my love affair with Sidney who I thought was  a woman until I read in the “about the author” section that he has a wife. After Sheldon, I’ve read a lot of better books but it was his that polluted my somewhat innocent mind since I was between 14 to 18 years old when I read 19 of his works.

According to Wikipedia, Sheldon’s genre is suspense but there were also injections of romance, action and humor in his books. Also, the words used were simple a beginner like me had no difficulty comprehending. I remember forming a plot in my head on how the story would end, hypothesizing on who the killer was etcetera. Most of the time I was wrong. His books are listed below in chronological order. Will try to say a couple of things about each though I confess I sometimes have the characters and the scenes jumbled up in my head. Can’t remember what happened where.

THE NAKED FACE

This was about a psychoanalyst trying to find out who wanted to kill him after being a suspect in the death of his homosexual patient. I could not remember what happened in between but I remember who the mastermind is though I think the reason was shallow. Clue: Mafia.

THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT

This was the only book with a sequel, Memories of Midnight. Unfortunately, I read that first so I pretty much knew what the ending of this book was. Anyway, it was still a good read because I found out the history of the characters presented in Memories. Catherine was naive, Larry was unremarkable and Noelle was frighteningly beautiful. Besides, it spawned two of my most favorite characters, Constantin Demiris who was filthy rich and Napoleon Chotas, a brilliant attorney (still can’t get over what he did with the cough syrup in the courtroom).

A STRANGER IN THE MIRROR

One of the last that I’ve read, this was about Toby Temple, a really famous comedian and his last wife, Jill Castle. The book fell a bit short of my high expectations. You can’t blame me because the first few paragraphs glorified Jill as if she saved humankind. What I liked about this book though, no happy ending. And I can’t forget the part where Toby helped a friend rise to fame again and then insulted him in front of millions of viewers (though the people thought it was a joke) afterwards. Remember what Fahran said in 3 idiots? “Your friend flops, you feel bad. Your friend tops, you feel worse.”

BLOODLINE

Frankly, I don’t remember much from this novel except that the main character, Elizabeth, was in charge after her father, the owner of one of the largest pharmaceutical firm in the country died a mysterious death. His father wanted the business to stay private and within the family but Elizabeth’s sisters and cousins (no male heir so they married jerks) wanted to sell shares so they could have cold cash. I guess I need to re-read this one.

RAGE OF ANGELS

This was my favorite book of Sheldon. Mostly because of Jennifer Parker and Michael Moretti’s love affair. Again, no happy ending. I assumed Sheldon was very fond of the Mafia because Michael Moretti was (guess what) a Mafia boss. Jennifer was an attorney and all through out the book, she has underwent many sufferings. And may I just say that I hated Adam Warner? Why? Because I liked Moretti. Liked him so much that I named my first iPod (rest in peace, my gadget) after him.

MASTER OF THE GAME

What I remembered about this book was the appropriateness of the title to the anta/protagonist, Kate Blackwell. She was a controlling, manipulative, materialistic, selfish bitch. Also, the novel spanned several generations in the family, starting from Kate’s parents to her grandchildren. Kate’s father, Jamie, acquired their wealth through stealing diamonds. Their company was called Kruger-Brent, named after the two guards who were calling each other in the diamond field laid with pressure bombs where Jamie stole the precious stones. Motherly Kate destroyed her son’s career as an artist because she wanted him to be the heir of their conglomerate. Then one of her grand daughters, Eve, tried to kill her identical twin. All for the love of money.

IF TOMORROW COMES

The story revolved around Tracy Whitney, whose life was destroyed by the Mafia (again). She was imprisoned after pleading guilty in an attempted murder without knowing that her attorney and even the judge was part of the payroll. After prison, she in turn, revenged on the mafia. After destroying their lives, she could not find a decent job because people just didn’t trust ex-convicts. Hence, she became one of the world’s cleverest criminals together with her future husband Jeff. I was fascinated with her heists especially when she stole the diamond. She was pursued by a semi-sociopath investigator who was the only one clever enough to match her skills but he never caught her. Now this one had a happy ending because Tracy and Jeff, after amassing enough money to live in luxury for the rest of their lives, decided to become law-abiding citizens in another country.

WINDMILLS OF THE GODS

What I enjoyed so much about this book was the world-class assassin Angel and his identity. For that reason alone, this was worth reading.

THE SANDS OF TIME

This was the story of four women who was forced to leave their convent with a lot of other minor tales on the side (a revolution, a dying millionaire in search of the lost heir, the always present Mafia). They had different reasons behind entering a place where they were not allowed to look into the eyes nor speak with another. The first was Lucia, the daughter of a Mafia boss (see?) who was hiding from the police after her family’s business crumbled and a murder. The other three sisters were Teresa (the oldest with a fiance-stealing sister in her past), Megan (missing heir to a multi-million dollar company) and Graciela (the most beautiful yet traumatized to love).

MEMORIES OF MIDNIGHT

This was the sequel to the Other Side of Midnight. While the former focused on the lives of Larry, Noelle and Catherine, this one had more to offer about Constantin Demiris though I did not like the ending. Only Cathrine lived happily ever after (if such a thing exists).

THE DOOMSDAY CONSPIRACY

Among all of Sheldon’s books, I was not fond of this one. The name of the protagonist was Robert Bellamy and almost implausibly, he was fluent in 6 languages. Anyway, he was tasked by the National Security Agency to look for the witnesses aboard a bus who accidentally saw a weather balloon with some top secret equipment. As cliche goes, the witnesses were killed one by one, their deaths staged as accidents. And the top secret equipment? UFOs. “Aliens” and “Sheldon” were two words that did not go together well for me. In fact, I liked the book up until the earthlings started interacting with the extraterrestrials. Then it became bad, really bad. According to Wikipedia, Dan Brown said the book was one of his inspirations in writing the Da Vinci Code. Guess Robert Langdon was based on Bellamy. The similarity though, was more striking in Deception Point.

THE STARS SHINE DOWN

Lara Cameron was the name of the femme lead in this book and she was a very successful real estate developer. The book, compared to other works of Sheldon had less twists and was much lighter in terms of the number of intertwined stories. The story was mainly about Cameron almost losing everything that was important to her (she didn’t). It also chronicled some of her achievements as a developer and her sometimes unconventional way of attaining them. If you’re unfamiliar with the world of real estate, this might help you shed some light. The disturbing part was *spoilers* when she hired someone to attack her world class pianist husband so he could not tour anymore because she missed him too much. Possessive, eh?

NOTHING LASTS FOREVER

Now, this was one of my favorites because it was a medical thriller though I had read it even before I knew I was going to take up nursing. The story was about three female doctors who were trying to prove themselves in the then male-dominated profession. In one scene, they were even asked to change their clothes in the nurses’ lounge. The first was Dr. Paige Taylor who always faced an ethical dilemma. First, there was a scene where she treated a boy in a life and death situation without consent which was questioned by her colleagues, then she put an end to a patient’s suffering swearing it was euthanasia but she received a million dollars afterwards. Her relationship with an Architect (forgot the name) made me kilig (guess the two professions are really compatible. hehe). Next was Dr. Kate Hunter who was abused as a child. I found the minor story about a Mafia patient of hers who took revenge on her killer really nice. Last was Dr. Honey Taft, who just fucked her way out of med school, an underachiever in a family of overachievers.

MORNING, NOON AND NIGHT

Money was one of the themes of this book masked in the form of inheritance. Harry Stanford was a rich businessman who drowned while travelling on his yacht. His fortune, which was estimated to be around 6 to 7 billion dollars was supposed to be equally shared between his three children whom he has an estranged relationship with until it was found out that there was a fourth heir to the wealth born out of wedlock. All of the characters, who had lives and problems of their own were all related to one person that was Harry Stanford. His first born Tyler was a gay judge so greedy he even hired someone to act as their bogus sibling. And his youngest Woody was drug dependent. Guess who gave him the merchandise? An unforgettable learning from this book was to give a cabbie a hundred dollars if you want to be remembered.

THE BEST LAID PLANS

This was the first book I finished in a day (in one sitting, actually) that was more than 300 pages long (paperback was 384 pages). I read it last December 15, 2007 in Japan. It was a Saturday, 4 years 7 months and 16 days ago (thanks WolframAlpha!). I was staying with my host family. After helping my host mother teach English to three of her students, I saw Sidney’s name on her shelf along with other English paperbacks so I borrowed and stayed in my room the whole afternoon. I read and finished the book after 5 hours, I think. Well, who couldn’t read properly when the view on your veranda looked like this?

The book was about revenge and how it was not good for the health of the avenger. As the saying goes, “Revenge is like throwing mud. You are not sure that your opponent is hit but your hands will always be dirty“. Leslie Stewart was the one with dirty hands and the person she was trying to hit was his ex-fiance, Oliver Russell, president of the United States who left her miserable and with a broken heart. After real-estate and convents and Hollywood and Mafias and conglomerates, Sheldon talked about the media empire this time. The minor story was a series of murders involving some kind of aphrodisiac drug and Leslie was sure that Oliver was the culprit. The book was commendable because it was only on the last few pages that the unfolding happened. Also, thanks to this book, I learned about the famous headline “Dewey defeats Truman” published by Chicago Headline Tribune. Why was if famous? Because on November 1938, it was actually Truman who won and not Dewey.

TELL ME YOUR DREAMS

This was the second book of Sheldon that I got my hands on next to Are You Afraid of the Dark?. The story was about Ashley Patterson who suffered from Dissociative Identity Disorder or multiple personality disorder, her other personalities namely Toni and Alette. Without Ashley consciously knowing it, Toni murdered her lovers. Evidence on the crime scenes ultimately pointed to Ashley as the killer and she was arrested. Since I did not have a background in psychiatry when I read the book, I was doubtful whether there really was such a disorder but when I took up nursing, I began to appreciate the book more. The mind, unable to bear a certain amount of trauma and stress, sometimes creates other selves as coping mechanism. In the plot’s case, Ashley’s disorder stemmed from being sexually abused as a child by no other than her father. Read this book though I fear I have ruined the suspense.

THE SKY IS FALLING

The protagonist in this book was Dana Evans, who also appeared in Best Laid Plans albeit not the main character. The book was about the series of deaths of the members of the Winthrops, the closest America could have for a royal family. And it involved an underground city that produced plutonium. The family’s wealth was ill-acquired after all. But really, whose was not?

ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK?

It’s funny how I read the last novel he published first. I liked the book and immediately decided that other books of the author must be good as well (some were better, others worse). The story was about four murders of scientists who were working on an environmental company. Two of the widows tried to solve their husbands’ deaths only to find themselves in grave danger as well. On the side are two love stories that made me want to meet a nerd/braniac and marry him plus the never ending concept of sibling rivalry. All in all the novel was pleasing to read though I think the “machine” called Prima was very far-fetch.

THE OTHER SIDE OF ME

Last but not the least was the autobiography. Unfortunately, Sheldon died on January 2007. I read this book in 2009 and was glad to be re-acquainted with the master story teller. This was the first biography I’ve read because I had the prejudice that non-fictions  were boring. I was glad to be proved wrong.

The opening went like this:

At the age of seventeen, working as a delivery boy at Afremov’s drugstore in Chicago was the perfect job, because it made it possible for me to steal enough sleeping pills to commit suicide.

After that, the elevator (the metaphor Sheldon used for his life) had been up and down several times. It was interesting that he had a herniated disc and suffered from manic depression (presently termed as bipolar). Guess great people are prone to mental disorders.

Although I enjoyed the book, my biggest discontent was that Sheldon as a novelist was hardly mentioned. 90% of the book was about his struggles as a playwright, producer and etc. The story about his career as a novelist went like this: I published a book, the naked face. On a press conference, only one book was sold and it was out of pity. My second book, the other side of midnight, was a smash. DONE!

I wanted more since I found out about and liked Sheldon not because of the Patty Duke Show but due to the dozens of characters and plots he created in his novels. Up to now I still think about them in passing.

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