Writer Sidney Sheldon (1917-2007), by the time he turned his talents to novels in 1970, had won an Academy Award
(for The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer
) and a Tony Award
) and helped create two hit TV shows in The Patty Duke Show
and I Dream of Jeannie
. Then his career really
While The Naked Face
(1970) was well-received, it was 1973's The Other Side of Midnight
that was his first blockbuster, setting the tone and style for his subsequent works. His novels were tales of treachery, passion, and love often set among The Beautiful Elite
— wealthy industrialists, entertainment icons, gangsters, even heads of state — often spanning years of chessmaster plots
and power plays, be they political or corporate. Airport Novel
fare all the way, they sold like gangbusters and his publisher came to proudly advertise him as "The World's Master Storyteller." Like those of his contemporaries Harold Robbins
, Jackie Collins
, and Judith Krantz
, his books were hardly regarded as fine art — they were soap operas
for the page.
Three of Sheldon's first four books, with the exception of A Stranger in the Mirror
, were adapted for the big screen, but all proved disappointments — the stories were generally too elaborate for B-movies, but too trashy to work as A-list fare. But the turn of The Eighties
was the era that the Made-for-TV Movie
genres came to prominence, and Sheldon's books were perfect for those formats — eight of his books would be adapted for the small screen over 1983-1995. He also created one more TV series, Hart to Hart
, in 1979.The novels of Sidney Sheldon are:
- The Naked Face (1970)
- The Other Side of Midnight (1973)
- A Stranger in the Mirror (1976)
- Bloodline (1977)
- Rage of Angels (1980)
- Master of the Game (1982)
- If Tomorrow Comes (1985)
- Windmills of the Gods (1987)
- The Sands of Time (1988)
- Memories of Midnight (1990; sequel to The Other Side of Midnight)
- The Doomsday Conspiracy (1991)
- The Stars Shine Down (1992)
- Nothing Lasts Forever (1994)
- Morning, Noon & Night (1995)
- The Best Laid Plans (1997)
- Tell Me Your Dreams (1998)
- The Sky Is Falling (2001; spinoff from The Best Laid Plans)
- Are You Afraid of the Dark? (2004)
The novels of Sidney Sheldon include examples of:
- Amoral Attorney
- Napoleon Chotas in The Other Side of Midnight and its sequel. Are you a wealthy, even famous person accused of a horrible crime? Have him represent you to be declared not guilty, even if there's a mountain of evidence against you. But if the man who hired him for you has his own agenda...
- Rage of Angels has one as its protagonist. Jennifer Parker is a defense attorney pitted against amoral (even heartless) corporate lawyers and the New York D.A., and quickly learns the ropes about being one herself. She is still portrayed sympathetically, being the book's protagonist and all.
- Perry Pope in If Tomorrow Comes.
- And the Adventure Continues: If Tomorrow Comes and The Sky Is Falling end this way.
- The Beautiful Elite: Both evil and good examples.
- Big Damn Heroes: In Nothing Lasts Forever, Dr. Barker turns out to be one.
- Big Screwed-Up Family:
- The Roffes of Bloodline, consisting of a daughter and four cousins of a recently deceased pharmaceutical company president. Elizabeth is the daughter, the heroine and a relatively well-adjusted soul — but the cousins...Anna is married to a psychotic, Simonetta has a husband who has a whole second family via his mistress, Helene is dangerously power-hungry and makes her husband suffer for her whims, and Sir Alec is in debt to the British mob. All the men in this bunch (plus Helene) have a reason to pressure Elizabeth into taking the company public and then selling their stock in it, but which one is the saboteur?
- The MacGregors, later Blackwells, in Master of the Game. Jamie, and later his daughter Kate, are desperate for a proper male heir. In the former's case, it's the only reason he marries the woman he got pregnant, because he originally did that to ruin her for her father's betrayal of him. Kate's son isn't interested in that position and desperately wants to become an artist, and then there's Eve's treachery...
- The Stanfords in Morning, Noon & Night. Patriarch Harry Stanford's affair with a governess led to his wife's suicide and his three children turning against him; by the time he dies Tyler has become known as "the Hanging Judge" in the world of law, Woody has become a heroin addict who takes things out on the waitress he married, and Kendall is a famous fashion designer who's being blackmailed — all of them are eager to get their share of Dad's fortune, and then there's the issue of their half-sister Julia, the product of the affair.
- Biggus Dickus: MANY of Sheldon's male characters, good or bad.
- Bittersweet Ending: In Rage of Angels, Jennifer survives and Adam becomes President of the United States, but the two can never be together again, and with their son dead, she's alone in the world.
- In Nothing Lasts Forever, Paige is cleared of murder charges stemming from her Mercy Kill of a patient thanks to the testimony of her Sadistic Teacher turned mentor and marries her boyfriend. The rest of the good characters get happy endings too, while the villains are duly punished. It's as close to a happy ending as a Sidney Sheldon novel is likely to get — except that Kat, one of Paige's dearest friends, is dead. Even the fact that her killer got his just desserts doesn't take the sting of this away.
- Black and Gray Morality: If Tomorrow Comes — gray characters include a Classy Cat-Burglar and her fellow thieves and swindlers; black characters include the Mafia, murderers, and various corrupt businessmen. There are a few adult characters who are introduced as and stay honest, but their hands are tied by the system and they are deceived by the others. (They also disappear after the book's first third.)
- Break the Cutie: Noelle Page in The Other Side of Midnight, Jennifer Parker in Rage of Angels, and Ashley Patterson in Tell Me Your Dreams all go through this process, but Tracy Whitney in If Tomorrow Comes takes the cake: She starts the book engaged to be married to one of the most eligible bachelors in Philadelphia and is pregnant with his child, but then her mother commits suicide after being ruined by a mobster. Tracy trying to right this wrong leads to a near-rape and an arrest for attempted murder and successful theft — and her lawyer is an ally of the bad guys, so she ends up in prison. Her fiance turns his back on her, she has no family left, and when an assault by her cellmates causes her to miscarry and be sent to solitary confinement, she becomes bent on revenge.
- Break the Haughty: Kate tries to do this to favorite granddaughter Eve in Master of the Game when she realizes how evil she is, by disinheriting her and giving her only a small living allowance to rent an apartment, etc. It fails.
- Cain and Abel / Polar Opposite Twins: Eve and Alexandra Blackwell in Master of the Game.
- The Casanova: Ken Mallory in Nothing Lasts Forever.
- Casting Couch: Noelle Page sleeps with successful actors, directors, etc. to advance her career in The Other Side of Midnight. Jill Castle tries to avoid this in A Stranger in the Mirror, but it doesn't work — ultimately most of her credits in Hollywood are directly due to her sleeping with someone. Honey Taft does this with her teachers and later professors in Nothing Lasts Forever so she can become a doctor, which means she isn't nearly as qualified for her internal medicine position as her recommendations suggest...
- Chekhov's Gun
- The Other Side of Midnight: The order of nuns, which the still-alive Catherine is secreted in at the end.
- A Stranger in the Mirror has two that come together: David's hatred of Mexicans and a porn film Jill was — unwittingly — in early in her career.
- Windmills of the Gods: The ballroom roof can be manually retracted — the only thing that can save the day in the climax.
- Memories of Midnight: The bomb shelter, which saves Catherine's life.
- The Chessmaster - Common character type who may well be described with chess metaphors or even the phrase "chess master".
- Noelle Page and Constantin Demeris in The Other Side of Midnight. At least one paperback edition of the book had a queen piece on its cover.
- The saboteur, Sir Alec Nichols, in Bloodline.
- Michael Moretti in Rage of Angels.
- Jamie MacGregor, Kate Blackwell, and Eve Blackwell in Master of the Game.
- Tracy Whitney and Jeff Stevens in If Tomorrow Comes; the Mafia men trying to ruin the former are this too until she seeks her revenge. The romantic tension between Tracy and Jeff comes from their rivalry as chessmasters; when they first work together on a con, it actually involves chess games!
- The Controller of the Patriots for Freedom in Windmills of the Gods.
- Tyler Stanford in Morning, Noon & Night.
- Classy Cat-Burglar: Tracy Whitney in If Tomorrow Comes. She can't find good legitimate work after her release from prison, and winds up being hired to rob a mansion instead. She finds she likes this experience a lot, and not just because it's profitable. Via her "employer", she can specifically target victims who are at the very least pompous and rude, and at the worst outright corrupt.
- Cosmopolitan Council: The Patriots for Freedom in Windmills of the Gods consist of powerful politicians, businessmen, etc. from all over the world. Many of them have different political viewpoints from each other, but they are all committed to the global status quo being maintained via Chessmaster tactics.
- Easy Amnesia: Catherine in Memories of Midnight.
- The End... Or Is It?: In the epilogue of Windmills of the Gods, female members of the Patriots for Freedom replace their now-arrested or dead male counterparts.
- Enfant Terrible: Implied, and sometimes outright shown, that many of the evil characters were evil even as children—Eve from Master Of The Game tries to kill her twin sister on their fifth birthday and it just gets worse from there. In another book, a boy is so obsessed with his mother that he kills her after walking in on her and her lover, then lies through his teeth when the man is arrested, sending him to death row.
- Expanded Universe: The miniseries adaptation of Rage of Angels was successful enough that it received a two-part Made-for-TV Movie sequel three years later.
- Fate Worse than Death: In Master of the Game, Eve's cuckolded husband permanently disfigures her, leaving her completely dependent on him.
- Flashback: Several in Memories of Midnight (written 17 years after The Other Side of...) to refresh the memories of those who read that book and get those who didn't up to speed on "current" events.
- Generational Saga: Master of the Game.
- Gold Digger: Noelle Page (The Other Side of Midnight) and Eve Blackwell, once she's disinherited (Master of the Game). Walther Gassner (Bloodline) is suspected of being this, but he isn't.
- Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Often played straight. In The Other Side of Midnight, Noelle choosing not to keep Larry's child, and how exactly she accomplishes it, establishes her now-evil nature. In Rage of Angels Jennifer almost goes through with this but changes her mind at the last moment. In If Tomorrow Comes Tracy considers keeping her child after being sent to prison, even if she has to give it up for adoption, but a beating takes the matter out of her hands. Initially averted in Nothing Lasts Forever with Kat, as her pregnancy as a teen was the result of being raped by her stepfather, but as an adult she is unwilling to do the same thing with her lover's baby. He murders her as a result, and stages it to look like a botched abortion.
- Subverted with Eve in Master of the Game. Eve ISN'T a "good girl", but she pretends to be in order to obtain an abortion. Having become pregnant after seducing her teacher, she cries rape. Her Wounded Gazelle Gambit pays off. The teacher is fired, and an abortion is arranged for her, with all the requisite sympathy, given the supposed circumstances of conception—it ends up looking like something sadly necessary for a "good girl".
- Green Aesop: The Doomsday Conspiracy has one. It's the aliens' message to humanity: If humans don't stop polluting Earth, the resultant global warming will lead to worldwide famine — and from there a devestating nuclear war.
- Halfway Plot Switch: The first third of If Tomorrow Comes has a broken cutie pulling herself out of her despair and taking Revenge on those who wronged her. The remainder follows her subsequent life as a Classy Cat-Burglar.
- Heir Club for Men
- Bloodline has two cases. Ivo Palazzi didn't like it that his children by his wife were all girls and that all his sons were illegitimate because he wanted male heirs to carry on his name. For Sam Roffe, his child being a girl was more of a tragedy than her mother having died within thirty minutes after the child's birth.
- In Master of the Game, Jamie MacGregor is only willing to marry the woman he impregnated when he realizes the child is male. That child is killed in a South African uprising, but by then he's also had a daughter, Kate, who successfully carries on the family business. She wants male heirs as well, and manipulates her son Tony's life so that he loses any desire not to follow in her footsteps. She also convinces his wife to go through with a potentially lethal pregnancy in hopes of a grandson. She gets twin granddaughters instead — and yes, Death by Childbirth results for the mother. As the book ends, Kate sets her grooming sights on her great-grandson.
- Henpecked Husband: Charles Martin in "Bloodline" and Keith — until he gets his revenge — in Master of the Game.
- Horrible Hollywood: The primary setting of A Stranger in the Mirror.
- How We Got Here: Several books open with a prologue set near/at the climax of the story.
- The Other Side of Midnight — The trial of Noelle Page and Larry Douglas, who are accused of murdering his wife Catherine, is about to begin.
- A Stranger in the Mirror — On a luxury liner setting off for France, there's blood in the cinema, a passenger's decided to leave via the tugboat, someone's vandalized a wedding cake, and the most admired woman in America is crying out in despair...
- Master of the Game — Kate Blackwell's 100th birthday party.
- Memories of Midnight — A Make It Look Like an Accident murder is arranged.
- The Stars Shine Down — Why has no one shown up at real estate developer Lara Cameron's lavish birthday party?
- Nothing Lasts Forever — Dr. Paige Taylor is on trial for murdering a wealthy patient for his money; she claims he demanded she kill him. She appears very guilty to everyone but her lover and one of her two apartment-mates...the other, Kat, is dead, and Paige blames herself...
- I Have This Friend: In Master of the Game, George uses a variant of this trope when he's sent to a psychiatrist to be analyzed after he brutally attacks Eve. He "admits" that while he is not the sort who brutalizes others for pleasure, a friend of his is. Said psychiatrist sees through this immediately, but doesn't let on that he does. Walther Gassner tries this in Bloodline with regards to treating psychosis; as it turns out, he really does have a friend — it's Anna.
- Infectious Insanity: His story "Need to Know", which was adapted as an episode of the 80's Twilight Zone revival.
- In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Sometimes used in the titles/advertising for adaptations of his work.
- Intimidating Revenue Service: "Bloodline": Max Hornung in Switzerland's version of the IRS was so competent several businessmen tried and failed to bribe him. When one of them learned he desired to become a police detective, they pulled strings so he'd get the job. People cooperate with his investigations out of fear he'd find something on them. When he does have to find, he does find.
- Ironic Nursery Tune: "Pop Goes the Weasel" in Tell Me Your Dreams.
- Irony: The Other Side of Midnight was intended as 20th Century Fox's Epic Movie for 1977, but is now best-known as the movie that helped get Star Wars out to the public. Since the sci-fi epic was an iffy proposition, the studio told exhibitors that they had to book it if they wanted Other Side. The Sheldon adaptation got horrible reviews and quietly disappointed at the box office.
- It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: When Tracy returns to her hometown after her mother's suicide in If Tomorrow Comes, it happens to be while Mardi Gras is underway, underlining the misery she feels.
- I Want Grandkids: Kate in Master of the Game, with horrific results — the mother dies in childbirth, the father goes insane when he realizes the extent of Kate's manipulation, and one of the twin granddaughters is evil.
- Karma Houdini: Numerous characters in all of Sheldon's books, but Angel, the assassin in Windmills of the Gods is a particularly good/bad example.
- Love Martyr: Catherine in The Other Side of Midnight. Also Peggy in Morning, Noon & Night, leading to a subversion — she's been keeping Woody hooked on heroin and thus dependent on her.
- The Mafia: Members of this appear in...
- Rage of Angels — The primary antagonists.
- If Tomorrow Comes — The primary villains in the first half.
- The Sands of Time — Sister Lucia is actually a Mafia princess on the run, having murdered the men she blames for tearing her loving family apart (because, you know, they arrested and convicted them for their crimes).
- Memories of Midnight — Supporting baddies.
- Nothing Lasts Forever — They're a problem for Kat when the local kingpin, impressed with both her skills and the fact that she's not afraid of him, forces her to fix up his underlings when they are injured so they don't have to risk being found out for the dirty dealings that caused the injuries. The kingpin becomes so genuinely fond of her and grateful for her help—she ends up saving HIS life as well—that when she tells him she's engaged, he tells her, "Tell him to take care of you, or he'll answer to me", then fulfills his promise—when her fiance kills her so that he can marry an heiress, he has him murdered.
- Bloodline — The British mafia are the reason Sir Alec Nichols needs to sell his shares of Roffe & Sons Pharmaceuticals.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: Sheldon's villains are fond of this murder technique.
- The Other Side of Midnight: Larry attempts to off Catherine in this way twice. First he tries to push her off of a mountain. Second he takes her to a cave that is a popular tourist attraction and tricks her into following him off of the beaten path, then abandons her to her presumed doom.
- A Stranger in the Mirror: Toby's death.
- Bloodline: The saboteur's schemes revolve around this trope — a shipment of mislabeled drugs here, a factory explosion there...
- Rage of Angels: Adam Warner, almost.
- Master of the Game: Eve tries several times to kill Alexandra in this manner, starting on the eve of their fifth birthday when she sets her on fire under the pretense of getting an early look at their cakes. When the attempts fail Eve easily feigns innocence and/or pins the blame on others. The plan Eve hatches with George also hinges on this.
- Windmills of the Gods: When Mary chooses not to accept the offer to become ambassador to Romania after her loving husband talks her out of it (he doesn't want the family uprooted), he is murdered in a phony car accident set up by the Patriots for Freedom. In the aftermath, she is once again offered the position and decides to accept this time.
- Memories of Midnight: Constantin has most of the people who could reveal his crimes to the world offed in this way, and finally hires a specialist to off Catherine, who barely escapes.
- The Doomsday Conspiracy: Some of the witnesses to a UFO crash are picked off in this manner.
- Nothing Lasts Forever: Kat's demise.
- Morning, Noon & Night: Harry Stanford's demise.
- The Sky Is Falling: The plot gets rolling in this novel when its TV reporter heroine suspects that five deaths in one prominent family, most of which are supposedly accidental, are connected.
- Mama Bear: Jennifer Parker is this in Rage of Angels, though she has to work indirectly. Her son is kidnapped by an insane murderer, and with time of the essence she calls on a Mafia prince to get the boy back.
- Master of Disguise: Tracy Whitney in If Tomorrow Comes (via Wig, Dress, Accent; she was an amateur actress in college), which makes her such a great thief. Interpol believes her string of European robberies is the work of an all-female gang.
- The Mistress
- Noelle Page to Constantin Demeris in The Other Side of Midnight; when she and Larry rekindle their relationship, she is also a mistress to him and has to keep it a secret.
- Donatella to Ivo Palazzi in Bloodline — he has three sons with her and he's struggling to keep this a secret from his wife and three daughters.
- Jennifer Parker to Adam Warner in Rage of Angels. This is brought to an end by his wife's pregnancy and his senatorial campaign. Later, she becomes Michael Moretti's mistress.
- In Windmills of the Gods, those enlisting the services of master assassin Angel can't communicate with him directly; his hideously ugly mistress serves as the go-between and she's quite the killer herself. The mistress IS Angel; the fact that no one knows "he" doesn't exist is the secret of her success.
- Mrs. Hypothetical: In Bloodline, Elizabeth Roffe imagined becoming "Mrs. Rhys Williams". It becomes true.
- Non-Idle Rich
- Elizabeth Roffe in Bloodline. Despite being able to simply sell her shares of her family's company, she decided to run the company.
- Though she will inherit the company when Kate dies, Alexandra Blackwell decides to get herself a desk job at Kruger-Brent in the meantime late in Master of the Game.
- On One Condition: In Bloodline, Samuel Roffe's heirs can't sell their shares of the company he founded unless all shareholders agree to it. Also, people neither born nor married into his bloodline won't be allowed to be the company's CEO or join its board of directors unless all shareholders agree to modify or eliminate that rule.
- Outlived Its Creator: Tilly Bagshawe was hired by Sheldon's estate to write new novels in his style; the first, 2009's Mistress of the Game, is a sequel to Master of....
- Psycho for Hire: George Mellis in Master of the Game, whom Eve blackmails into helping him in her plot against Alexandra — like her, he's been disinherited from his family for his sins, and if Eve's plan works he gets both a cut of a fortune and a new victim. (Not that he lacks for the latter...)
- Rape as Drama: He used this a lot, and let's leave it at that...
- Revenge: Frequent motivation for his characters.
- The Other Side of Midnight — Noelle Page wants vengeance on Larry Douglas, the man who wooed and abandoned her.
- A Stranger in the Mirror — Jill Castle wants revenge on everyone who wronged her in Hollywood during the years she spent there as a nobody. When she gets revenge on her husband's agent, ruining him, he vows — and gets — revenge on her.
- Rage of Angels — The Manhattan District Attorney wants to ruin Jennifer Parker's law career because she ruined his case against Michael Moretti when she delivered a dead canary to the key witness for the prosecution, which frightened him out of testifying. She didn't know what she was delivering (she was tricked by one of his underlings) but the D.A. refuses to believe her.
- Master of the Game — Jamie MacGregor plots to bring down the powerful merchant who cheated him and then tried to have him killed. He is aided by the man's servant, since he has his own grudge against him. Three generations later, Eve Blackwell seeks to destroy her sister and take over the family business after she is disinherited by her grandmother for her evil. She winds up wanting and getting revenge on the Psycho For Hire she blackmails into helping her with her plot, too.
- If Tomorrow Comes — The Title Drop comes as part of Tracy Whitney's thoughts, as she vows to have her vengeance on the men who ruined her life (see Break the Cutie above).
- The Sands of Time — Lucia's backstory reveals she got her revenge on the men who sent the rest of her family to prison, which is why she's on the run now.
- Memories of Midnight — Constantin Demeris's brother-in-law Spyros is already his business rival. But on top of that he wants to get back at Constantin for how he's treated Melina, Spyros's sister and Constantin's wife.
- Morning, Noon & Night — Tyler, his oldest son, wants revenge on Harry Stanford.
- The Best Laid Plans — Leslie Stewart plots to ruin the career of Oliver Russell when he leaves her at the altar to marry a woman whose father promises to further his political career.
- Rich Bitch
- Noelle Page in The Other Side of Midnight becomes one after she's broken and sets about her revenge.
- Cissy Topping in A Stranger in the Mirror was born into being this, and Jill Castle grows into one.
- Helene Roffe-Martin in Bloodline.
- Mary Beth Warner in Rage of Angels.
- Eve Blackwell in Master of the Game.
- Samus Is a Girl: Angel, the assassin, in Windmills of the Gods.
- Sequel Gap: 17 years between The Other Side of Midnight and Memories of Midnight.
- Serial Spouse: Helene Roffe-Martin in Bloodline.
- Setting Update: The TV-movie version of Memories of Midnight was set in what was then The Present Day, rather than the late 1940s.
- Split Personality: The heroine in Tell Me Your Dreams.
- Starts with a Suicide: If Tomorrow Comes opens with the heroine's mother killing herself.
- Suicide, Not Murder: Melina in Memories of Midnight.
- There Are No Therapists: The hero of The Naked Face is a psychoanalyst, and from there we have the following aversions, all of whom are good guys.
- Walthner Gassner consults several in Bloodline with regards to psychosis.
- Master of the Game has Peter, a psychiatrist who figures out George (sent to him after he brutally assaults Eve) isn't all he seems.
- Memories of Midnight has Alan, a psychoanalyst.
- Several psychiatrists appear over the course of Tell Me Your Dreams.
- Tontine: In Bloodline, Roffe & Sons Pharmaceuticals is a company whose founder saw to it that his heirs wouldn't be allowed to sell their shares unless all shareholders agreed to it. Detective Max Hornung, who was investigating the murder of Sam Roffe, compares this with the tontine.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Joshua in Rage of Angels.
- Trauma Conga Line: Frequently used to Break the Cutie, usually with Type B (character goes bad) or C (character gives up on life) results.
- Twist Ending
- The Other Side of Midnight: Catherine didn't die.
- Morning, Noon & Night: There is nothing left to inherit.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Keith and Eve in Master of the Game, and not by choice for the latter of that couple.
- The Unfavorite: In Nothing Lasts Forever, Honey Taft was an unplanned child for her successful, powerful parents, and she wasn't as gifted or as pretty as her older sisters, so she quickly became this.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy
- Sam Roffe to Elizabeth, his daughter, in Bloodline.
- Dr. Lawrence Barker to Paige Taylor in Nothing Lasts Forever (mentor).
- Harry Stanford to Tyler, his son, in Morning, Noon & Night.
- Woman Scorned: Noelle Page in The Other Side of Midnight and Leslie Stewart in The Best Laid Plans.