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Appreciating Sidney Sheldon

Both the New York Times and Los Angeles Times pay tribute to Sidney Sheldon, the bestselling popular fiction writer who died earlier this week. “Sartre and star fever, side by side: this was Sheldon at his risible but lovable high-low best. He was both literate and lurid, and he made that combination hard to resist,” marvels Janet Maslin. And as for his penchant for self-promotion, “the first, unavoidable view is that Sheldon became an inveterate show-off, seduced by the trappings of wealth and power. The second and kinder one: that he had the warmth of one of his own characters. The party was glamorous, and he wanted his fans to know about it. He did not want their noses pressed to the glass. He wanted them invited in.”

Jonathan Kirsch‘s tribute recognizes that Sheldon’s potboilers aren’t likely to be read 100 years from now, but that wasn’t the author’s aim, anyway, and there’s one way he’ll “live forever”:

Dan Brown may have broken Sheldon’s old record of keeping a book on a bestseller list for 53 weeks, but Brown certainly owes a debt to the man who gave the world so much of what critics have called “good junk reading.” Stripped of their faux history and dubious theology, Brown’s page-turners are rendered in precisely the same kind of dialogue-driven narrative and urgent, one-sentence paragraphs, and ornamented with the same kind of exotic locales and unlikely characters, that can be found in any of Sheldon’s novels.

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