Sheldon, Sidney: A Stranger in the Mirror
(researched by Michael Beachy)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Sidney Sheldon. A stranger in the Mirror. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1976. Copyright 1976, by Sidney Sheldon.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
Every indication is that the first American edition was published in trade cloth binding, without a simultaneous or staggered paperback edition. Sources: WorldCat, Bibliofind
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
162 leaves, pp. [1-10]11-17[18-20]21-151[152-154]155-237[238-240]241-319[320]321[322][1]
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
The book is not introduced or edited.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
The book is not illustrated.
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
Size of page: 20.9cm by 14cm Size of text: 16cm by 10.1cm The readability of the book is very good, owing to the wide margins, nice line spacing, moderate type size, and clear print of the text. Size of type: 91R The text is Serif type.
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
The paper is wove and has an even, granulated texture, without chain-lines or wire marks. It has held up very well, with only slight yellowing at the edges. It appears that the paper all comes from one stock. In this particular copy, there are no tears or any other smudges of any kind on the paper. The paper has a moderate bulk to it.
11 Description of binding(s)
The binding around the spine is a black cloth, and it appears to be of a calico-texture, not embossed. The cloth surrounding the rest of the book is a smooth, dark grey. The cloth bindings are in excellent condition, without wear or tear. There are no stampings or illustrations on the binding. Both the pasted and free endpapers are a solid medium red color and are not illustrated. The front and back covers are blank. Stamped on the spine in silver printing, reading from top to bottom is: |Sheldon A Stranger in the Mirror Morrow|. Dust jacket is present and in fairly good condition, with some wear at the corners and a tear on the upper part covering the spine. The background is black with white, yellow, and silver printing. On front is the title, along with the authorís name and an illustration. On the back is a photograph of Sidney Sheldon and his dog, taken by Russ Halford. The inside front flap is a short plot description of the book, and the back inside flap contains a short biography of Sheldon.
12 Transcription of title page
Recto: | A Stranger | in the Mirror | by Sidney Sheldon | WILLIAM MORROW AND COMPANY, INC. | NEW YORK 1976 | Verso: | Copyright 1976 by Sidney Sheldon |
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
Manuscript holdings have not been found.
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
On p.1 in the top right-hand corner of this copy of the first edition is penciled in "18.00 1st," indicating the booksellerís price for the book and marking that it is a first edition. On p.2 are a list of Sidney Sheldonís books: | Books by Sidney Sheldon | A STRANGER IN THE MIRROR | THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT | THE NAKED FACE |. p.5 contains a dedication from the author: | NOTE TO THE READER | The art of making others laugh is surely a wondrous gift | from the gods. I affectionately dedicate this book to the co- | medians, the men and women who have that gift and share it | with us. And to one of them in particular: my daughterís god- | fater, Groucho. | p.7 contains a disclaimer: | This is a work of fiction. Except for the names of | theatrical personalities, all characters are imaginary. | p.9 contains a short introductory poem: | If you would seek to find yourself | Look not in a mirror | For there is but a shadow there, | A stranger . . . | -SILENIUS, Odes to Truth |.
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
The only indication of a subsequent edition by William Morrow and Company is that of a Book Club edition, questionably published in 1976. The book contained 241 pages. Source: WorldCat, Publisherís Weekly
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
There were at least four printings of the first edition, yielding 108,400 copies. The first printing yielded 60,000 copies.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
There were several editions by other publishers. Paperbacks: Hodder and Stoughton, 1982. Fontana, 1991. Pan Books, 1978. Warner Books, 1977, 1979, 1981. Large print edition: Ulverscroft, 1983. As part of a collection: Three complete novels: BloodlineóA stranger in the MirroróThe Naked Face. New York: Wings Books, 1992. Source: WorldCat
6 Last date in print?
As of August 1988, the book was still being published as a mass market edition by Warner Books. As of June 1994, a trade cloth version was still being published by Doubleday Direct. The original trade cloth edition by William Morrow and Company from April 1976 is now out of print. Source: Books in Print with Book Reviewers Database
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
As of 1977, 2,167,500 copies had been sold.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
In 1976, 113,500 copies were sold, placing the novel at #10 on Publisherís Weekly annual bestseller list. The subsequent paperback edition published by Warner Books sold 2,054,000 copies in 1977, thus beating Sheldonís previous record of 1,850,000 copies sold of The Other Side of Midnight. Source: Publisherís Weekly: February 14, 1977 and February 20, 1978
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
A promotional advertisement for the novel appeared in the January 1, 1976, issue of Publisherís Weekly. It was contained in a two page spread advertisement for forthcoming spring novels to be published by William Morrow and Company. There were three columns of advertisements on each page, followed by cover-art pictures of corresponding novels underneath the columns. The advertisement for the novel was the top entry in the middle column on the left-hand page, with its cover-art picture located underneath that same column. The advertisement was as follows: |A STRANGER IN THE MIRROR| by Sidney Sheldon | Fresh from his triumphant success with | The Other Side of Midnight (over three | and a half million copies sold!), Sidney | Sheldon promises an even bigger best- | seller. Of a superstar comic both fawned | on and feared. Itís a knockout of a novel | that just canít miss going right to the top | of the bestseller list. 03001-5, $8.95, AprilÖ. | According to the January 26, 1976, issue of Publisherís Weekly, the ad budget for the novel was $60,000.
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
The publisherís advertisement for the novel in the January 5, 1976, issue of Publisherís Weekly mentioned a tour by the author shortly following the release of the book in April 1976. The author also appeared on "The Tomorrow Show" in January 1976 in promotion of his forthcoming novel. In the February 14, 1977 issue of Publisherís Weekly, Warner Books presented a full-page advertisement for their forthcoming paperback edition of the novel. The right-half of the page contained the new cover-art picture for the paperback version, and the left-half of the page contained a promotion as following: | WARNER BOOKS IS | PROUD TO ANNOUNCE | THE LONG-AWAITED | PAPERBACK | PUBLICATION OF | A STRANGER | IN THE MIRROR| Sidney Sheldonís previous novel, | THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT, | holds the record for the longest stay | on The New York Times paperback | bestseller listóan incredible 45 | weeks! With 32 paperback printings | and more than 4 million copies in print, | THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT is | one of the most successful paperbacks | in history. | A STRANGER IN THE MIRROR | "is even better"* than | THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT! | Fresh from more than 5 months on | The New York Times hardcover best | seller list, with more than 110,000 | hardcover copies sold, A STRANGER | IN THE MIRROR is the first book to | have a solid chance of breaking | Sidney Sheldonís previous record of 45 | weeks on the paperback bestseller list! | WITH SATURATION PROMOTION | TO ALERT READERS THAT THEIR | FAVORITE AUTHOR IS BACK! Ö| *denotes a Fort Worth Star Telegram.
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
Television movie: 1993ó A Stranger in the Mirror, directed by Charles Jarrott. Audio recordings: 1990ó A Stranger in the Mirror. Studio City, CA: Dove Audio. 2 sound cassettes (ca. 180min.). Abridged from the book, read by Alan King. 1990ó Un extrano en el espejo. Beverly Hills, CA: Dove Audio. 3 sound cassettes (200 min.). Abridged from the book. In Spanish, narrator unknown. 1995ó Un extranojero en el espejo. Beverly Hills, CA: Dove Audio. 4 sound cassettes (200 min.). Abridged from the book, read by Rogelio Guerra. 1992ó A Stranger in the Mirror. London: BBC Enterprises. 2 sound cassettes (135 min.). Abridged from the book, read by Alan King. Producing Sources: WorldCat, www.imdb.com
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
Spanish: Un extrano en el espejo. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Emece, 1977, 1979. Barcelona, Spain: Emece, 1994. Azcapotzalco, Mexico: Altaya, 1993. Japanese: Watashi wa betsujin. Tokyo, Japan: Akademi Shuppan, 1993, 1995. Kagami no naka no tanin. Tokyo, Japan: Hayakawa Shobo, 1979. Portuguese: Um estranho no espelho Circulo de Leitores, 1980. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Abril Cultural, 1983. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Editora Record, 1985. Publicacoes Europa-America, 1991. Italian: Uno straniero allo specchio Milano, Italy: Sperling and Kupfer, 1978, 1984, 1990 Milano, Italy: Club degli Editori, 1979. Korean: Koul sok ui ibangin. Soul: Sinwon Munhwasa, 1988. Koul sok ui ibangin. Soul: Chíongmok, 1988. Koul sok ui ibangin. Soul: Munhwa Kwangjang, 1989. Tíukpyorhan ibangin. Soul: Koryowon, 1994. Hwanghorhan kwanígye. Soul: Haníguk Yangso, 1983. Tíain ui koul. Chíungbuk Chíongju-si: Toso Chíulpían Chíongsong, 1987. Hwaryohan pyonsin. Soul: Toksong Munhwasa, 1989. Russian: Neznakomets v zerkale Moskva: Novosti, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998. Moskva: Olma Press, 1993. Hungarian: Szereposzto divanyok. Fabula, 1994. German: Ein Fremder im Spiegel. Berlin: Ullstein, 1977. Serbo-Croatian: Stranac u ogledalu. Rijeka: Otokar Kersovani, 1980. Swedish: Framlingen i spegeln. Stockholm: Legenda, 1983, 1985. Danish: En fremmed i spejlet. Kobenhavn: Lademann, 1977. Persian: Gharibihí-i dar ayinih. Tihran: Kanun-i Farhangi Intisharat-i Sayih-nama, 1998. Polish: Nieznajomy w lustrze. Warszawa: Proszynski i S-ka, 1998. Norwegian: En fremmed i speilet. Oalo: Hjemmets bokklubb, 1977. Dutch: Een vreemdeling in de spiegel. Utrecht: A.W. Bruna and Zoon, 1983. Finnish: Pahan kasvot. Helsinki: Soderstrom, 1978. Source: WorldCat
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
Every indication is that there were no serializations. Sources: Publisherís Weekly, Cumulative Periodicals Index
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
There were no sequels or prequels to this novel. Sources: Publisherís Weekly, WorldCat
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
In his time, Sidney Sheldon has earned a reputation as both a successful screenwriter/director/producer and a master storyteller (ss.com). Starting off as a producer of over 200 television scripts, twenty-five major motion pictures, and six Broadway plays, Sheldon later moved into the arena of novels, with seventeen bestselling novels to date. He has also made the Guinness Book of World Records for most translated author, with translation of his books into 51 languages, including Urdu and Swahili (brc), throughout 180 different countries. In addition, most of his novels have also been later filmed as major motion pictures or television miniseries (but A Stranger in the Mirror was not). Because of his former careers as a screenwriter/producer and scriptreader with MGM studios and Paramount Pictures, Sheldon's novels tend to be very cinematic, with quick scene changes and a wealth of dialogue (brc). A Stranger in the Mirror is no exception (Lask). In fact, many critics have dismissed his work as having unbelievable plots and characters, along with very choppy dialogue (brc). Sheldon has admitted that because of his background in Hollywood, he uses many visual images and spoken dialogue, but he still insists that he writes "with the reader in mind." (cb). Sheldon gives both his heroes and villains and emotional dimensionality which helps readers understand the characters' motivations for their actions. By researching all of his novels, he believes that their believable action comes from their authenticity, and their "can't-put-down" nature comes from their suspense (ss.com). Despite critics' comments, however, almost all of Sheldon's novels have made it to number one on the New York Times bestseller lists (ss.com). His perseverance in writing these novels can be traced back to his undying perseverance in trying to obtain his first job in Hollywood. After being shrugged off by gate-guards at each of the major studios, Sheldon proceeded to write and submit a synopsis of Of Mice and Men to all of the studios. He then obtained a job as a scriptreader at Universal Studios for $17 a week (ss.com). Sheldon's initial decision to begin writing novels was one that came almost as a last resort (ss.com). As he told reporter Ruth Pollack Coughlin of the Detroit News, "I got an idea that was so introspective I could see no way to do it as a television series, movie or Broadway play, because you had to get inside the character's mind. With much trepidation, I decided I'd try a novel." (ss.com). After relatively poor sales of his first novel, The Naked Face, Sheldon became recognized as a blockbuster novelist with his second novel, The Other Side of Midnight. The book immediately became a bestseller in hardcover, and eventually sold seven million copies in paperback. Thus, on the heels of his initial bestseller, Sheldon was able to sign on with William Morrow Company (hardcover) and Warner Books (paperback) for a five-book package deal, reportedly for $7.5 million dollars. A Stranger in the Mirror thus became the first book under this new contract, and it sold more than 100,000 hardcover copies in only a few months. In addition, the novel was made into a television movie and several audio tape editions (www.imdb.com, WorldCat). Sheldon's success with this novel was often attributed to the immense success of his previous novel. But the sales of A Stranger in the Mirror definitely proved that Sidney Sheldon was a novelist to watch in the future, as it set the reputation for all of his future bestselling novels (Lask). References: Thomas Lask. New York Times. Friday May 7, 1976. (Lask) Current Biography. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1980. (cb) Biography Resource Center (brc) www.sidneysheldon.com (ss.com) www.imdb.com WorldCat Database
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
CONTEMPORARY RECEPTION: A Stranger in the Mirror, like other works by Sidney Sheldon, generally brought mixed reaction from literary critics. The majority of them criticized his "Grand Guignol plot turns," and others like Mel Watkins of the New York Times Book Review cited his prose as "staccato [and] lackluster" (brc, cb). These reviews evidently did not dampen the enthusiasm of his devoted readers, however, as A Stranger in the Mirror became Sheldon's second bestselling novel. Sheldon's A Stranger in the Mirror was not reviewed nearly as much as his subsequent novels, such as Bloodline and Rage of Angels, but the criticism received was indeed mixed. One reviewer for the New York Times gave a sarcastically negative review of the novel, making fun of Sheldon's writing: "In the prologue to this novel of show biz a character pinpoints the exact moment he knew [something terrible was about to happen.] For him, it was when he saw a damaged wedding cake. For me, it was when I read that [New York City was a mecca for the theater.] Then, when the author confided that Hollywood was [the film capital of the world,] it became a certainty that really awful things were in store." Still, other reviewers, such as Barbara A. Bannon of Publisher's Weekly, cited the novel as "slickly written, lore, this one should sell as fast as The Other Side of Midnight." Indeed, critics could not ignore Sheldon's immense popularity among the masses, and so many gave insight into his success. One critic, in characterizing such Sheldon novels as A Stranger in the Mirror and Bloodline, cited the works as "Sheldonized for maximum impact. The action moves in short takes, usually ending with a crisp, punchy sentence?" (Newsweek). D.B. Swope of Best Sellers periodical says that "[Sheldon] is developing a formula which he exhibits with considerable skill in Bloodline. First he takes a current, unique, attention-drawing, situation?with this he mixes?the always popular seasonings of sex, violent death, and perversion. All of this he blends with man's eternal greed?.Not a great novel, but one good enough to keep you away from the tube for an evening" (Book Review Digest). The same can be said of A Stranger in the Mirror, which likewise comes across to many critics as being a popular "junk novel" (nyt). Nevertheless, some critics, such as Peter Andrews of the New York Times, recognize the "passionate sincerity to his work that is unmistakable. He really believes this stuff, and the force of his commitment is powerful enough to drag us along with him."
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
CONTEMPORARY RECEPTION: A Stranger in the Mirror, like other works by Sidney Sheldon, generally brought mixed reaction from literary critics. The majority of them criticized his "Grand Guignol plot turns," and others like Mel Watkins of the New York Times Book Review cited his prose as "staccato [and] lackluster" (brc, cb). These reviews evidently did not dampen the enthusiasm of his devoted readers, however, as A Stranger in the Mirror became Sheldon's second bestselling novel. Sheldon's A Stranger in the Mirror was not reviewed nearly as much as his subsequent novels, such as Bloodline and Rage of Angels, but the criticism received was indeed mixed. One reviewer for the New York Times gave a sarcastically negative review of the novel, making fun of Sheldon's writing: "In the prologue to this novel of show biz a character pinpoints the exact moment he knew [something terrible was about to happen.] For him, it was when he saw a damaged wedding cake. For me, it was when I read that [New York City was a mecca for the theater.] Then, when the author confided that Hollywood was [the film capital of the world,] it became a certainty that really awful things were in store." Still, other reviewers, such as Barbara A. Bannon of Publisher's Weekly, cited the novel as "slickly written, lore, this one should sell as fast as The Other Side of Midnight." Indeed, critics could not ignore Sheldon's immense popularity among the masses, and so many gave insight into his success. One critic, in characterizing such Sheldon novels as A Stranger in the Mirror and Bloodline, cited the works as "Sheldonized for maximum impact. The action moves in short takes, usually ending with a crisp, punchy sentence?" (Newsweek). D.B. Swope of Best Sellers periodical says that "[Sheldon] is developing a formula which he exhibits with considerable skill in Bloodline. First he takes a current, unique, attention-drawing, situation?with this he mixes?the always popular seasonings of sex, violent death, and perversion. All of this he blends with man's eternal greed?.Not a great novel, but one good enough to keep you away from the tube for an evening" (Book Review Digest). The same can be said of A Stranger in the Mirror, which likewise comes across to many critics as being a popular "junk novel" (nyt). Nevertheless, some critics, such as Peter Andrews of the New York Times, recognize the "passionate sincerity to his work that is unmistakable. He really believes this stuff, and the force of his commitment is powerful enough to drag us along with him."
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
In the November 1980 issue of The Writer, Sidney Sheldon relates to his readers that one of the questions he is frequently asked is "How does one write a bestseller?" And his quite long but apt response is: "I don't know. If someone deliberately sets out to write a bestseller, what he is really saying is that he is going to try to write a book that will appeal to everyone. In essence, he is looking for the lowest common denominator. I believe when you try to appeal to everyone, the result is that you end up appealing to almost no one. Every good writer that I know writes to please himself, not to please others. He starts with an idea that excites him, develops characters that interest him, and then writes his story as skillfully as he knows how. If one worries about quality rather than success, success is much more likely to follow." One thing fore sure is that Sidney Sheldon definitely does not write to please the critics, for most of his bestselling novels have been dismissed as "potboilers" and "airplane novels" by the majority of these book reviewers. Yet Sheldon has always cracked the top of the bestseller lists with his novels and has continued to delight millions of readers (ss.com). A Stranger in the Mirror is no exception in this case. So what does this particular novel teach us about bestsellers? It teaches us that a bestseller is not necessarily one that is very intellectually challenging (especially in the eyes of critics), but one whose genre, formula, and other elements are popular with the common, everyday people who purchase these novels. This novel can be included in different categories with other books that have also become bestsellers. For instance, A Stranger in the Mirror fits well into a category that involves the Horatio Alger Paradigm, or the struggle for success. This type of theme is evidently very popular among readers because it is an idea that many people can attest or aspire to, especially in the United States, with its "American Dream." Horatio Alger was one of the most popular American authors in the last 30 years of the 19th century who found a very successful theme using a rags-to-riches formula. After his publication of "Ragged Dick; or Street Life in New York with the Bootblacks," in 1868, almost all of Alger's books centered around boys who rose from poverty to wealth and fame through perseverance and a small stroke of good fortune (www.eb.com). Similarly, A Stranger in the Mirror is largely about a character named Toby Temple who is born into a poor German immigrant family but later finds success. Before he is even old enough to understand what his mother is saying, Toby is instilled with the idea of success as she tells him of his definite greatness to come. After obeying his mother and leaving home in order to avoid a shotgun marriage, Toby goes to New York at the age of 18 with visions of becoming a famous comedian. But of course there is a long road ahead of him at first as he is rejected from theatres and other venues, only to find small jobs such as a dishwasher, magician's assistant, etc. Finally, he makes some contacts in Las Vegas and Hollywood and is able to get a workable act together. By the 1950s, he is a top comic in film, television, and night clubs. But he also becomes a very lonely man with no real friends, until he strikes up a romance with Jill Castle, a slightly brain-damaged woman whose beautiful face and body conceal her sometimes psychotic compulsions. This female character also tries to gain success of her own. The novel relates her various struggles on the way to the top, including her being secretly drugged and then forced into being in a pornography film during the beginning of her Hollywood career (Sheldon). Another genre of bestselling novels in which A Stranger in the Mirror could be placed are those in which a conclusion is foretold or hinted at during the beginning of the novel, followed by some sort of flashback for the remainder of the book. This flashback will encompass the main plot of the novel, with the story-line making its way back to the actual events mentioned in the beginning of the book. Bestselling novels that use this tactic seem to be very popular among readers because of their ability to pull in the audience through suspense that seems to last for the entire book. In Sheldon's novel, we are given a series of bizarre events that occur aboard a luxury liner one morning, which evidently involve Jill Castle, a very famous and admired woman known all over the headlines at that time. These events include a delivery of flowers from the President of the United States to Castle, a locked theatre door with a blood trail leading from it, a wedding cake with the head of the bride at the top crushed in, and sounds of "You've killed me!" and screaming coming from Castle's room. Knowing that Castle will be one of the main characters in the novel, we are thus given a hint of some sort of tragedy that will occur at the end of the book that involves her, and this suspense is enough to pull readers into the book and captivate them (Sheldon). Another book which falls into this category of bestsellers is Judith Rossner's Looking for Mister Goodbar, for which Gwendolyn Kern did a database entry. According to Kern, this book also can be placed in the category of books that contain extensive foreshadowing followed by a flashback. In this novel's case, the story starts off with a confession of the man who would later be found to murder the heroine. Subsequently, the rest of the novel is a flashback building up to this moment in time. Yet another of the many examples of books in this category would be Stephen King's It. Suspense through foreshadowing definitely seems to be a category or quality which gives many bestsellers their success. Another aspect of bestsellers about which A Stranger in the Mirror teaches us is that authors will often follow a formula for their novels that has given them immense success in the past. The idea here is that they have found themes and other elements which seem to be very popular among readers, and there is no sense in moving to a different and possibly less popular formula. Perhaps one author whose formula immediately comes to mind would be that of Stephen King and his continuing formulaic use of the horror thriller novel. This kind of formula has enabled him to remain on top of the bestseller lists since the 1980s. Another example would be James A. Michener and the authenticity in his novels evident to his readers, due to his extensive research of the setting of a book before he begins writing it. Doris Lum's database entry on Michener's Hawaii talks about this authenticity when she relates that "Michener's reputation had already been established as one who traveled extensively and specialized in writing about the cultures he came across." In the case of the writing of Hawaii itself, Lum states that "Michener, at that time, was a resident of Hawaii, giving his version of the islands more credibility." Another example of a well-followed formula among authors is the use of romances containing plenty of sex and intrigue, and Danielle Steel is one author that fits this mold perfectly. In her entry for Danielle Steel's Wings, Ericka Karnaszewski mentions that "The romance novel has long been a staple on bestseller lists; the fact that all 3 of Steel's 1994 publications: Accident, The Gift, and Wings, all appeared on the yearly bestsellers list and are all romance novels furthers this notion." Like these previous two authors, Sidney Sheldon also writes novels that show extensive research as well as inclusion of romance and sex. In one interview, Sheldon relates that he spends as much time as possible researching an area before he begins writing on it, in order to give authenticity to his material. And like many of his other novels, A Stranger in the Mirror contains plenty of romance and sex, as the main character sleeps around with countless women during his rise to stardom, only to engage in a steamy romance with a main heroine of the story (Sheldon). Although many critics would consider this sort of content the making of a "trash" novel, this is exactly the type of material that has satisfied the majority of readers in our leisure-based American society for years, and Sheldon is not about stop to quit a good thing. Another formulaic use among Sheldon's novels is the depiction of a female character who overcomes many odds on her way to success. In A Stranger in the Mirror, we meet a woman from a poor immigrant family in Texas who is struggling with the lower fringes of show business in Hollywood, but then becomes much more famous when she marries a famous comedian, Toby Temple. Likewise, in a database entry on Sheldon's Rage of Angels, Kate Caples shows how this Sheldon novel also falls in line with many his others in being about a female character who struggles for success. In this case, the character is a blond, intelligent, attorney named Jennifer Parker. In her entry, Caples relates that "The injustice brought upon Jennifer Parker from the beginning seems to be career ruining however, through her wits, cunning, and perseverance she is able to prove the public wrong." In general, bestsellers also need to be quick and easy to read in their structure. Although linear plots are often a staple of this format, Sheldon's cinematic plots also seem to have the same effect in keeping the readers interested and in keeping his material popular. A cinematic plot is one in which the perspective frequently changes, just like that of a camera on film. In A Stranger in the Mirror, Sheldon frequently switches the plot back and forth between his two main characters, Toby Temple and Jill Castle, who at first are undergoing different lives. He later hooks them up and continues the plot in a more linear fashion (Sheldon). Another trend in bestsellers that is often seen is that those books who deal with or contain issues popular at the time of their publishing will often fare well in sales figures. In her database entry on Danielle Steel's novel Message from Nam, Candice Pratsch mentions that this book is not only a romance but also a war-novel. And she also relates that "Message From Nam was published during the year of tensions that led up to the Gulf War?. Throughout these months of tension, "Message From Nam" remained on the New York Times Best Seller list. Readers who bought the novel in its first few weeks of publication may have wanted to remind themselves of the last war in which America had been involved. Many readers may have had loved ones going to war once again." Likewise, Sheldon's "A Stranger in the Mirror" also contained issues of its time that were evidently popular with readers. For instance, like many of his other novels, "A Stranger in the Mirror" contained plenty of sex. This sex was often centered around the main character and famous comedian, Toby Temple, who slept with countless women during the course of the novel. In addition, the author had no qualms about being almost overly sexual in this novel, such as constantly attributing Toby's "sexual success" to his "unusually large penis." Around the mid-1970s, which was the time of the book's publication, open sex was a very popular issue. In fact, many other books on the fiction and non-fiction bestseller lists of that time dealt with sex, such as "Everything you always wanted to know about Sex but were afraid to ask," and "The Joys of Sex." Thus, Sheldon's openness with sex in his novels was evidently falling in line with other popular books being published around the same time. Another trend being seen in the late 1970s and early 1980s was the rise of the celebrity and the idea of being famous. For instance, the early 80s marked the time in which both MTV and "People" magazine got their start or became widely popular. Thus, it is no surprise that "A Stranger in the Mirror" and its story of two characters' rise to success in Hollywood was popular among readers. Bestselling novels also often arise because of the previous name recognition, public image, or marketing of a particular author. Authors such as Stephen King, Tom Clancy, and Michael Crichton are all bestselling authors whose new works will often sell millions of copies just because of the fame of their name in association with their previous novels. Also to be included in this list is James A. Michener, who definitely developed a name for himself. In her database entry on Michener's "Hawaii," Doris Lum relates that "What made the road to success a little easier for the novel was that Michener had already established his name before the publication of "Hawaii." Michener, at this point, had already published "Tales of the South Pacific" as well as "The Floating World" and "The Bridge at Andau." Michener's reputation had already been established as one who traveled extensively and specialized in writing about the cultures he came across." In Sheldon's case, both his previous novel successes as well as his public image as a former TV show producer/writer/director came into play. For instance, in several advertisements for "A Stranger in the Mirror," such as those found in Publisher's Weekly (1/1/76, 1/5/76), Sheldon's previous immense success with his novel "The Other Side of Midnight" was mentioned in all capital letters. In this way, publishers hoped to continue developing a fan base by pulling in readers who might have read this previous novel. Since his novel did not appear in stores until April of that year, this also shows that bestsellers are often hyped up long in advance of their actual appearance. Also, in many other advertisements and interviews of Sheldon, his former successes such as being creator and producer of such smash TV hits as "I dream of Jeannie" and other Broadway plays were highlighted (ss.com). Thus, one can see that bestselling novels often have a lot of name recognition and reputation of their author driving them forward in sales. Although there are many trends which bestselling novels follow and many popular reader categories into which they fit, some books seem to become bestsellers because the author has chosen to "violate" a rule or a category. For instance, many bestselling books of the past thirty years can fall into the category of having a happy ending. "A Stranger in the Mirror" represents a deviation from this principle. The story-line, which is basically a huge flashback, builds back up to the tragic happenings that were hinted at in the beginning of the novel. Jill Castle, who had remained fiercely loyal to her husband (Toby Temple) only so long as it was to her advantage, drowns her paralyzed lover who has suffered from two massive strokes and is basically becomes useless. She then catches up with a childhood sweetheart and is getting ready to be married, when her past catches up with her. A former friend of Toby Temple shows Castle's new lover her tainted past, such as being in a pornography flick; but he is never aware that this was not her fault. Her lover David Kenyon can not accept these scenes and runs away from the marriage, causing Jill Castle to commit suicide out of grief at the end of the novel. So basically, the reader is presented with the life struggles of two main characters to become successful and engage in a wonderful romance, only to cause each others' death in the end. Similarly, in her database entry on "Looking for Mister Goodbar," Gwendolyn Kern relates the unhappy ending of her novel, as a man confesses to killing the main heroine of the story. Also, in a database entry of Sheldon's "Rage of Angels," Kate Caples relates that "In Rage of Angels, while the heroine does not die as we suspect she might in the end, she does not get either of the men she has loved throughout the novel, Adam Warner and Michael Morretti. Both men go on with their lives and Jennifer must sit back and watch their success, namely Adam Warner's as he is inaugurated into the Presidency of the United States with his wife and child by his side." Thus, we can see that bestsellers sometimes attract readers due to their violation of "norms." Overall, "A Stranger in the Mirror" is no stranger to bestselling status, and it teaches us many things about the overall trends in bestsellers. References: Database entries? Kate Caples, on Sidney Sheldon's "Rage of Angels" Gwendolyn Kern, on Judith Rossner's "Looking for Mister Goodbar" Doris Lum, on James A. Michener's "Hawaii" Candice Pratsch, on Danielle Steel's "Message from Nam" Ericka Karnaszewski, on Danielle Steel's "Wings" -www.eb.com (Encyclopedia Brittainica) -Publishers Weekly: 1/1/76, 1/5/76 -www.sidneysheldon.com (ss.com) -Sidney Sheldon. "The Magical World of the Novelist." The Writer. November 1980, vol. 93, number 11, p.13. -Sidney Sheldon. "A Stranger in the Mirror." New York: William Morrow and Company, 1976.
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