Since the publication of Sidney Sheldon's first novel, The Naked Face in 1969, Sheldon has been a best selling author. He has received constant praise from readers and critics. Though some may dispute in his ability to write a good book, it is indisputable that his books immediately entice the reader once they begin. The suspense of each of Sheldon's novels lures readers to eagerly anticipate and read his other novels. Sheldon's Master of the Game exhibits bestseller qualities and appeals to readers through common themes, a plot that is not loaded down, the portrayal of women, the ability to appeal to the reader's emotions, and his power to inspire readers almost sets him up for immediate success. Due to successful reoccurring themes, Sheldon has found a way to successfully draw readers to his novels.
Sheldon's common themes of ambition, sex, and manipulation appear in Master of the Game. The main characters all exhibit these characteristics and use them to get what they want. Master of the Game follows the story of the McGregor dynasty spanning over one hundred years. It is a true story of rags to riches for the McGregor family. At the age of 18, Jamie McGregor leaves his family and his comfortable lifestyle behind in Scotland in search of gold in South Africa. Young Jamie has the ambition and determination for success, but a wealthy merchant cheats Jamie out on his share of gold. Jamie avenges his nemesis and begins his new life of fortune, fame, and power. The McGregor dynasty is now born. Jamie's daughter, Kate Blackwell becomes the next to expand the dynasty making it even more powerful than Kate. Kate realizes at the tender age of seven that power is what makes someone unstoppable. She remarks, "One day, Kate thought, I'll have power. No one will be able to do this to me again" (Sheldon 169). Her constant desire for power and manipulation makes those around her, including her family bend to her will. Her controlling nature brings pain and sadness to her son, Tony literally driving him crazy. To Kate, she does what is in the best interest for her son. Everything I have done has been for you. How could you not know that? (Sheldon 313). Kate, now left to raise her son's twin daughters, once again controls the lives of those she loves. Kate's granddaughters, Eve and Alexandra, must now live their lives according to their grandmother's will. The women in the novel, including Kate, know the power of sex and use their bodies to entice men to give into their demands. All throughout her life, Kate and fears anyone finding out any of the things she has done that have caused her loved ones anger, pain, and grief.
Sheldon has become very comfortable using the same themes, due to their success. He has not diverted very much from these topics and does not appear to want to. His topic of writing draws many people to read his novels. Readers classify Master of the Game as a "page-turner," 'not being able to put it down," and a "timeless classic." Sheldon knows that his books have characterized as "can't put me downs." Sheldon remarks, "I think that's because believable action is based on authenticity, and accuracy is very important to me. I always spend time researching my novels?I go to great lengths to make certain situations fell right to the reader. I think readers can always tell when an author is 'faking it,' and that undermines the story, no matter how good it may be" (Sidney Sheldon-An Interview). According to Sidney Sheldon, his novels are bestsellers because of the extensive research that goes in to each novel. He spends about six months to a year researching each novel. Readers also feel the same way. Bestsellers are novels that are well thought out.
The non-stop action and emotional twists and turns make very hard to put Master of the Game down. One reader remarks, "I read the book in one night. I just couldn't put it down" (Amazon.com Customer Reviews). Another reader remarks, "Pick up this book?get comfortable, and start reading it. Let's see if you can put it down?if you can, once you've started. Anyone who dismisses this novel as anything but a fantastic, first-rate read truly doesn't know a good book when they see one. This is a timeless classic?" (Amazon.com Customer Reviews). The quick and easy plot adds to Sheldon's success. It apparently reads so fast that it is easy to read a hundred pages and not even know it. Readers also enjoy Sheldon's book because the plot is not loaded down and heavy. Overall, the plot's simplicity leads readers to take Sheldon novels to the beach or read them on a plane. Sheldon fans constantly note the fact that his novels are good for a flight. "The first time I read ,Master of the Game was in 1990. Someone had left it on an airplane." (Amazon.com Customer Reviews). Characters in Master of the Game are described as "memorable and exciting." Readers find his characters easy to relate to and filled with so many problems that it helps to take the focus off their own problems. Sheldon's characters evoke sympathy out of his readers also leading to his popularity. His characters go through emotional turmoil in their lives pointing to the fact that readers do not like "perfect" characters. Sheldon says, "I think people throughout the world identify with my characters. Perhaps, it's because the characters in my books are more than just 'all good' or ' all bad.' I try to give both my heroes and villains an emotional dimensionality which provides the motivation for their actions" (Sidney Sheldon- An Interview). Though the characters may be rich and powerful, they also have their share of problems. Sheldon's bestseller novels show us how readers are drawn to books where the characters from wealthy and powerful backgrounds, yet go through common everyday problems.
Another popular theme in Sheldon's bestseller novels are heroines. Sheldon constantly uses the same time of woman in all of his novels. They tend to be women with very strong personalities. This ties into Sheldon's own view of women and to those he has met. Sheldon remarks,
I hate the cliché of the 'dumb blonde'?that if a woman
is beautiful she must be stupid so I write female characters
who are attractive who are as good at whatever they do that
any man might be and to retain their femininity. My mother was
that kind of woman. My wife Jorja, who died was that kind of
woman and so is my present wife, Alexandria. I know a lot of
women like that and I love women! (Sidney Sheldon-The Life &
Kate Blackwell fits this description perfectly. She is head of Kruger-Brent, Ltd., a mother, a grandmother, and also involved in charitable functions. The character of Kate Blackwell shows Sheldon's women readers that women can have it all. To Kate, "the name of the game was to win, and you won by beating everyone else. It seemed so obvious to her" (Sheldon 229). Having a powerful position in a company does not make a woman any less of a woman, and this is what his novels demonstrate to women readers. In addition, Sheldon's decision to make Kate Blackwell an attractive woman shows readers that women in power can be attractive and smart.
Bestsellers can incorporate their own beliefs and ideas into a novel and possibly project them onto the reader. Sheldon incorporates his own feelings about apartheid and airlines in the novel. For example, Sheldon writes, "When Tony's vacation was over, he went to Southampton, England, where he boarded a Pan American Airways System plane for the Untied States. Kate flew Pan American whenever possible. It spoiled her for other airlines. Kate left an important meeting to greet her son when he arrived at the Pan American terminal at the newly built La Guardia Airport in New York" (Sheldon 243). This insertion appears random, yet it also conveys to the reader that Pan American Airlines Sheldon's including of Pan American Airlines cannot be anything else but a plug for the airline company hoping that Sheldon's readers will also follow the lead of Kate Blackwell and Sidney Sheldon and fly Pan American Airlines. Readers regard Sheldon in such a high manner that they may take his advice. If Pan American Airlines is good enough for the wealthy and esteemed such as Sheldon and Blackwell, then readers may feel that the airline is good enough for them as well. Book reviewer Anita Brookner remarks, "All these people fly Pan Am, apparently: the airline is mentioned several times, always with an unmistakable note of appreciation" (London Review of Books). The first half of the novel Sheldon indirectly talks about his feelings on apartheid. When the book first opens tensions between whites and Africans are beginning to escalate. As the book progresses, Sheldon includes little pieces of information about tensions. The McGregor family has always helped the Africans as best they could and were sympathetic to their struggle. Jamie McGregor had great respect for his confidant and friend Banda. Banda had helped Jamie out in times of struggle and helped Jamie to get even when he was cheated out of his gold. Kate, born and raised in South Africa also felt very strongly about her father's friend Banda and South Africa. The way Sheldon describes whites and their interaction with blacks shows that Sheldon himself was sympathetic to the struggle in South Africa. As Kate grew older, she gives money to Banda, who has become a fugitive and active leader for the South Africans, does everything in her power to help Banda and his movement.
The only disturbing factor in Kate's life was her homeland. She card deeply about South Africa. The racial problems were growing, and Kate was troubled?Kate arranged a meeting in South Africa with several high government officials. 'This is a time bomb,' Kate told them. 'What are you're doing is trying to keep eight million people in slavery?That's bloody nonsense,' Kate retorted. 'South Africa has become a racist hell.'?Kate left the meeting frustrated and deeply fearful for her
country (Sheldon 233).
Sheldon appears to want his readers to know that he as an author is very sympathetic to the tensions in South Africa. When the book was published in 1982, native South Africans were still fighting for their independence. By trying to educate his readers in an entertaining way, Sheldon helps to increase the consciousness of his readers about the fight for independence going on in South Africa.
Master of the Game was developed into a seven part miniseries in 1984 by CBS starring Dyan Cannon and Harry Hamlin. The initial broadcast had such success that it was rebroadcast. Sheldon's Master of the Game shows that such successful books are often made into television productions. Recent readers of Master of the Game strongly desire to see or know where they can get a copy of the television miniseries. One book reviewer remarks, "I read the book years ago when I was about 13 years old. I am 28 now. I loved it. I read it because I saw the mini-series on TV and loved the mini-series too! I would like it if someone could tell me where I can get the video of the movie!" (Amazon.com Customer Reviews). Another reader says, "Could somebody please tell me where I could purchase the movie. My husband and I seen it on t.v. years ago and would love to see it again" (Amazon.com Customer Review). Even though the miniseries was produced in 1984, the demand to see the movie increase as more people read Master of the Game.
Sidney Sheldon's Master of the Game also serves as a source of inspiration for many readers. Bestseller's can help readers with problems they are going through. Readers have remarked that Sheldon's books have helped to change their lives. Sheldon feels the most rewarding part of writing is when someone writes or speaks to you telling him how much he has changed their lives. He says:
I received a letter from a girl in a hospital telling me that she had
suffered a massive heart attack at the age of 21 and had felt that she
just wanted to give up and die. She wouldn't see her parents or her boyfriend. She just wanted to get her life over with. Then someone
left a copy of The Other Side of Midnight on her bed. She picked it up and began to read. She got so caught up in the characters and the story that she forgot about herself and felt ready to begin facing life again (Sidney Sheldon- An Interview).
Master of the Game and other Sidney Sheldon novels show fiction bestsellers can be a sort of self-help for readers. Readers become detached from their everyday lives and problems that when it is time to turn their attention back to their problems they have a different outlook on life.
Another factor that contributes to Sheldon's success with bestseller novels concerns booksellers. In order to get readers to buy more novels by the same author, they tap into the reader's mind. By telling readers they will like other Sheldon novels if they liked a particular novel, readers will consider the suggestion and possibly purchase his other novels. For example, on Amazon.com when searching for Master of the Game the web- based book company mentions at the end of the reader's search, " Customers who bought this book also bought: If Tomorrow Comes; Sidney Sheldon, Bloodline; Sidney Sheldon, Rage of Angels; Sidney Sheldon, and Memories of Midnight; Sidney Sheldon. Booksellers believe that readers will follow the crowd and purchase the same books everyone else has. Readers tend to enjoy Sidney Sheldon novels and will purchase his other novels because they also believe his other novels will be good as well. One reader remarks, "The best review I can think to give this book [Master of the Game] is I can't wait to read another Sidney Sheldon novel. Now I really know what people mean by a 'real page turner.' I am officially a Sidney Sheldon fan." (Amazon.com Customer Reviews).
Despite what critics may say about Master of the Gameother Sheldon novels no one seems to dispute the fact that his novels are "page turners" and once you get started it becomes hard to put the book down. One customer remarks,
This is the first Sydney Sheldon novel I've read. You don't often
find stories this enticing. I was hooked from the first page?I read it
in just a few days even though with my schedule it usually takes me at least a week to finish a book?. However, despite the story's addictive sway, Sheldon's writing style did not meet my expectations. After reading all the glowing reviews at Amazon.com, I expected this to be a terrific epic that would leave me awed and inspired?This book is pure brain candy, all fun with no substance (Amazon.com Customer Reviews).
Sheldon's methodological style and common themes draw all readers to his novels, despite how they may feel about the book in the end. His light plots appear to be exactly what readers are looking for. The heroine's in Sheldon novels show women readers that it is possible for them to have it all. His novels also serve as a source of inspiration to many of his readers causing them to buy his other novels. Booksellers realize his popularity and coax potential buyers into buying his other novels by telling them how other readers like themselves, liked his other novels and so will they. When best selling authors find a style of writing that is successful for themselves as well as readers, they do not move out of their comfort zone causing them to produce repeat bestsellers that have the same themes.
Brooker, Anita. "Enthusiasts" London Review of Books. 3 Feb. 1983.v.5 p. 16
"Master of the Game" Publisher's Weekly. 23 July 1982 v. 222 p. 125.
Lekachman, Robert. "The Love of Money." The New York Times Book Review. 29 Aug. 1982 v.87 p. 11
Sheldon, Sidney. Master of the Game. William & Marrow: New York, 1982.
"Amazon.com: buying info: Master of the Game"
"Lycos Chat Transcript: Sidney Sheldon"
"Sidney Sheldon- The Life &Works of." http://empierezine.com/spotlight/sheldon/sheldon2.html
"Sidney Sheldon-An Interview"