Sidney Sheldon's success as an author only followed on the
footsteps of his illustrious career in film and television, as
producer/screenwriter and creator of the widely popular I
Dream of Jeannie. This career afforded him the honors of
an Oscar, a Tony, and an Emmy. Rarely can anyone say that they
have been honored with such prestigious awards in so many fields.
His very public success in film and television helped to set the
scene for his jump into novel writing. Whether he would have
made it as a novel writer had he not been so successful and in
the public eye for so long already, one can never tell. Initially,
Sheldon was rejected by seven publishers, but he persevered and his
eventual success is obvious. Similarly, Mary Higgins Clark (While
My Pretty One Sleeps) "over six years, she attempted to sell
her first story and saw it rejected forty times" (Eubanks). She
persevered as well and is a top best-selling novelist as well.
There can be no doubt that Sheldon's public personae helped to
launch his newest endeavor as novelist. There are many bestselling
authors whose names have helped to keep them at the top of the lists;
Stephen King, John Grisham, Tom Clancy, James A. Michener. All of
these authors, including Sheldon, have been able to enjoy continual
success with later novels simply because their names were attached
to them. In a review of one of Michener's works, "Gaining fame
through these initial works, Michener was able to capture an audience,
and after a period of time the quality could deteriorate as long as
his name was attached to the work" (Butt). Sheldon's ultimate success
with The Naked Face, his first novel and winner of the Edgar
Allan Poe Award for mystery writing helped give an edge to his third
book, Rage of Angels, which spent 18 weeks as #1 on the bestseller
Sheldon's career in film and television was also important because it
gave him the experience and authority he needed to oversee the production
of the film version of Rage of Angels in 1992. Much like Sheldon,
Jackie Collins was the executive producer of the miniseries that spun off
of her novels Hollywood Husbands and Hollywood Wives. Being
so closely tied to the production of these films/miniseries allowed these
authors to see that the integrity of their work was not compromised.
However, it is not just the recognition of the personae of the author that
makes a book a bestseller. By the time Rage of Angels arrived,
Sheldon had proven himself to be a successful and ingenious author. All
of his novels are filled with fast-paced sexual intrigue and behind the
scenes looks into heretofore unknown territory. Rage of Angels fits
perfectly into this model. Jennifer Parker is the blond, extremely
intelligent and talented attorney, our female heroine. Similarly,
Jackie Collins (Hollywood Wives) is known for writing about
"women who can be seen as role models, who take charge of their lives, and
who play the game a man's way" (Beisswanger). 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. Through Parker we are given the insider's look into the criminal
justice system of New York City. Sheldon himself thanks many attorneys,
judges, and DAs for their help in researching this book. What Sheldon
could never have known in such detail on his own, he made sure was verified
and given to him by those in the know. This commitment to detail and
accuracy gives Sheldon novels an authenticity rarely seen in such "airplane
reading" as his contemporary, Danielle Steele. However, authors like
Martin Cruz Smith (Gorky Park)and Jean M. Auel (The Valley of
Horses), are praised for their research and detail (Collins, Boone).
"Since 1972, Smith had been working on a detective story set in Russia.
He had visited Moscow for only about six days, roaming the streets and
taking in details of what Soviet life was really like. He also gathered
information from the Russians he knew at home" (Collins). Auel is known
for traveling to the places she writes about and similarly, James A.
Michener (Alaska). These authors, including Sheldon, lend a
veracity and believability to their works in their dedication to authenticity.
Like Steele, Sheldon is sure to include sexual intrigue in all of his
novels to keep the reader hooked and Rage of Angels is no exception.
Jennifer Parker's attraction to Adam Warner, the brilliant and debonair
attorney, is unmistakable, but her fascination with Michael Morretti,
the dashing and dangerous head of a Mob family, is less easily explained.
Extensive research, female heroines overcoming great odds, and sexual
intrigue are all a part of Sheldon's "formula". Sheldon, like many other
authors, Grisham, Steele, Auel, King, etc, follows a tried and true formula
in all of his works. For example, Grisham consistently writes legal thrillers,
Steele, sexual/romantic intrigues, King, supernatural/horror thrillers.
Sheldon is no exception. His novels Master of the Game, Rage of Angels,
The Naked Face, etc. all involve a strong female heroine overcoming
great odds to succeed. Jennifer Parker of Rage of Angels has to
overcome being framed by the Mafia, ruining the biggest case of the century,
and being threatened with disbarment at the beginning of her career, to
eventually become one of the most successful criminal defense attorney's
New York City had ever seen.
Though Sheldon's success with the public is unmistakable considering his more
than 16 bestsellers, he was not so well liked by the critics. This type of
novel seems to be a category of its own. Robert Ludlum of The Bourne
Identity and James A. Michener of Alaska are also authors who
were not well received critically, but were hugely successful publicly.
For example, Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times
commented that Sheldon's works "evidently satisfy?everyone except most
literary critics, who regard popularity and quality as incompatible"
(Contemporary Authors Online). Adam Ginsberg's entry on The Bourne
Identity revealed, "reviewers criticize this novel, including that
the story is hastily written, lacking social value, excessively violent,
full of overwrought prose, implausible, and devoid of depth." Aaron
Butt's entry on Alaska revealed what many reviewers felt,
"Reviewing James A. Michener is rather like trying to review some
inexplicably venerated national monument."
Another similarity that Sheldon possesses with other best-selling novelists,
namely Michener, is that their careers began late and continued/are continuing
into their seventies and eighties, respectively. "Only beginning his writing
career at the age of 40?even in his eighties, Michener could deliver 1000
page best selling works" (Butt). Since the age of fifty Sheldon has had 16
best-selling novels, and continues to write in his seventies.
Interestingly, while Rage of Angels seems to fit into many of the
bestseller categories, there is one in particular that this novel seems
to defy, that of the stereo-typical happy ending. 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. One would assume that our strong heroine would not
only overcome the great odds she is presented with in the beginning of
the novel, but also achieve all of her dreams in the end. However, not
only does Jennifer not win the man of her dreams, but her only son dies!
This does not seem like the happy ending that we as the public have come
to expect from bestsellers, such as The Firm by John Grisham where
the bad guys get put away and the good guys escape to a beautiful beach
with all the money. The "good guy", Jennifer Parker, doesn't win. It seems
that escaping with her life is not worth it if she cannot have the man she
loves and her son by her side. However, despite this deviation from the
normal bestseller characteristics, Rage of Angels has been a raging
1. Beiswanger, Debbie. Hollywood Wives. Bestsellers Database. Assignment #4,5.
2. Biography Resource Center. "Sidney Sheldon." Contemporary Authors Online. The
Gale Group, 1999.
3. Boone, Aimee. The Valley of Horses. Bestsellers Database. Assignment #4,5.
4. Butt, Aaron. Alaska. Bestsellers Database. Assingment #4,5.
5. Collins, Jessica. Gorky Park. Bestsellers Database. Assignment #4,5.
6. Eubanks, Dorothy. While My Pretty One Sleeps. Bestsellers Database. Assignment
7. Ginsberg, Adam. The Bourne Identity. Bestsellers Database. Assignment #4,5.