More than twenty years ago, a budding novelist (and an already successful film and television producer) by the name of Sidney Sheldon launched a new career for himself by writing fiction novels. His popularity h
as subsequently turned him into a best-selling author that has sold millions of books. While most new authors are struggling to make themselves known to the literary world, Sheldon's first book, The Naked Face (1970), received both the New York Times c
itation for best first mystery novel as well as the Edgar Allan Poe Award for best mystery novel, Mystery Writers of America. Even today, Sheldon's books continue to be purchased with the same fervor as before. His best-selling novel, Nothing Lasts For
ever (1994) is a modern day indicator and representative of his persevering popularity. In this essay, I attempt to detail and analyze the popularity of Nothing Lasts Forever in light of the familiarity and ease with which Sidney Sheldon has permeated in
to the best-selling world of contemporary authors.
Sidney Sheldon is well known not only for his novels but also for his performances and contributions in other media. He actually did not even consider becoming a novelist until age fifty when he was at the top of his profession as a film and televis
ion producer. From the 1940's through the 1960's, Sheldon has a substantial list of plays, screenplays and short stories under his belt. This menagerie is comprised of 7 plays and 24 screenplays. He has also been involved in writing children's books
and is the author of more than 250 scripts for popular television shows. These shows include The Patty Duke Show, I Dream of Jeannie, Nancy and Hart to Hart, all of which had an audience size of about 20 million. All of his plays were first produced on
Broadway. One of his plays, Gomes, gained fame across the Atlantic and was produced in London.
Sidney Sheldon obviously had quite a following before he wrote the first word of his premiere novel. In addition to being an accomplished writer, he received several awards for his efforts. The most prestigious awards include an Oscar for best orig
inal screenplay in 1948 for The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer , a Tony in 1959 for his book The Redhead, and multiple Emmy Awards for I Dream of Jeannie. Perhaps the most indicative acknowledgement of his fame and popularity is written in stone (literally
!)....he has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Many people wondered why the winner of Oscar, Tony and Emmy Awards would suddenly turn to fiction. Even the author himself viewed novel writing as an unnatural next step, especially since he was already at the height of his career. Sheldon explains
himself in the following manner, "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 characters's mind. With much trepidation, I decided I'd try a novel
." Much to Sheldon's horror, his first novel sold only 17,000 copies, but he rebounded with his second novel, which sold over 3 million copies. He is currently considered one of the best-selling writers in the world and has books in print in 39 countri
The success of Nothing Lasts Forever as well as his other novels can at least be partially attributed to his prior popularity with a very wide audience. As soon as the public caught onto the fact that the same person who had affiliations with popula
r television shows and the like was now writing books, they most likely sought to try out his new novels as well. Each subsequent book probably builds on the popularity of the previous book, so that Sheldon's success as a novelist is a continuous, glidi
ng ascent to an apex that is yet on the distant horizon. Because of this, Nothing Lasts Forever became a best-seller in the year 1994.
In addition to Sheldon's familiar public persona, there are a myriad of other reasons that can be attributed to the popularity of Nothing Lasts Forever. One of these is the pure smuttiness of the novel. Mystery, murder, sex, deceit.....what more c
an you ask for? Like the other novels, this book moves along at a brisk pace and does not require heavy analysis to understand the plot and character development, which in fact there is little of.
The book takes place in a large city hospital and the three main characters are women doctors. Honey Taft has and continues to sleep with professors and other doctors to achieve a perfect record when in fact she borders on incompetency. Paige Taylo
r is on trial for murdering a patient because he left her a million dollars, although she claims it was a "mercy killing." Kat Hunter has vowed never to let a man close to her again until she accepted the challenge of a deadly bet. Intermingled among th
e main plot are the life and death decisions that doctors make, the unglorified aspects of the medical profession and the behind the scenes politics that take place.
In this novel, Sheldon does not bore the reader with extraneous details. Instead, he keeps the chapters moving along but yet ends them at a point where the reader is curious as to what is going to happen next. This makes it difficult to put the boo
k down and makes it a very quick read. This is precisely Sheldon's goal: "...it's for a reader to not be able to go to sleep at night. I want him to keep reading another four pages, then one more page. The following morning, or night, he's anxious
to get back to the book." Nothing Lasts Forever is an exact fit to this model. Who will Honey Taft end up with next? Will Kat Hunter be able to lead Dr. Mallory on for much longer? There is a patient in cardiac arrest; what will Paige Taylor do to sav
e him? The book has certain elements of excitement that build up in each chapter until suddenly there is a commercial break, the chapter ends, and the reader finds him/herself sticking around for more.
Sheldon's books are generally well received by the public, but are more extensively criticized by those within the true literary circle. Critics have been known to label his novels, including Nothing Lasts Forever, as unsophisticated and banal. Th
e characters are claimed to be shallow, and the prose lackluster and staccato. However, if a mindless diversion is what the reader is after, these are precisely the ingredients that are necessary. Nevertheless, some reviewers declare that the novel is m
ore like a movie than a book, which holds the reader's attention. The characters are vulnerable females which has a certain attractiveness in itself. Although the dialogue is relatively unmemorable, it is smooth and flows along easily. Also, some of t
he events are relatively unbelievable and dramatic but this simply adds to the potboiler nature of the novel. These qualities are praised by certain reviewers and help to explain the mass appeal of this novel.
As the decades have passed, people as a whole have generally become much more liberal and tolerant towards subjects that have previously been considered to be taboo. After the 1960's, racy topics began to filter into popular entertainment much more
frequently than before. Such popular fiction tends to have mass appeal because it does not require exertion of the mind. In other words, critical thinking is not necessary in order to understand what is happening. The little events that occur in the n
ovel are also appealing because they tap into that part of the psyche which is fascinated by what we are "not supposed to like or think about." The novel can also be viewed as an escape from the trappings of everyday life and an adventure into a fantasy t
hat is entertaining and satisfying.
Since one of the characters in Nothing Lasts Forever (Honey Taft) obviously uses talents other than her intelligence to influence professors and doctors to inflate her grades, or tell her answers in advance so that she appears incredibly brilliant du
ring rounds, this can be interpreted and compared to the rise of Clintonism and his women. President Clinton was elected in 1992 and has probably achieved the height of fame with the recent scandals. As everyone who watches the news or reads the newspap
er knows, he has been accused of improper behavior towards various women who worked near him in the government. Honey Taft is in many ways similar to the Monica Lewinskys out there, but at least Honey is discrete about it and other people don't end up f
inding out. President Clinton is a younger president and therefore has a greater deal of appeal to the younger crowd than previous presidents. Sheldon's book focuses on fairly young characters as well. Honey is also not a particularly attractive girl
(also like Clinton's accusers) but uses her learned talents to benefit her. Ultimately, she is trying desperately to satisfy her parents who desire her to be a doctor even though she wants to become a nurse.
Other contemporaneous events that might help to explain the book's popularity is the general rise of "Generation X" in the 1990s. Many young people of this generation are considered to be apathetic about important issues concerning the future. Ins
tead, they are said to be interested only in sex, drugs, music and other unwholesome subjects. In this context, Nothing Lasts Forever would definitely appeal to the younger crowd.
Although the character development in this book may not be very extensive, Sheldon creates his characters so that the average person feels he/she can relate to them in some way. For this reason, the book is not restricted to a certain age subdivisio
n. For example, the main characters are women doctors, but male doctors as well as hospital administrators and boyfriends are also mentioned in certain scenes of the book. All three female characters have just made it through medical school and are now s
truggling interns. They face the long hours of being an intern and the unwanted advances and smirks of the new male doctors. Honey Taft is trying to please her parents by becoming a doctor even though she does not want to. She therefore must make it th
rough medical school and residency even though she borders on incompetency. Paige Taylor is an incredible surgeon but she is frustrated because a well known and respected visiting surgeon is especially tough on her. She faces the moral dilemma about whe
ther or not to humanely end the life of a patient because this is against the Hippocratic Oath and everything she has been taught. Kat Hunter is an African-American doctor who is struggling to prove herself to those with prejudices.
Sidney Sheldon does not write in a manner that keeps his characters concealed or on a level above the reader. Instead, they are shown for who and what they are (and are not) so that they come across as real people, in perhaps a few unrealistic scene
s. The 1990s have fueled the women's movement and many more opportunities now exist for women in professions that used to be solely for men. Medicine is one of these professions, so Nothing Lasts Forever might be appealing to an audience of women becau
se it shows them persevering in a male dominated profession.
This book may be compared to other similar popular fiction books, especially those by Danielle Steele. Danielle Steele writes romance novels that contain the same type of material as Sidney Sheldon's books. The main character of Steele's novels i
s also usually a woman. She writes in a manner analogous to Sheldon, but her plots seem to be more intricate than the plot in Nothing Lasts Forever. Her characters face similar situations and heartaches as do the characters in this particular Sheldon bo
ok. For example, in Steele's book Palomino, the beautiful female main character is faced with losing her fiance, much like Paige Taylor in Sheldon's book. Both authors have reached best-selling status because their material is easy to read and the cha
racters are intriguing enough to keep the reader interested. Without reverting to clichés, sex definitely sells, and both authors have hit the nail on the head.
In addition to the original hardcover edition of Nothing Lasts Forever, Sheldon's novel has been well represented in the form of audio cassette and other listening forms. A few versions also exist with large type. This has expanded the audience to
the visually impaired and has made the book available to an almost unlimited audience. There are also translations in six different languages, which helped to increase the popularity of the book worldwide.
Sidney Sheldon's Nothing Lasts Forever reached best-selling status in 1994 and remained in the charts for many weeks. However, this is not a book that will linger in the mind of the reader for very long. This is partly because Sidney Sheldon is kn
own for churning out books in rapid-fire manor. He claims that it never takes longer than two years to write a new novel. By the time the reader gets around to this particular novel, a new one has already come out and much like the title implies, Nothin
g Lasts Forever is soon forgotten.
The influence that television and film has had on Sheldon's novels is obvious in Nothing Lasts Forever. The chapters are much like movie cuts, where they end at a point that seems to be in the middle. This keeps the reader interested and curious a
bout what is going to happen next. Literary critics tend to heavily criticize Sheldon's novel as banal and lackluster but somehow the public seems to eat it up. Sheldon writes simply and directly without trying to be confusing. It's much easier to hav
e everything given to you than to figure it out for yourself, which is probably why novels like Sheldon's are so well liked. It's always safest to go with the lowest common denominator. Sheldon's prior success as a producer was also an asset to his ne
w career as a novelist. For these reasons, Nothing Lasts Forever was an incredibly popular book, as will most likely other books by Sidney Sheldon.