Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Book Review : The Other Side of Me - Sidney Sheldon

The winner of an Oscar, a Tony, and an Edgar Allan Poe Award, Sidney Sheldon has over 200 television scripts, twenty-five major motion pictures, six Broadway plays, eighteen novels (which have sold over 300 million copies) and one memoir to his credit, ranking him as one of the world's most prolific writers.

The style of this autobiography is uniquely Sheldon and completely engrossing. As he explained in a 1982 interview : "I try to write my books so the reader can't put them down, I try to construct them so when the reader gets to the end of a chapter, he or she has to read just one more chapter. It's the technique of the old Saturday afternoon serial: leave the guy hanging on the edge of the cliff at the end of the chapter."

The book starts with his impoverished childhood during the Great Depression and surprisingly ends before his meteoric rise as a successful novelist.

Born Sidney Schechtel in Chicago in 1917 to German & Russian parents, Sheldon's life had more ups and downs than a month of roller coaster rides. A long time sufferer from manic depression or bipolar disorder as it is now called, he often turned away at critical moments from paths that were just opening up to him.

Success took time coming his way and even when it did, it didn't stay long. (Not until his writing career took off, then there was no looking back) In his words "Success is an elevator that moves up and down" His ups included having three musical hits playing simultaneously on Broadway, the Oscar and the Screen Writers Guild award for Best Musical for "Annie Get your Gun" The downs included long periods of unemployment and blacklisting by the studios.

There are so many anecdotes about so many famous people that are a pleasure to read. Groucho Marx was an extremely close friend and also Godfather of Sheldon's daughter Mary. Having seen the Hollywood industry as a writer, producer and director his insights are precise and delightful.

My only disappointment was that I wish he had written a part 2 before his death on January 30th, this year. He does throw a few morsels about his writing life experiences, but they just aren't enough for his adoring fans.

I highly recommend the book to all Sheldon fans. This is the first autobiography I have ever read which I did not put down even once.

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