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Thursday, 1 February 2007

Sidney Sheldon has died, aged 89, reports The Sydney Morning Herald. That's a pretty good innings for any man. There's also a story originally published in the Los Angeles Times.

Now I don't normally write about authors whose books sell 300 million copies. That's because I'm primarily interested in quality literature, and a lot of what sells 300 million copies is pretty ordinary when you look at it closely enough. It's the old elitist thing. I'm unabashedly elitist.

But Sheldon has special resonance for me because in the mid-eighties I was a representative of Pan Books, which was a subsidiary of McMillan, a British publisher. Nowadays, apparently, Pan McMillan is owned by a German company, Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH.

As a rep, my area included the western suburbs of Sydney, Goulburn and Canberra. It was a big area, and I would drive for hours every day. Very tiring (which was the reason I eventually left the job).

Sheldon was the kind of author you made sure that each shop carried. One of my jobs, apart from introducing new titles to retailers, was to stock up the shelves with the type of book that sells 300 million copies. This I did, day in day out. While doing so, I am ashamed to admit, I knew very little about their authors. There are a few surprises in Sheldon's closet, for example:

He was born Sidney Schechtel on February 11, 1917, in Chicago, the son of Otto, a salesman, and Natalie. Unable to pay the rent, the family kept moving, and Sheldon attended about a dozen schools.

He later remarked that his career as a writer was rather improbable considering his background.

"Both my parents were third-grade drop-outs," he said. "My father never read a book in his life and I was the only one in my family to complete high school."

He made up the last name of Sheldon in the mid-1930s, when he entered an amateur radio contest as an announcer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Surely 'Pan Macmillan' ?