Review: Master Of The Game

Master Of The Game

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Sidney Sheldon’s Master of the Game is, on paper, the story of Kate Blackwell, an heiress to a South African diamond fortune-turned international conglomerate. In practice, Kate herself is only a supporting character.

First is a pulp-historical thriller as Kate’s ancestor makes his diamond fortune. Then it’s Kate herself and her son. Finally, and taking up most of the book, is the saga of Kate’s granddaughters, Eve and Alexandria. The feud can be described as the vicious, wicked, and evil Eve constantly attempting to kill the stupid and clueless Alexandria so that she can take all the family fortune for herself.

Like a lot of Sheldon’s other books, this throws in Big Historical Events (the Boer and World Wars) almost as an afterthought to make it look slightly “sophisticated”. The rise of Kate herself, which was the biggest reason I got the book, is too simple and too rushed. This is another one of Sheldon’s gimmicks-dress the book up in the trappings of a legal/business/political struggle but use that as the backdrop for a lurid soap opera.

Fortunately, it has the ridiculously melodramatic saga of the twin sisters, starting with Eve’s “Agent 47 meets Pinky and the Brain” assassination attempts and ending with a climax where one twin poses as the other (gee, I didn’t expect that).

This book is obviously trash, but I can’t help but like it. For a start, it’s not the product of ineptitude-this is from the hands of a skilled showbiz writer who knew how to play to the popular crowd. Second, it gets so cliche and so lurid, it actually becomes fun in a “really?” kind of way.

Review: Rage of Angels

Rage of Angels

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Sidney Sheldon’s parade of “gilded cheap thrillers” continues in Rage of Angels. This is the tale of lawyer Jennifer Parker and her twists and turns as she tangles with (and beds) powerful politicians and more powerful mobsters.

Now, it’s still a sleazy sow of a cheap thriller that smothers its face in just enough designer cosmetics to appear slightly respectable for those bookshelves. But for all its cliches, it’s considerably less sleazy and considerably more genuine than The Other Side of Midnight ever was.

This helps it a lot, as there’s more focus on the actual substance and less on forced pretentiousness. What this leads to is a virtuous cycle. Being able to dial back on some of the pseudo-splendor means the characters are more interesting, which in turn means that there’s less need for “look at this wonderful exotic place” filler…

The opening act is Fuldapocalypse’s first dip into that lucrative genre-the legal thriller. I know very little about law, but even I know that the cases move way too fast and that certain ones that I’m 99.999999999999999999999999999999% sure would result in a settlement end up in front of a jury so that Parker can win. Yes, I’m utterly and horribly shocked that a book reviewed on Fuldapocalypse is unrealistic. And I’m even more shocked that a lot of the later plot turns out to be contrived.

The later parts, although told in the faux-flowery style I’d come to know from Sheldon’s previous book, actually work better. The ending is rushed, but it’s actually less so than some of the outright pulp I’ve read. Sheldon knew his audience and knew his style, and by those standards, Rage of Angels works.

 

Review: The Other Side Of Midnight

The Other Side Of Midnight

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The time has come for Fuldapocalypse to broaden its horizons once more. Now reviewed is Sidney Sheldon’s The Other Side Of Midnight. This is in the kind of fiction genre best described, for lack of a better word, as the “romantic epic”, or maybe “romantic suspense.” How do I even begin to unpack this tale of scheming women, world war (well, technically), and romantic drama?

Well, the plot itself focuses on the romantic entanglements and schemes of four people throughout decades. Noelle Page, a French beauty who schemes. Catherine Alexander, an innocent midwestern American. Larry Douglas, a boorish but handsome pilot. And tycoon Aristotle Onassis  Constantin Demeris.

See, this book is very much a cheap thriller at heart, but it’s what I call a “gilded cheap thriller”. Most of the other stuff from the period I’d have reviewed on this blog is obvious, open, blatant, unashamed, sleaze-pulp. This is that in substance, but it’s wrapped in a tiny fig leaf of “sophistication” and “grandeur”.

It has the trappings of a literary epic that travels across time and place. There are descriptions of places, chapters marked by the passing of time, and narrative statements. All of which serve to bookend one scene of sleazy romance novel cliches (really, even someone like me could instantly spot almost all of them) after another.

The question that went through my mind after I finished was “was this intentional”? Was it a case of Sheldon’s pretensions exceeding his literary skill? Or was it knowingly making something that deliberately sleazy yet slightly, visually “respectable” enough for people to buy it without guilt? My very strong feeling is the latter, given that the author was already experienced in show business long before he wrote novels.

Well, whatever it was, it worked at selling lots and lots of books, especially this one.