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Bestselling author Sidney Sheldon, shown at New York's Waldorf Astoria in October 1997, earned Tony, Oscar and Emmy accolades. He has died at 89. ((Joe Tabacca/Associated Press))

Sidney Sheldon, bestselling American novelist,died Tuesday at age 89.

He was sufferingof complicationsfrom pneumonia, said Warren Cowan, his publicist.

Cowan said Sheldondied at a California medical centre with his wife, Alexandra, at his side.

"I've lost a longtime and dear friend," Cowan told the Associated Press. "In all my years in this business, I've never heard an unkind word said about him."

Though now best known for his books, Sheldonwas also aTony Award winner for his work on Broadway, an Oscar winner for one of his many film screenplays and an Emmynominee for TV efforts. He started his career in fiction late, at 50.

"Writing novels is the most fun I've ever had," he once said.

Broadway, Hollywood, TV came before books

Born Feb. 11,1917, in Chicago, Sheldon was the first in his family to graduate from high school. He attended Northwestern University and, during the Depression years, did odd jobs, including writing short plays. In his late teens, he worked as a reader sifting through the screenplays submitted to Universal Studios and even managed to sell one of his own to the studio.

After serving as apilot inthe Second World War, he started to write for Broadway. At one point,Sheldon had three musicals playing on the Great White Wayat the same time. He eventually won a Tony Award in 1959 for hismusical Redhead.

Aside from Broadway, he also found success in Hollywood. His original screenplay for the film The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer, which starred Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Shirley Temple, netted Sheldon an Academy Award in 1947.

Sheldon also created hitson the small screen, producing and writing The Patty Duke Show andcreating television classic I Dream of Jeannie.

Shift to books

It was in the final year of I Dream of Jeannie that he decided to turn to novel writing, he once recalled. Though critics panned his debut effort, The Naked Face, it eventually became abestseller in paperback.

'I try to write my books so the reader can't put them down.' —Sidney Sheldon

Sheldon made his mark with his 18 novels, writing sensual, suspenseful tales about women who succeed in a hostile world of ruthless men. His books, including Rage of Angels, If Tomorrow Comes and The Other Side of Midnight, were not always adored by literary critics but were bestsellers beloved by readers.

"I try to write my books so the reader can't put them down," he explained in a 1982 interview.

"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."

Sheldon also loved to create strong female characters.

"I like to write about women who are talented and capable, but most important, retain their femininity. Women have tremendous power — their femininity, because men can't do without it," he said.

The prolific writer said he never used a computer or typewriter, but instead dictated 50 pages of writing a day to hissecretary orto a tape recorder. He would correct the pages the next day.

"Then I do a complete rewrite — 12 to 15 times," he said. "I spend a whole year rewriting."

With files from the Associated Press