The life and times of the novelist, screenwriter, Hollywood mini-mogul and borderline workaholic.
Sheldon came from humble beginnings in Depression-era Chicago to become the brand-name author of airport bestsellers (Are You Afraid of the Dark?, 2004, etc.). Although this memoir mostly catalogues his successes, Sheldon begins by revealing that in 1934, when he was 17 and working at a drugstore, he was stealing sleeping pills so that he could commit suicide. Despondent that his life wasn’t going anywhere, he was determined to do the deed just as his father walked in on him. A born salesman, Otto Schechtel was able to talk his son out of it, but that seems about the last positive thing he did. Sheldon worked desperately to become successful, even changing his last name at the advice of a manager, and there’s some genuinely entertaining material here covering his ascension to film- and bestsellerdom. An impressive combination of chutzpah, writing talent and blind luck led him from Tin Pan Alley to Hollywood, where he was soon knocking out B-picture screenplays. Broadway shows followed, as did A-list picture credits (he won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer), and eventually Sheldon joined the ranks of megawatt producers. That whole business about his being the most-translated novelist in the world—he is listed in the Guinness Book of Records—comes later, more as an afterthought. It’s his success in the movie biz that Sheldon wants to talk about. Among other things, it’s an opportunity for name-dropping, a habit he overindulges in.
Like the rough draft for the real memoir, the one with a personality included.