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Sidney Sheldon's Angel of the Dark

Sidney Sheldon /Tilly Bagshawe

William Morrow/Hardcover/9780062073419 One Day Laydown 4/3/12 Behind the Scenes with Tilly Bagshawe When I was first approached by Sidney Sheldon's estate about the possibility of continuing his legacy with some new novels, I'll confess I was a little daunted. I've been a fan of Sidney's writing all my life, and when my first novel, Adored, was published I actually wrote to him, telling him how much his novels had inspired me. He sent me a typically kind and encouraging reply. But little did I know then that, five years later, I would be sitting in his house in Malibu, talking with his wonderful family about creating new Sidney Sheldon stories.

Sidney was an incredibly prolific writer and remained awash with creative energy and new ideas right up until the end of his life. The only person ever to win a Tony, an Oscar, an Emmy and an Edgar, he was a giant not only as a novelist, but in the film, television and theatre worlds too, a truly unique talent. As such, he left an enormous amount of material behind when he passed, some of which remained with his family. Naturally, both as an author and a fan, I was chomping at the bit to see all of his notes. But a legacy of that size takes time to catalogue and file properly, and it wasn't until the publication of After the Darkness, my second Sidney Sheldon novel, that I finally had a chance to look at some of the unfinished novels and story ideas in detail.

I will never forget my excitement, sitting at Sidney's desk in his home office, looking out over the Pacific Ocean, reading his notes for the first time. His habit was to dictate all his novels rather than to type them, but he began with a generalized explosion of ideas ­ some for

characters, some for plot lines, some for specific scenes and jokes ­ which his secretary typed up verbatim, almost as a stream of consciousness. Angel of the Dark grew out of Sidney's notes from a file entitled simply "Novel 19," which his wife Alexandra told me he had been working on in the last years of his life, and which she kindly allowed me to take away with me and work on this year.

The first thing that struck me about the notes was that Sidney clearly still thought like a screenwriter. There are snatches of dialogue everywhere. For example, one page reads:

AN ATTRACTIVE FEMALE COP PULLS HIM OVER "WHAT'S YOUR HURRY?" "I HAVE A DATE." "IS SHE GOING TO SPOIL IF YOU DON'T GET THERE ON TIME?" "SHE'S ALREADY SPOILED." "DO YOU KNOW WHAT I'M GOING TO GIVE YOU FOR THAT?' SHE KISSES HIM "DO YOU WANT TO HAVE DINNER TONIGHT?"

This, to me, is the bare bones of a classic Sidney Sheldon scene. The dialogue is witty and punchy. There is a twist (The female cop and the man are actually married/together, which we don't know at the outset.) But there is no explanation in the notes as to who the man in question is, when this scene takes place, or where it might fit into the rest of the story. I used this

dialogue in Angel of the Dark as the basis for the scene where Danny McGuire (my detective) spars with his wife (also on the force). Other pages of the notes were much less specific, with only a few key words pertaining to possible plot lines. One reads:

HOSPITAL GOES THROUGH HOUSE RECEIPT ­ JEWELER PAWNBROKER TELEPHONE CALL MAN HANGED

I used some of these ideas in Angel of the Dark's first murder (of art dealer Andrew Jakes. Hospital, jeweler, pawnbroker should all ring bells.) But I omitted others, such as the hanging, that didn't gel with my take on Sidney's story. In that sense the notes were absolutely perfect for me, in that they provided ideas for plot, character and even some specific scenes; but they didn't tie me down creatively, or restrict me from adapting the story and making it my own.

There will never be another Sidney Sheldon. But through talking extensively with Sidney's family, both his widow Alexandra and his daughter Mary, about his creative process; and with the help of his own incredible notes; I have tried to stay as true as I can to Sidney's voice and vision in writing Angel of the Dark. For me, this book is a true collaboration. I hope that it would have made Sidney happy to see his name live on, and his magical stories continue to bear

fruit. Above all, both I and the Sheldon family hope that Sidney's millions of fans around the world will embrace this book, not only as a tribute to the great man himself, but as a gripping, compelling story in its own right.

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