Master of the Game (novel)

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Master of the Game
Master Of The Game.jpg
1982 1st edition cover
Author Sidney Sheldon
Country United States
Language English
Genre Thriller novel
Publisher Warner Books
Publication date
1982
Media type Print (Paperback and Hardback)
ISBN 0-688-01365-1
Preceded by Rage of Angels
Followed by If Tomorrow Comes

Master of the Game is a novel by Sidney Sheldon, first published in hardback format in 1982.[1] Spanning six generations in the lives of the fictional MacGregor/Blackwell family, the critically acclaimed novel debuted at number one on the New York Times Bestseller List.[2] It was later adapted into a 1984 television miniseries.[3]

On August 4, 2009 (two years after Sheldon's death), William Morrow and Company released a sequel, Sidney Sheldon's Mistress of the Game, written by Tilly Bagshawe.

Publication history[edit]

Master of the Game has been translated into numerous languages, and reprinted seven times.[4] It was originally published by William Morrow & Co. in 1982.[1] In 1983, the book was reprinted four times; in January, by HarperCollins[5] in June by Thorndike Pr.,[6] in paperback format by Warner Books in August,[4] and was later released by Pan Books, in December of the same year.[7] The novel was re-released by Warner Books in 1988.[8] In 1993, Master Of The Game was part of an omnibus edition by a publishing company named, Diamond Books, which was owned by HarperCollins Publishers.[9] The other two books in the omnibus were Bloodline (1977) and Rage of Angels (1980), both major bestsellers by Sidney Sheldon.[2] The most recent version of the book was printed in April 2005 by HarperCollins Ltd.[10]

Plot[edit]

Kate Blackwell, matriarch of the Blackwell family and head of her father's multinational business empire, Kruger-Brent Ltd., celebrates her ninetieth birthday. Despite the presence of her granddaughters' families, she hallucinates the presence of the ghosts of her pasts. She recalls how the company started, and the story is told through flashback through different members of Kate's family.

Jamie[edit]

A hundred years ago, Kate's father Jamie McGregor leaves his home in Scotland for Klipdrift, South Africa with a dream to find wealth by mining diamonds. He makes a contract with a local Dutch merchant, Salomon Van Der Merwe, for a loan on mining tools. But after nearly dying to find an untapped diamond mine, he finds out that the contract, written in Afrikaans, gave the entire mine to Van Der Merwe while Jamie receives minimum wage for his services. When Jamie tries to protest, he is beaten and left for dead in the desert. He is saved by Van Der Merwe's servant, Banda, who wants revenge on his master for raping his sister, who died birthing his son. They manage to pull off a dangerous heist and take millions worth of diamonds. Jamie returns to Klipdrift and disguises himself as Ian Travis, a widowed millionaire looking for business opportunities and catches Van Der Merwe's attention. He convinces Van Der Merwe to let his daughter, Margaret, show him around town, and Jamie secretly seduces her and gets her pregnant. As revenge for Van Der Merwe, he reveals his true identity and refuses to marry Margaret, shaming her father, a conservative figure in town. Margaret is kicked out of the house and works in a boarding home, eventually giving birth to Jamie Jr. Meanwhile, Van Der Merwe becomes a social outcast and heavily borrows from the local bank, not knowing that Jamie owns it. Jamie allows Van Der Merwe to borrow large amounts without repaying his previous debts, and then calls in all his debts when he knows Van Der Merwe cannot afford to pay. Jamie later finds out that Van Der Merwe committed suicide, but feels an empty victory.

Jamie's company Kruger-Brent Ltd., named after the guards who nearly caught him during the heist, grows successfully. He hires a young David Blackwell after Blackwell impressively attempts to repeat Jamie's heist, and his hard work quickly makes him a high-ranking executive. Margaret is still attracted to Jamie, and is jealous of another Margaret, a prostitute in Madame Agnes' brothel, whom Jamie is fond of. In a last-ditch attempt, she abandons Jamie Jr. with his father, and Jamie slowly begins to love his son and offers to take him, but not Margaret. Margaret threatens to leave South Africa for America with her son if Jamie does not marry her, and Jamie reluctantly marries her for his son, restoring Margaret's position in Klipdrift society but acting openly cold towards her. After a drunken fight with the prostitute Margaret, Jamie mistakes his wife for her and sleeps with her, and Margaret becomes pregnant and gives birth to their daughter Kate. Banda returns and warns Jamie that the Bantu rebellion may harm his family and steals one year-old Kate from her crib during a riot in order to protect her. However, he did not reach Jamie Jr. in time, who was abducted and left to die in the desert. The news of this causes Jamie to have a stroke, and dies after five months of paralysis. Margaret runs Kruger-Brent with Blackwell's aid. During the rebellion, Margaret and Kate are taken as prisoners-of-war due to being South African citizens, and Kate realizes the need for power so she will never feel helpless.

Kate and David, and Kruger-Brent Ltd.[edit]

Kate grows up falling in love with Blackwell, despite their large age difference, and vows that she will marry him one day. After her mother's death, she decides to get serious about running the company and goes to business school, eventually buying a mansion called Cedar Hill in Maine. Upon her return, she learns that Blackwell is engaged and is planning to leave Kruger-Brent for his fiance's family business. Kate secretly buys his fiance's company, causing Blackwell to believe his fiance to be a sell-out and breaks up with her. Kate seduces David and they marry after two months, and move to New York to expand their company.

At the beginning of World War I, Kate capitalizes on the war by planning to sell bullets and weapons, but is stopped by Blackwell, who is against it. He begins to realize Kate's obsession with the company, and enlists for the war and is gone for four years. Kate decides to push through with her idea when she sees the opportunity being wasted, and when David arrives, he is annoyed by Kate's actions. Kate becomes pregnant, and she realizes her own obsession when she is happier about good news about the company than a married life with David and their upcoming son. Two months before the baby's birth, David is killed in a mine explosion and Kate gives birth to Anthony "Tony" Blackwell.

Tony[edit]

With no one to stop her, Kate pours all her attention to Kruger-Brent and makes it a global success. She is a demanding mother to her son, expecting nothing but the best from him, but is disappointed to see that he stutters in her presence and would rather go into art than business. After World War II, Tony goes to art school in France and begins dating Dominique, a French model. During an exhibit, Kate pays-off a renowned French critic to bash Tony's work, despite his honest opinion that Tony could have been successful, in order to end Tony's career and push him to take over the business. Tony eventually finds out that Dominique is a model from one of Kruger-Brent's agencies and has been spying on him for his mother, and Tony gains the courage to stand up against her and leave.

Kate manipulates Tony into marrying Marianne Hoffman, as she wants both Marianne's father's patents and a grandchild who can take over the company since Tony will not. She pushes Marianne to carry out her pregnancy despite warnings from her doctor that her health makes it unsafe to bear children, and Marianne dies giving birth to twin daughters. Tony learns of Marianne's health issues and how his mother persuaded her to carry out the pregnancy and, after bumping into Dominique and her boyfriend, that his mother was responsible for the end of his career, Tony goes insane and tries to kill Kate, but misses. He is lobotomized and sent to an asylum, while Kate takes care of both the company and her granddaughters, Eve and Alexandra.

Eve and Alexandra[edit]

Eve, the older twin, is manipulative and evil, and despises Alexandra, whom she sees as an interloper, and tries to kill her several times. Kate decides to name Eve heir to Kruger-Brent for her Kate-like personality while Alexandra, clumsy but kind-hearted, will receive the charity foundations and will live a comfortably wealthy life. Kate eventually finds out about Eve's evil nature and disinherits her, quietly but obviously turning to Alexandra as her heir. Eve meets George Mellis during a party, and after getting raped by him, she digs into his past and finds out that they share similar backgrounds, and they plot to have Alexandra marry Mellis and then kill her, leaving George the heir of Kruger-Brent. Eve helps Mellis win Alexandra's love and Kate's approval, and they marry.

One night, Eve taunts Mellis to the point that he assaults her. She recovers without any scars due to the work of talented surgeon Keith Webster. Kate reconciles with Eve after hearing about her, and restores Eve to her will. Eve realizes that Alexandra's death will put her under her grandmother's suspicion and begs Mellis not to continue. However, Mellis wants to inherit Alexandra's share and goes on with a honeymoon ploy in a private yacht, where he intends to push Alexandra overboard and kill her. Eve hastily stops the plan by delaying Alexandra and posing as her sister to kill Mellis, but when the police find his body stabbed to death before drowning they suspect Eve to be responsible for Mellis' death. Keith realizes the truth when Dr. Peter Templeton, a psychiatrist Eve visited under the guise of a suicidal Alexandra, says that Eve's distinctive feature was a scar from her head from her assault. Keith threatens to confess to the police if she doesn't marry him, and although Eve marries him, she cheats on him openly with a younger man. With Keith's silence and Kate's decision to lie for her so Eve can be punished in Kate's terms, Eve is acquitted. However, Keith deliberately destroys her face during a laugh line removal procedure, making Eve devoted to Keith in fear that he will leave her and she will be alone, and Kate decides that that will be Eve's punishment. Meanwhile, Alexandra marries Dr. Templeton and they have a son named Robert.

The book closes after Kate's ninetieth birthday party with all her relatives present. Robert, now eight, is turning into a talented pianist. She tries to meddle with Robert's future, but is rebuffed by Peter. Kate relents, but offers to introduce him to a renowned musician, leaving the reader to wonder whether Kate will repeat her mistake on Tony's career.

Reception[edit]

The reception to Master of the Game by the public was mostly positive, with the book debuting at #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list, staying there for 11 weeks, and remaining on the list itself for 40 weeks.[2] The book became the fourth bestselling novel of 1982 in the United States, as recorded by The New York Times.[11] The novel was also selected to be a Main Selection of The Literary Guild.[2][12]

In critical reviewing, The New York Review of Books stated that the book was "compulsively readable", and praised the author by saying "Any writer who can get his audience to ask breathlessly, 'What next?' needs no help from this or any other envious reviewer."[13][14] Publishers Weekly called the book an "engaging and absorbing family saga",[15] while the Los Angeles Times Review of Books commented that Sheldon was "a genius... at writing potboilers. In 'Master of the Game' he has outdone even himself".[16] The Los Angeles Times also reviewed the lack of sex in the book. "This viewer hoped for a wee spot of sex to relieve the monotony. The business of sexual union is depicted with curious, witless brevity"[16] The New York Times disagreed, stating that "If your reading taste runs to rape, sodomy, homosexuality, and numerous other fleshy diversions, be assured; Mr. Sheldon has something for you."[14] In Massachusetts, the Worcester Sunday Telegram reviews that "the title of this book is an apt description of the author. In the business of creating hard-to-put-down bestsellers, Sidney Sheldon is indeed the master of the game.",[13] while USA Today praises Sheldon by saying that he is"a master storyteller at the top of the game."[13] In Europe, the London Review of Books categorizes the main protagonist of the novel, Kate Blackwell as being "presented as some kind of role model, but it is the sort of role made popular in olden times by Joan Crawford".[17]

The Los Angeles Times concludes the book review with "This book is really a number of silly little stories strung loosely together like 'schlenters' (fools diamonds) about to fall off a string of dental floss.", referring to terms used in South Africa,[16] while the London Review of Books ended with "This particular story is so schematically written that it could be used as a script for a film which has not yet been made but will undoubtedly proceed, as of right, to the wide screen."[17]

Adaptations[edit]

A television miniseries adaptation aired beginning on February 19, 1984, starring Dyan Cannon as Kate Blackwell, Ian Charleson as Jamie MacGregor, David Birney as David Blackwell, Harry Hamlin as Tony Blackwell, Johnny Sekka as Banda, Cherie Lunghi as Margaret MacGregor, and Fernando Allende as George Mellis, with several notable actors in smaller roles, including Alan Dobie (as MacMillan), Jimmy Nail (as Schmidt), Stratford Johns (as Zimmerman) and Barry Morse (as Dr. John Marley). The miniseries was produced by CBS Television and Rosemont Productions International Ltd.[18] It was nominated for the Emmy Award for "Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Limited Series or a Special" for the first part of the series.[19] The miniseries was released on DVD on May 4, 2009.[3]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Sheldon, Sidney (1982). Master of the Game. William Morrow and Co. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Sidney Sheldon: Novels". HachetteBookGroupUSA.com (Internet Archive). Archived from the original on December 23, 2007. Retrieved December 23, 2007. 
  3. ^ a b Bastardo, Luigi (May 4, 2009). "DVD Review: Sidney Sheldon’s Master of the Game". BlogCritics.org. Retrieved June 7, 2009. 
  4. ^ a b "Languages published for Master of the Game". Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  5. ^ Sheldon, Sidney (January 1983). Master of the Game. HarperCollins. 
  6. ^ Sheldon, Sidney (June 1983). Master of the Game. Thorndike Pr. 
  7. ^ Sheldon, Sidney (December 1983). Master of the Game. Pan Books. 
  8. ^ Sheldon, Sidney (September 1988). Master of the Game. Warner Books. 
  9. ^ Sheldon, Sidney (1993). Bloodline, Master of the Game, Rage of Angels Omnibus. Diamond Books. 
  10. ^ Sheldon, Sidney (April 2005). Master Of The Game. HarperCollins. 
  11. ^ "Bestseller Books of the 1980s". Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  12. ^ "Short profile of Master of the Game". 
  13. ^ a b c "Quotes from Hachette Book Group". Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  14. ^ a b Lekachman, Robert (29 August 1982). The Love of Money. The New York Times. 
  15. ^ Master of the Game review. Publishers Weekly. 23 July 1982. 
  16. ^ a b c Welles, Patricia (5 December 1982). Diamond dynasty in South Africa. Los Angeles Times. 
  17. ^ a b Brooker, Anita (3 February 1983). Enthusiasts. London Review of Books. 
  18. ^ "Production credits for Master of the Game". 
  19. ^ "Master Of The Game's Emmy nomination". Retrieved 2007-05-28. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Rage of Angels
Sidney Sheldon Novels
1982
Succeeded by
If Tomorrow Comes