Author and TV series creator, Sidney Sheldon (1917-2007) wrote quite a few famous potboilers, including The Other Side of Midnight, Rage of Angels and A Stranger in the Mirror, all of which were made into films with varying degrees of success.
My favorite, however, both book and the ensuing mini-series, has always been Master of the Game, the story of the fictional Blackwell family. This novel was so popular that it was translated into many different languages, helping to land Sidney Sheldon in 1997’s Guinness Book of World Records with the title of most translated author.
The book starts out by introducing us to Kate Blackwell on her 90th birthday in the year 1982, as she remembers the past and then proceeds into the next section to take a look at Kate’s ancestors.
The next section (Jamie 1883-1906) concerns her father, Jamie McGregor, whom she never really knew. Jamie went to South Africa in search of diamonds when he was 18 years old. Arriving in Klipdrift, he immediately gets tricked and robbed by a Dutchman named Salomon Van Der Merve, who also arranges to have him beaten and left for dead. James survives and vows revenge. He returns a wealthy man, forming a company called Kruger-Brent and exacts his revenge on Salomon by seducing his only child, Maggie. Although he dumps Maggie, she turns the tables on him and they end up married, albeit in name only — at first. A terrible tragedy strikes their family when a worker revolt occurs. Jamie dies but Maggie is pregnant with Kate.
In Kate and David 1906-1914, we watch Kate McGregor grow up and marry David Blackwell. She inherits her father’s company after her mother’s death and becomes the official head of it. We become acquainted with Kate’s methods of controlling people by lying like a rug, while convincing herself it’s the right thing to do.
Kate’s ambitious nature goes into high gear in Kruger-Brent Ltd 1914-1945 and she develops Kruger-Brent into a multinational corporation. She has a son, Tony Blackwell, whom she, of course, has big plans for. Unfortunately, Tony has other plans.
We meet the good and evil incarnate in the Blackwell family in Eve and Alexandra 1950-1975. Tony’s beautiful twin daughters may look the same, but one’s a diamond and the other’s a lump of coal. Evil twin, Eve, will stop at nothing to deprive her good sister, Alexandra, of her inheritance, even marrying her off to a sadistic woman-beater.
The wonderful 1984 miniseries version of the book still comes on television now and then. The characters were superbly cast: Ian Charleson and Cherie Lunghi were absolutely terrific as Jamie and Maggie. Engaging Dyan Cannon starred as Kate Blackwell, and a delectably handsome Harry Hamlin played her son, Tony. Gorgeous Liane Langland played the dual roles of Eve and Alexandra. You can also find VHS copies for sale on Amazon and eBay, although they are sometimes pretty high since it is out of print.
You should read the book first. It’s a lot easier to obtain, and by the time you finish it, you might get lucky and run into someone who already has a copy of the miniseries.
Youtube: Master of the Game Trailer
IMDB: Master of the Game (1984) (mini)