Sheldon died yesterday of complications from pneumonia at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, near his Palm Springs home, said Sean Rossall, publicist at Warren Cowan and Associates.
Sheldon became an American icon in the 1970s with novels like ''The Other Side of Midnight'' and ''Bloodline,'' bestsellers spun out of international intrigue and the sexual liberation of the era.
Strong women were often the main characters.
He published 18 novels and sold 300 million copies, making him a paperback stand staple for decades. Translations into 71 languages in 180 countries won him a listing in ''The Guinness Book of Records'' as ''the world's most translated author.'' But before his career in fiction took off after turning 50, the Chicago native had made his mark in Hollywood movies and television and in Broadway theater.
After heading to Los Angeles at 17, he started as script reader at major studios, and then had three Broadway musical hits by the age of 25.
His big break came five years later in 1948 when he won an Academy Award for original screenplay for ''The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer'' starring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy.
Working as a screenwriter at both MGM and Paramount Pictures, Sheldon went on to write 25 films including ''Easter Parade,'' showcasing Judy Garland and Fred Astaire, ''Annie Get Your Gun,'' ''Jumbo,'' and ''Anything Goes,'' featuring Bing Crosby.
In 1963, he turned to the fledgling television industry as screenwriter for ''The Patty Duke Show'' and followed up in 1964 by creating, producing and writing the hit show ''I Dream of Jeannie.'' In 2005, he wrote his memoir ''The Other Side of Me'' in which he offered a rare glimpse into the lives of stars like Grant and Garland.
As a child born during the Depression to parents who dropped out in third grade and rarely read books, Sheldon considered his writing success somewhat of a miracle.
Sheldon is survived by his wife, Alexandra, a daughter, Mary and a brother Richard.
The family did not give details of funeral arrangements, but said a ''celebration of his life'' will be held at a date to be determined.