Author Mary Higgins Clark December 24, 1927 – January 31, 2020
When Mary Higgins Clark, the best-selling author of many popular suspense novels, passed away on January 31, the publishing world and her many fans lost a beloved writer. More than 100 million copies of her books are in print in the United States alone.
In a 1997 interview with Marilyn Stasio of the New York Times, Ms. Higgins Clark said that she wanted to create stories that would make a reader say, “This could be me. That could be my daughter. This could happen to us”. She said that she wrote about “nice people whose lives are invaded”. Ms. Stasio wrote that “Mary Higgins Clark writes to a simple formula that entails putting a woman in peril and letting her figure her own way out.” Though that formula is “repetitive and predictable,” she added, it works because Ms. Higgins Clark “is a natural-born storyteller.”
As a young woman Ms. Higgins Clark took a writing class at New York University. In her first successful novel, “Where Are the Children?”, which she sold for $3,000, a young mother who is accused of killing her son and daughter changes her identity, finds a new husband and starts another family, only to have her second set of children disappear. Higgins Clark would go on to write dozens of best-selling novels.
Higgins grew up in an Irish-American family that ran a pub. During the Depression her father died and she went to work as a switchboard operator to help support the family. Later she worked as a flight attendant on international flights to feed her desire for adventure. She married Warren Clark in 1949 and left her flight attendant position and began to start a family.
When her husband died in 1964, Higgins Clark was unable to collect life insurance because her husband’s illness had been chronic. She began working at an advertising agency to support her family of five children. In the early mornings while her children were still asleep she carved out time for her true passion, writing. She began writing short stories and then shifted her focus to novels.
Ms. Higgins Clark and her daughter Carol Higgins Clark also wrote as a team, producing five holiday-themed crime novels that brought together characters from both authors. And in recent years she collaborated with crime fiction author Alafair Burke.
When Mary Higgins Clark passed away from natural causes, her long-time publisher, Simon & Schuster issued the following statement:
“Each of her 56 books has been a bestseller. But these storied publishing accomplishments tell only a small part of the larger story that is Mary Higgins Clark. She was, simply, a remarkable woman who overcame an early life of hardship and challenges, never doubting her ability as a natural-born storyteller (and she was one foe the ages).”