WASHINGTON, Feb 1 — Best-selling American author Mary Higgins Clark, known to her fans as the “Queen of Suspense”, has died aged 92, her publisher confirmed yesterday.
Clark was still producing a book a year at the age of 90, with her page-turners earning her a legion of fans across the world and even making her one of the top-selling fiction authors in France.
“She passed away peacefully this evening at the age of 92 surrounded by family and friends,” publisher Simon & Schuster said in a tweet late Friday.
With sales of more than 100 million thrillers in the United States alone, she achieved success in her 40s after a series of personal tragedies.
Clark’s books have been translated into 35 languages and more than 20 have been adapted for television and cinema.
Throughout her career she received a number of awards, including France’s Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere in 1980, as well as being made Grand Master of the Edgar Allen Poe Awards by the Mystery Writers of America in 2000.
“She was unique. Nobody ever bonded more completely with her readers than Mary did; she understood them as if they were members of her own family,” her long-time editor Michael Korda said in a statement.
“She was always absolutely sure of what they wanted to read—and, perhaps more important, what they didn’t want to read—and yet she managed to surprise them with every book. She was the Queen of Suspense.”
In an interview with National Public Radio in 2017, Clark said the greatest compliment was “when someone will say to me, ‘I read your darn book till four in the morning’.”
“She creates characters that readers can identify with then puts them in scary situations. Fans love it,” NPR said.
Born in the Bronx, New York, on December 24, 1927 to an Irish immigrant family, Clark wrote from an early age.
Her father died from a heart attack when she was 11 and, with her mother struggling with three children, Clark was obliged to work from 15.
She started as a hotel telephone operator and was then a typist, while still dreaming of becoming a writer.
She would window-shop on New York’s 5th Avenue for the clothes she would buy when success arrived, Clark often reminisced in interviews in later years.
In 1949 she became a Pan Am air hostess, quitting after a year to marry her neighbor, Warren Clark, and raise a family.
She established a routine of writing in her kitchen from 5am to 7am before getting her five children ready for school.
But when her husband died suddenly of a heart attack when she was just 35, this life was shattered.
To support her family, Clark touted her short stories—receiving 40 rejection letters—and sold radio scripts.
But when Clark turned to suspense novels she finally achieved the success she had dreamt of.
Her first in 1975 -- titled “Where are the Children?” about a woman going through a recurring nightmare of losing her two children—was reprinted 75 times.
She became a millionaire after her second thriller, “A Stranger is Watching”, was released in 1978.
From then on most of her thrillers were bestsellers, including “Before I say Goodbye” (2000) and “On the Street Where You Live” (2001) which topped the New York Times bestseller lists. — AFP