Mary Higgins Clark, 1927-2020

February 3, 2020 | Book Buzz

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Mary Higgins Clark
Mary Higgins Clark at the Mazza Museum by Alvintrusty. Used on a Creative Commons license.

Mary Higgins Clark was born on Christmas Eve, 1927 in New York City. Her father Luke was an Irish immigrant who owned a successful pub. His death in 1939 threw the family into turmoil. Clark's mother Nora found it difficult to find employment and rented out part of the family home and worked as a babysitter to support her family. Mary Higgins worked as a switchboard operator while in high school to earn money for the family. Nevertheless, their efforts were not sufficient and the family was forced to move into a small apartment when they lost their home. Mary's brother Joseph enlisted in the Navy in 1944. After his death from spinal meningitis his pension given to the family, which ended the family financial trouble and allowed his sister the freedom to explore career options. She worked as a secretary, model and copywriter. Mary then applied to become a stewardess with Pan Am Airlines in 1948 and impulsively invited a neighbour Warren Clark to a dinner thrown by her former employer. While at the event, Warren proposed to marry Mary after she had spent a year working for the airlines. The couple married in December 1949.

Clark took writing classes at New York University, wrote stories and cared for their five children. Warren Clark's cardiac condition made it impossible for him to work and once again Mary stepped in to support the family as a scriptwriter for radio dramas. After Warren died in 1964, Clark ran her own script production company while writing short stories and attending university. Her first novel was published in 1968. Aspire to the Heavens was a historical novel about George and Martha Washington. It was not a success and Clark decided to try writing suspense instead. Her first novel in that genre, Where Are the Children? was released in 1971. Clark initially sold the book for $3000 but the paperback rights sold for $100,000. Her second book, A Stranger is Watching, sold for $1.5 M. 

Known as the Queen of Suspense, Clark wrote more than 50 novels, sometimes collaborating with authors Carol Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke. Her latest solo effort was Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry, released in November 2019. 

Mary Higgins Clark died on Friday January 31, 2020. She was 92 years old.

A selection of works by Mary Higgins Clark:

I've got you under my skin

I've Got You Under My Skin

Kiss the girls and make them cry

Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry

Where are the children

Where are the Children

You don't own me

You Don't Own Me by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke


Are you a fan of suspense or Mary Higgins Clark? Tell us about your favourite books in the comments.