“ Author: Mary Higgins Clarke „
Mary Higgins Clark is a very well known American writer of Crime novels and all of the 24 books or so that she has written She managed to get published became best sellers in the United States and also in many other countries around Europe. Mary was born on the 24/12/1927 in the Bronx region of New York. Her parents were Irish Immigrants and they lived off their profits of the Irish Pub. They owned their own home in the Bronx and also had a summer home on Long Island Sand. In all they experienced a very good life until Mary was about 10 years of age and things started to go wrong and they started to find things hard. In 1939 when she came back from Church she then discovered that her father had sat in the chair and passed away while he was sleeping. This was very hard for their mother Nora Higgins who had three children to look after. No one wanted to give work to a 52 year old woman who had not worked for a while. So Mary moved out of her bedroom so that her mother could rent it out for money to pay their bills and to buy provisions. Her early years when she was six years of age wrote her first poem and frequently wrote short plays which she and her friends used to act out. Mary graduated from Saint Francis Xavier Grammar School and she then moved to Villa Maria Academy which was run by Nuns of the Congregation De Notre Dame de Montreal. She had been awarded a scholarship to go there. The Head and some of the teachers there gave the encouragement for Mary to keep writing but were not pleased when she took it a little further and instead of being attentive in her lessons she just kept writing. She worked as a switchboard operator at the Stelton Hotel and her earnings helped to pay the bills. During this time working on the switchboard- she did have a habit of listening in to conservations and she remembers when she eavesdropped into a conservation of Tennessee Williams but was not very inspired by him as she claimed he said nothing interesting. Times continued to be very difficult and even though money was coming in from Mary and her mother baby sat this did not prevent the lost of their home and had to move into a tiny 3 roomed flat. Her brother Joseph graduated from High School in 1944 and he straight away signed up for the Navy but after only six months he fell very ill with Spinal Meningitis and eventually he died. The family did morn his death but this made his mother Nora guaranteed for life to have a pension as he made her his dependent so she did not now need her daughter's money for the bills.. After her brother's death Mary went to a Secretarial School after one year she accepted a postion as the secretary to the Head of the Creative Department in the Internal Advertising Division at Remington Road. She went to evening classes so she could learn more about advertising and promotion. Mary thoroughly enjoyed her job but she was tempted by an acquaintances remark about a Flight Attendant. So she then applied and after several interviews she then was offered a Stewardess position for Pan American Airlines even though she would be earning less. So most of 1949 she worked as an Air stewardess flying to Europe, Africa and Asia. She even was flying on the last flight into Czechoslovakia before the Iron Curtain fell. Another time she had to look after and escort a four year old orphaned child down the stairs to where be adoptive mother was waiting. She left Pan American Airlines in December 1949 and married Warren Clark. To fill her time in she spent in doing writing courses in New York University. She and a few of her classmates the formed a writing group which was still going on after forty years and they would meet weekly. Their first child came along after nine months of marriage and they called her Marilyn follow a few months later by Warren Junior, Their third child two years later who they called David. Mary had one of her short stories published and their fourth child came along Carol after that. Her writing now was starting to take off and was finding no difficulties in finding publishers for her work and to sell them. She found her agent who was one of the writing group Patricia Schartle Myer. She worked for Mary for Twenty years until she retired and when Mary's fifth child came along she named her after Patricia. Both Warren and Mary encouraged all their children to find ways of earning money and they either took professional acting her modelling jobs. They were in various commercials such as Patty (Patricia) Gerber Baby and David were shown in a national United Way Advert. Even Mary herself was in a television Commercial for Fab Laundry detergent. This particular advert earned enough money for Warren and her to go away on holiday to Hawaii. Sadly in 1959her husband Warren was told that he had angina which was very severe and over the five years he had 3 heart attacks even though he did slow down. In 1964 he could not work anymore so Mary contacted one of her friends in Radio to see if there was any chance of an opening into writing scripts for radio programmes. The sad thing was that when she was offered a job and actually accepted it her husband sadly lost the battle to live and suffered another heart attack which would course his death. Her mother law was there visiting her son and the shock of his death actually caused her to collapse and die so it was a double whammy for Mary who not only lost her husband but also her mother in law as well. She was able to write as a scriptwriter for radio four 65 minute programs for the Portrait of a Patriot series and her work was at a good standard so in fact she was asked to work for other radio programs Even though she was earning good money it was still difficult in covering all living cost as she had five children to raise. There first Christmas without Warren Mary only gave one gift which was individual poems just personal to them and outlining what her wishes would be in the things that she would have bought for them if she had enough money. The short story market had collapsed in the late 1960s.Because now she was not able to write short stories her agent suggested that she should try to write a full novel. Mary wanted the best for all of her children and to get good education which would then allow them to get good jobs. She did go to Fordham University in 1971 and got a B A in philosophy and then her her children did follow in her footsteps. The two older children studied to become Judges and Patty works at the Mercantile Exchange in New York.. David is the president and CEO of Talk Marketing Enterprises and Carol an author and has had several books published in her own right also a mystery and suspense writer. Mary was getting restless and frustrated with who she was working for so she then decided to quit and join two of her former colleagues in starting their own company in writing radio scripts. She had to find 5000 dollars and she was forced to pawn her engagement ring to enable her to start the business and it was eight months of hard work before the company started to make a profit.This also put a further starin on the family while money was not coming in.. Mary was constantly being encouraged by her agent to keep writing and to try to write a second full size book. So she did finally complete her novel "Where are the Children?" despite losing her brother Johnny who was her only surviving reative left in her family. To get over the pain in losing him she just threw herself into her writing and was able to complete her second novel which Simon & Schuster agreed to but and publish. This book did become a best seller and for the first time for a long while she had no fincial worries. So she has written so many books since then and has become known as the "QUEEN OF SUSPENSE" She has won several awards for her writing over the years, in 1997 she won the Horatio Alger Award. She did remarry again 1978 which did not work out and got a divorce. Then she met John J Conheeney who was her third husband and they both live happily together and live in Saddle River in New Jersey. A very interesting lady and I certainly am enjoying her books which I hope to review on another time.
Once when in Cairo I saw a stall on the bazaar selling English and American paperbacks without a cover. I didn’t buy one, although they were very cheap, not because of the warning printed in all pocketbooks “... If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that it was reported to the publisher as ‘unsold and destroyed’. Neither the author nor the publisher has received payment for the sale of this 'stripped book'”, but because the books were so dirty. But let’s imagine I’d bought a thriller by Mary Higgins Clark (MHC) without a cover and also without the first pages which give the author’s name and the title again, would I have recognised it? I’m sure I would! In all books, without exception, at least one characters wears slacks and sits in the den of his or her home. In the latest thriller ‘On The Street Where You Live’ I had to wait up to page 71 until the first lady clad in slacks appeared and for a very long time nobody wanted to sit in a den. I was becoming restless, but then at last, on page 361, someone went there to relax and reflect; ah, I heaved a sigh of relief, MHC’s world was still in order! Then I’ve noticed how the author gives the time, “It was five OF eleven”. I don’t know what that means, she’s not the only American author I’ve read, but I’ve never seen that expression anywhere else. MHC doesn’t only have these stylistic pecularities, she also uses the same personnel regularly. She doesn’t have a recurring detective or policeman or whoever solving the cases, only two or three books feature the same elderly couple, but she always uses the same TYPE of people. Her protagonists are well-off, elegant, upper class female professionals in their early thirties who get involved in foul play, whose lives are threatened and who escape by the skin of their teeth . The females are either single, divorced or, if married, only seemingly happily. There are always some men around with whom the women have to work/deal/live quite intimately, one of whom is the baddie and one of whom is ready to take over the role of the comforter of the distressed lady later on. You might have got the impression that I don’t like MHC’s thrillers, but that’s not the case, I adore her talent to create suspense and as that is my only reason for reading a thriller I’m fully satisfied. When I get to know a new set of characters which is more or less a variety from the one in the book before, I have the feeling of meeting acquaintances. I know what they wear (slacks!), where they live (mostly New York), what they eat and how they behave with each other. The themes around which she writes her thrillers are, for example, the disappearance of children, capital punishment, ruthless physicians, the choice of a (murderous) spouse, corrupt politicians, stalkers, the glamour and the agony of the fashion industry. MHC has written 24 thrillers so far and I’ve read nearly all. NEARLY all, that means there are some I haven’t read, but which? ‘Use short and snappy titles’ is an advice nobody has ever given MHC. I know I’m not the only reader feeling that the titles all sound more or less alike. ‘You Belong To Me’, ‘Remember Me‘, ‘Pretend You Don‘t See Her‘, ‘I‘ll Be Seeing You‘, ‘A Stranger Is Watching’, ‘All Around The Town’, ‘All Through The Night’, ‘While My Pretty One Sleeps’, and so on and so forth. In order not to buy a book a second time which I read, say, ten years ago and whose title I’ve forgotten, I thought it would be a good idea only to read the latest books, but the last two have shown me that this writer, as so many other prolific ones, should consid er retiring, too. (I elaborated on this subject in my op on Dick Francis’ last book). The last book ‘On The Street Where You Live’ has 387 pages, this alone should have made me suspicious. The older thrillers are shorter and have extremely thrilling plots, whereas here the plot isn’t very thrilling and one idea is spread out and enlarged, a method by which it isn’t improved. I’ve decided to write about MHC in general, not about her latest book, because I really like her as an author and I don’t want to make a hatchet job out of this review. Let me tell you about her method to create suspense when she is/was at her best. She usually begins with seemingly unrelated stories, different characters are introduced in rather long chapters. One of the people we get to know is the murderer; in some books this is clear from the beginning, in others we get to know it only after some time has passed. The characters get involved with each other, their paths cross, their lives entangle. A conflict arises and murderer and victim get closer to each other. The chapters become shorter and shorter, the pace quickens. One could compare the different stories from the beginning with which the characters are introduced to the separate threads of a plait lying side by side at first, then they’re plaited together ending in a very tight knot. In some of the thrillers the point of view changes, we see the situation through the eyes of the victim as well as through the eyes of the murderer, and although I know that the goodies will win and the baddie lose, this technique doesn’t fail to thrill me. Why am I so lenient with MHC now that she isn’t up to her old mark any more, but goes on writing nevertheless? Well, I wanted to write a thriller myself and I wanted it to be as thrilling as one of MHC’s, she was my role model. In fact, I *have* written one; take it as a compliment that I 8217;m telling you this, please keep it to yourselves, nothing much has come of it and I’m rather sad that I'll have to leave the Here without accomplishing that feat. It made the round through some publishing houses and I learnt that I was quite good at telling stories, but I couldn’t put enough thrill in, I just couldn’t. :-(( Why is it so easy to write critiques and so difficult to create a work of art oneself, even if it’s only a thriller, literature’s minor offspring? But then: if I had become a successful authoress of thrillers, I wouldn’t write on dooyoo and that would be sad, too, wouldn’t it?
Mary Higgins-Clark is one of my favourite authors,up to now I have read sixteen of her books.She is a thriller and suspence writer,I find her books very hard to put down once I have started them,you now how it is,there's never a good place to finish reading them. My favourite book by her was All around the town,although to be fair I've liked all her books and look forward to any new ones that she writes. I can't remember the title of one that was made into a film,although I enjoyed it you lose a lot of details that you imagine when reading which they never seem able to get across in a film.