“Queen of suspense,” as she was dubbed, American crime novelist Mary Higgins Clarke died Thursday, January 30, at the age of 92. Prolifique – publishing a book a year, multiplying the bestsellers since The lookout house, released in 1975, her first blockbuster novel about a mother accused of the murder of two of her children, was one of the world‘s best-selling writers of all literary genres.
Mary Higgins Clark, it was an undeniable skill to keep sensitive souls in suspense – which had allowed her to win in 1977 the grand prize in detective literature with Fox night, novel inaugurating the Special Suspense collection by Albin Michel editions. It was also a voluminous work with well-known strings – about fifty books on its counter, multiplying the intrigue where mystery situations, scary atmospheres and tender romances intermingle, where the worst as the best can always happen. “My characters are very moral. They are nice people, driven by values, convictions ”, she confided to La Croix over twenty years ago during a visit to Paris.
£ 80 million sold in the United States
Finally, it was an extraordinary sense of business: 80 million of his books were sold in the United States alone, around 100 million worldwide, and there are countless filmed adaptations, for television or cinema, his novels, sometimes co-written with his daughter Carol, translated into some 35 languages.
And then it was a pinned physique, whatever the age, and almost invariable: impeccable tailor, flawless chignon, imperturbable smile, pearl necklace and gold brooch. “She was unique, longtime publisher Michael Korda reacted to news of death in press release. No one has ever been more connected to her readers: she understood them as if they were members of her own family. She knew for sure what they wanted to read, and what they didn’t want to read. And yet she managed to surprise them with each new book ”.
Irish-born, fervent Catholic – member of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great, of the Order of Malta and of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem – she no doubt owed this gift of catching readers to an energy unheard of vital. She knew how to touch them as closely as possible, especially the youngest, those between the ages of 12 and 30, who praised her twenty years ago as one of their favorite novelists in a poll by Le Monde.
A thousand overwhelming tragedies that could not overcome it
Perhaps because she herself, at their age, had already experienced an abundant life, a thousand overwhelming tragedies that have never yet been able to overcome it. When she started writing stories at the age of 7, her father died of a heart attack three years later, and she had to work very young to help her mother take care of her siblings. She lost a brother, who died of meningitis, and a nephew, almost still a baby, accidentally defenestrated. Switchboard operator in a hotel, then typist, she married, became a flight attendant for Pan Am at the age of 20, before having children and giving up her professional activity.
Suddenly, at 35, she becomes a widow, with five dependent children, becomes a typist again, while dreaming of writing. She then began to publish, but without success, news, radio soap operas, and even a biography of George Washington. In the 1970s, at over 40, she finally launched into the detective story and quickly, at the dawn of her fifties, became a millionaire.
Then begins a race against lost time. She studied philosophy at the New York University of Fordham, obtained her bachelor’s degree. At 60, there she was, in 1987, in the firmament of popularity, having garnered a handful of gigantic successes, with evocative titles, which one buys quickly in a station hall and which one devours just as quickly before its distant destination (A cry in the night, The demon of the passé, Don’t cry my beautiful, Sleep my pretty…). She then chairs the Mystery Writers of America and the following year,International Crime Congress.
“Winning the lottery makes you happy a year, doing what you love makes you happy a lifetime”, wrote Mary Higgins Clark in 2003 in her memoirs, titled “Between yesterday and tomorrow”. She assured that she would write there until death.
Until the end, in fact, it will publish popular stories, and in tune with the times. The proof, his ultimate novel, Secretly (strange French title when the original is titled “Kiss the Girls and make them cry”), published in 2019. A murder of a woman victim of sexual harassment.