Mary Higgins Clark Biography

Author(1927–)
Mary Higgins Clark is a bestselling author of mystery and suspense books, best known for the novel Where Are the Children?

Synopsis

Mary Higgins Clark was born on December 24, 1927, in the Bronx. She published her first short story in 1956. Widowed in 1964 and with five children to care for, Clark decided to try her hand at books. Her first suspense novel, Where Are the Children? was an instant bestseller. She has since written 51 books, and each have been bestsellers in the U.S. and in Europe. In the U.S. alone she has sold over 100 million books. Clark was president of Mystery Writers of America and has an award named for her. She lives in Saddle River, New Jersey.

Early Life

Writer Mary Higgins Clark was born Mary Theresa Eleanor Higgins on December 24, 1927, in the Bronx, New York, to Nora and Luke Higgins. Higgins' father died when she was 11, and after she graduated from high school she worked as a secretary to help support the family as the second of three children. She spent a year as a flight attendant with Pan Am before marrying a neighbor, Warren Clark, who was nine years her senior.

Best-Selling Novel

Mary began writing short stories and published her first in 1956. Her husband died in 1964 leaving the young widow to care for their five children alone. She wrote four-minute radio scripts to help pay the bills until her agent encouraged her to try her hand at books. She sold her first short story, "Stowaway," when she was 28 years old. Her first suspense novel, Where Are the Children?, was published in 1975 and was an instant bestseller. Soon after Clark learned that the paperback rights sold for $100,000. Just two years later, her second suspense novel sold for $1.5 million. In addition to writing, she returned to school to earn her philosophy degree from Fordham University in 1979.

Clark's financial success soared exponentially. In the late 1990s, Simon & Schuster, which has published all of Clark's books, signed her to a $64-million dollar, four-book deal. 

Later Years

Over the next few decades, the prolific Clark wrote more than two dozen suspense novels that sold over 80 million copies in the United States alone. She is the bestselling fiction author in France and has held numerous posts among mystery genre circles, including president of Mystery Writers of America and Chairman of the International Crime Congress. She is also the inspiration for the Mystery Writers of America's Mary Higgins Clark Award and became designated as a Grand Master at the 55th Annual Edgar Allan Poe Awards.

Two of her novels—Where Are the Children? and A Stranger Is Watching (1978)—have been made into films. In addition, several of her popular works, both short stories and novels, have been made into television films. To date, Clark has published over 50 books, each becoming bestsellers. She has also written children's books and co-authored some of her projects with her daughter Carol Higgins Clark and author Alafair Burke. Some of her most recent mystery novels are: Daddy's Gone a Hunting (2013), I've Got You Under My Skin (2014), The Melody Lingers On (2015), and As Time Goes By (2016).

Personal Life

Outside of writing, Clark is a proud and active Irish American Catholic and was made a Dame of the Order of St. Gregory the Great, a papal honor. She also acts as an Honorary Chairman of FraXa Research, an organization devoted to finding proper medication to treat Fragile X syndrome, a condition that one of her children suffers from.

She married John J. Conheeney, former Merrill-Lynch Futures CEO, in 1996. The couple lives in Saddle River, New Jersey, and Manhattan. Her memoir, Kitchen Privileges, was published in 2003.

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