Mary Higgins Clark, RIP

A Writer’s Lifelong Love of the Queen of Suspense

When I was a punk kid of 14 years old, my mom and I bonded over two things:  The ABC television show Moonlighting and a series of novels by a woman named Mary Higgins Clark.

Like most readers, my obsession with thrillers began with Clark’s first novel, Where Are the Children?, which I bought for 50 cents in a local used paperback shop. Once I’d burned though that one, I went on to immediately pick up and read several of her previously released titles, including such genre classics as A Stranger is Watching, The Cradle Will Fall, and A Cry in the Night. I can hardly describe the thrill of having “caught up” to Clark’s output, being able to purchase a brand-new hardcover of her novel Stillwatch upon its release.

But back when I was still a kid, I would buy the new Clark novel, tear through it, then loan it to my mom. When I was older and living away from home (long after Moonlightings run had ended and Bruce Willis was becoming an action star), Mom and I would always call each other when Clark released a new book. We’d inevitably both buy and read the latest thriller from our favorite “Queen of Suspense”.

After she published Children in 1975, Clark went on to release more than fifty novels (all of them bestsellers), win multiple international awards, receive eighteen honorary doctorates, and make hundreds of millions of dollars (including a $64-million, four-book whopper of a deal in the late 90’s) from her books, as well as the movies and television shows they spawned.

One of the more impressive things about Mary Higgins Clark is that as she grew older, her output never wavered. Even as she entered her 80’s, she was still publishing a book per year, minimum. In 2001, at the age of 72, Clark pulled off a rare feat: having the #1 book on both the hardcover and paperback New York Times Bestseller Lists.

Passing this past week, at the age of 92, Mary Higgins Clark leaves behind a legacy that no female writer of suspense may ever match. For more than 40 years, she was consistently one of the biggest names in publishing, creating stories that touched, entertained, and impacted millions of readers around the world. Retailers have sold more than 100 million Clark books to date, including the handful of copies my mother and I, two of her biggest supporters, purchased

As a lifelong fan, I can honestly say I love, and will miss, her books, and will continue to catch up on her massive catalog. But what I’m most grateful to Mary Higgins Clark for, besides roping me into the world of thrillers, is giving my mom and I something to bond over when I was a punk kid who thought Bruce Willis was the coolest thing ever.

In hindsight, I think Mary’s got him beat.

(photo of Mary Higgins Clark by Bernard Vidal)

Philip Fracassi

Philip Fracassi, an author and screenwriter, lives in Los Angeles, California. His short stories have been published in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Best Horror of the Year, Dark Discoveries, Cemetery Dance, Lovecraft eZine, and Strange Aeons among others. He is the author of the award-winning story collection, Behold the Void.

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