Bronx-born ‘Queen of Suspense’ passes away at 92

Best selling novelist dubbed by many as the Queen of Suspense, Mary Higgins Clark, a Bronx native left us last week at the age of 92 years old.

Clark passed away peaceful surrounded by family on January 31, 2020 in Naples, FL due to complications of old age.

The author is best known for the novel, ‘Where are the Children?’ along with 56 other fiction novels all described as thrillers or suspense novels.

Clark was born Mary Theresa Eleanor Higgins on December 24, 1927 in the Bronx.

The prolific writer grew up in a traditional Irish American family. Her Irish immigrant father owned a pub, but died unexpectedly leaving her mother, Nora, as the sole provider until the children were old to help with the finances.

Clark attended St. Francis Xavier Grammar School and Villa Maria Academy.

She then was sent off to secretarial school, but her aspirations of becoming a prolific writer only grew.

According to her long-time editor and friend, Michael Korda, Clark worked many different jobs including a switchboard operator and for a while a stewardess for Pan American Airlines which was a glamorous job in its day.

“She had a rough time for a while after her husband died. She raised her five children on her own,” Korda said. “To me, she’s a perfect example of the Irish-American success story.”

Clark spent years writing short stories and other bits for radio and magazines, but after the death of her brother, she fully immersed herself in writing a full-blown novel.

Clark’s first major breakthrough novel, ‘Where are the Children?’ was published in 1975. The publisher Simon & Schuster bought the novel and it quickly earned $100,000 several months later when the paperback rights for the book were sold.

“We were friends for 45 years,” Korda said. “56 books we edited and published working together and we never had a spat or disagreement ever.”

Korda described their relationship as a close one saying the two never went a week without speaking to each other at least once or twice.

He has only fond memories of Clark and their many years working together.

He spoke of her character and personality, which was almost angelic like.

“She had enormous energy and a remarkable personality,” Korda said. “She was never temperamental or unkind, she was tactful, humorous and kind when she spoke to anyone.”

Korda remembered the two last saw each other at a lunch meeting in White Plains before she flew down to Florida.

The two were supposed to meet in New Jersey, but inclement weather forced them to meet in Westchester County instead.

“We had lunch and split a bottle of wine,” Korda said. “Even in her later years, she was so eager to be around friends and share a glass of wine.”

Her friend also mentioned the author’s awareness of who her readers were and what they wanted from her.

“Even when it came to suggestions, she would either say, ‘yeah, that works’ or ‘no, my readers wouldn’t like that’,” Korda said.

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