But it’s not as easy, not as glib, to recognize the reality. Mary Higgins Clark personified her own heroines. Through incredible adversity, she persevered, fought her personal battles, and flourished. And triumphed. From a working mom typing at the kitchen table at the crack of dawn, she became a relentlessly hardworking, infinitely wise, and incredibly savvy career author. She knew what her readers craved, and she—with skill and exquisite talent—offered it to them with her unending grace and shared enthusiasm.
There is not one of us who doesn’t remember where we met her. I first saw her from afar at Malice Domestic, at a table in front of a line to sign her book so long that it doubled back again and again with a chain of readers who would have happily stayed there waiting even longer than they did. It felt as if we were getting an audience with royalty. And actually, we were.
Simon and Schuster, her only publisher for her 56 books, was so protective of her legacy that almost 20 years ago they established the Mary Higgins Clark Award, to be given each year to a book “most closely written” in the Mary Higgins Clark traditions: no graphic sex or violence or “strong” four-letter words, and starring a “nice” young woman who is not looking for trouble, and who solves her problems via her intelligence.
Was she our muse? Our teacher? Our spirit guide? A whole lineage of authors grew from that legacy. A few friends and colleagues gathered together to talk about Mary’s influence. Some were nominated multiple times for the Mary Higgins Clark Award; several won it, and Carol Goodman won twice—including this year.
Hank Phillippi Ryan: When you sit down to write a new book, is Mary Higgins Clark in your consciousness?
Catriona McPherson: She is, actually. Not her writing, but when I finally stop weeping and wailing and sit myself down in my comfortable study at nine in the morning to do nothing but write all day, I think of Mary at dawn at her kitchen table with her five children still asleep and a couple of hours till she needs to go out to work. It shames me into getting on with it.
Carol Goodman: In the sense that Mary Higgins Clark shaped my concept of romantic suspense, yes. I often think of how she found herself a widow with five children and figured out how to make a living writing these absolutely addictive books. If Mary Higgins Clark could figure out how to do that, my heroine can find her way out of whatever twisty trap I layout for her.
Lori Rader-Day: I couldn’t say that I’m writing with a vision of our patron saint Mary Higgins Clark in my head. I do sometimes recall what we all enjoyed so much about her kind of story, to remind myself what our readers come to a book for. Mary knew what readers wanted.
S.J. Bolton: She captured, perfectly, the sense of an ordinary woman being overtaken by extraordinary events. Her heroines are us, her readers, maybe the girls we were once, or the women we will become. Sometimes they seem to incorporate everything we believe ourselves to be at this moment in time. Their adventures are ours; we share their troubles and their triumphs. This instant connection with the reader is something I’m always striving for, because I know it’s key to a book’s success
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
THE MANY FACES OF MORIARTY
By 1893, Arthur Conan Doyle was a worldwide literary sensation. But he was also a man dogged by an unlikely enemy, and that enemy’s name was Sherlock Holmes. Frankenstein-like, the fictional detective haunted his creator, tormenting him, and would not leave him alone. For it must be said that Conan Doyle was a man of high literary aspirations, with a yearning to write books of both “serious” literature and psychical research. But the demand for new Holmes stories prevented him from realising this ambition. Speaking of this period in his career, Conan Doyle observed in an interview for Tit-Bits in December 1900 that “My low work was obscuring my higher.”
From an isolated cabin in a boggy Swedish forest, Will Dean conjures a fascinating series and now an intense standalone full of claustrophobia and creepiness.
STEPHEN MACK JONES
If the meaning of life is a puzzle awaiting assembly, then writers are purveyors of its pieces.
Madness on Campus
Helen Eustis’ The Horizontal Man
What About Murder?
Reference Books Reviewed
Sometimes, an idea needs time to incubate until it’s ready to grow. That was the case with Sujata Massey’s series about Perveen Mistry, a woman attorney practicing in India during the 1920s.
TIME TRAVEL, CATS, AND AN OLD MANUSCRIPT
Have you ever wished that you could go back in time and change something in your past or visit the future and find out what it has in store for you? Have you questioned what would happen if time travel was available to everyone? Could 9/11 have been prevented? Could the spread of COVID-19 have been eradicated before it ended so many lives?
I said my first words in a bar—“orange sody.” I eventually outgrew my love of Whistle orange soda, but I have a lifelong interest in bars.
JOHN COLLIER Fact & Fancy
Every generation or so, John Collier (1901-1980) is rediscovered. A poet, screenwriter, and novelist, Collier is best remembered for his short stories. His collection Fancies and Goodnights won an Edgar Award in 1952 for Best Story (which in MWA’s early years was occasionally awarded to a volume of stories).
It’s more than a book title. It’s an uncomfortable truth that pop culture’s most flawed yet-fascinating (and highly literate) serial predators seem to understand about their appeal, whether Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter or Caroline Kepnes’ Joe Goldberg.
GOLD MINING IN DAHLONEGA, GEORGIA
History and Panning Adventures
GAMECHANGER SANDRA GIBSON
Executive Director, SNF Parkway Theatre & Maryland Film Festival
UNION, AUTOMAKERS HEADED FOR FIGHT OVER BATTERY PLANT WAGES
The United Auto Workers union is calling on General Motors to pay full union wages at electric vehicle battery factories, thrusting what had been a festering conflict into the spotlight.
Does Congressman Andy Harris represent the future or end of the Maryland GOP?
The Boy I Raised
Is anything greater than a mother’s sorrow?
JADED JANICE TRASHES JULIE & TOP MODELS
CRANKY ex-catwalker Janice Dickinson has her claws out, shredding Mary Poppins legend Julie Andrews as a rude witch and ripping today’s top models for being boring and bland.
FLAMES OF HATE!
Ex-police chief torched for twisted midnight arson rampage
The Little State That Could
Delaware becomes a worthy destination——and not just because of Joe Biden.
Whats's on your mind?
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen grew up to make New York’s most desirable clothes. But can even perfection survive the pandemic?