Last night at celebrity hot spot Elaine’s, in came the Queen of Suspense, the great Mary Higgins Clark, looking radiant in a fur-trimmed evening wrap at the publication party for her latest thriller, a fantastic book titled The Shadow Of Your Smile. It’s all about a deceased nun who’s a candidate for sainthood and 31-year-old Manhattan pediatrician who becomes the target of those who don’t want her to inherit a fortune, the taut story featuring many of Mary’s trademark twists and turns.
As always, it’s a guaranteed hit that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The indomitable Mary is like a boxer who never loses a match, for each of her 42 books have become instant bestsellers, with more than 80 million copies sold in the United States alone. Paid $64 million for a four-book contract in 2000, she’s hardly resting on her laurels, continuing to be just as productive and hard-working as ever.
It must run in the family because also appearing last night was another incredible mystery writer, Mary’s daughter, Carol Higgins Clark, with a great new book of her own debuting yesterday titled Wrecked (A Reagan Reilly Mystery) that will also hit the bestseller list, as her books always do, the apple definitely not falling far from the tree.
Yesterday morning, Mary’s assistant, Nadine, kindly wrote me a note, inviting me to the party. And chatting with Mary about her technique for creating those intricate plot lines and colorful characters, I was struck by her youthfulness and bright outlook, her buoyant energy filling the room.
Seeing her again reminded me of our first interview a number of years ago, which appeared in my book, Turning Point: Pivotal Moments In The Lives Of America’s Celebrities. In it, she describes her incredible rise to fame as a 26-year-old New Jersey housewife of modest means, busily tending to her home and five kids with the dream of one day becoming a successful writer.
“Honey,” her husband Warren remarked, watching her bent over the Formica kitchen table, “think of it just as a hobby.” She agreed until l964 when Warren, who smoked three packs a day, suffered a third heart attack and died.
Then, at just age 36, with five children to raise, she was left with a $13,000 mortgage and a few small insurance policies. “I had to work. I began writing radio scripts, twenty dollars a script.”
Then one day, looking over at her bookcase at the mysteries she loved reading, she had hunch that she would write what she loved to read. The result: the l975 bestseller Where Are the Children? a terrifying tale of a childnapper.
“I knew that anytime a child is missing, the whole world cares.” It sure did, and the rest was history.
Saying good-bye last night, Mary was kind enough to tell me that she was in the midst of reading my upcoming book, Katie Up And Down The Hall, not a mystery, for sure, but a story that will hopefully touch her heart. I was so flattered as I headed home to get under the covers to read HER book, which kept me up until 2 a.m.