Mary Higgins Clark

imageAmerican suspense novelist Mary Theresa Eleanor Higgins Clark Conheeney (née Higgins; Was born December 24, 1929′ known professionally as Mary Higgins Clark, Each of her 42 books has been a bestseller. She began writing at an early age. Higgins Clark graduated from high school and chose to attend Wood Secretarial School on a partial scholarship. After completing her coursework the following year, she accepted a job as the secretary to the head of the creative department in the internal advertising division at Remington-Rand. She soon enrolled in evening classes to learn more about advertising and promotion. Her growing skills, as well as her natural beauty, were noticed by her boss and others in the company, and her job was expanded to include writing catalog copy (alongside future novelist Joseph Heller) and to model for the company brochures with Grace Kelly. Although she enjoyed her job, Higgins Clark’s imagination was sparked by an acquaintance’s casual comment, “God, it was beastly hot in Calcutta.”

After several years working as a secretary and copy editor, Higgins Clark spent a year as a stewardess for Pan-American Airlines and for most of 1949, she worked the Pan Am international flights, traveling through Europe, Africa and Asia. One of her flights became the last flight allowed into Czechoslovakia before the Iron Curtain fell. On another of her flights, Higgins Clark escorted a four-year-old orphaned child down the steps of the airplane into the waiting arms of her adoptive mother, a scene that was heavily televised.At the end of her year of flying, on December 26, 1949, Higgins Clark married Warren Clark. To occupy herself, she began taking writing courses at NYUand, with some of her classmates, formed a writing workshop in which the members would critique each other’s works-in-progress And Supplemented the family’s income by writing short stories. One of her professors at NYU told the class they should develop plot ideas by reading newspapers and asking themselves prompts such as, “Suppose” “What if and “Why?”she wrote her first short story called “Stowaway”, about a stewardess who finds a stowaway from Czechoslovakia on her plane And, in 1956, Extension Magazine agreed to purchase the story for $100. Their first child, Marilyn, was born in 1950 withWarren Jr. arriving thirteen months later, and a third child, David, born two years after his brother and Carol was born in 1956.Higgins Clark named her fifth and last child after her agent Patricia Schertle Myrer Warren and Higgins encouraged their children to support themselves and all five children eventually took professional acting and modeling jobs.

Sadly in 1959, Warren Clark was diagnosed with severe angina, and, although he curtailed his activities on his doctor’s order, he suffered three heart attacks within the next five years, each time returning from the hospital in poorer health. After the last heart attack in 1964 Warren suffered another fatal heart attack. His mother, who was visiting at the time, collapsed at his bedside upon discovering that he was dead. In one night, Higgins Clark had lost her husband and her mother-in-law. Higgins Clark’ wrote 95 four-minute programs for the Portrait of a Patriot series and was asked to write two other radio series. This experience of fitting an entire sketch into four minutes proved useful for writing a suspense novel. In 1960 The Saturday Evening Post, named Higgins Clark’s short story “Beauty Contest at Buckingham” one of their ten best of the year. Sadly By the late 1960s, Higgins Clark short stories were not selling so she started writing a full-length novel, using her research and experience with the Portraits of a Patriot series, And spent the next three years writing a fictionalized account of the relationship betweenGeorge and Martha Washington, Aspire to the Heavens. Sadly though four months after the publication of the novel, Higgins Clark’s mother Nora Higgins died.

To ensure that her children would not have to struggle financially, Higgins Clark was determined that they should have good educations, and enteredFordham University at Lincoln Center in 1971, graduating summa cum laude in 1979, with a BA in philosophy.[Her children followed her example. The two eldest, Marilyn and Warren, have become judges, and Patty works at the Mercantile Exchange in New York City. David is the president and CEO of Talk Marketing Enterprises, Inc, and Carol has authored many popular suspense novels. During this time Higgins Clark became increasingly frustrated with her employer, and, although two of her children were partially dependent on her for their college tuition, she quit her job and joined two of her former colleagues in forming their own company to write and market radio scripts. To scrape up the $5000 she needed to start the business, Higgins Clark was forced to pawn her engagement ring, and, for the eight months it took the company to become profitable, she did not receive a salary, further straining the family finances. Higgins Clark continued writing even during these hard times. Encouraged by her agent to try writing another book, Higgins Clark returned to the suspense stories that she loved as a child and which had provided her first success as a short story writer. While she was in the midst of writing the story, her younger brother Johnny died, leaving her the sole surviving member of her family. To temporarily forget her heartache, Higgins Clark threw herself into her writing, and soon finished the novel. Very quickly after the novel, Where are the Children? was completed, Simon and Schuster agreed to purchase it for the relatively small sum of $3000. Three months later, in July 1974, Higgins Clark received word that the paperback rights for the novel had sold for one hundred thousand dollars. For the first time in many years she had no immediate financial worries.Where Are the Children? became a bestseller and was favorably reviewed.Two years after its publication Higgins Clark sold her second suspense novel for $1.5 million.

In 1978 Higgins Clark  married to Raymond Ploetz an experience she describes as a “disastrous” marriage. ln 1996, she remarried again, to John J. Conheeney, the retired CEO of Merrill Lynch Futures, after they were introduced by her daughter, Patty.The couple live in Saddle River, New Jersey, having first moved tonew Jerseyn 1956 when they bought a home in Washington Township, Bergen County, New Jersey and also have homes inManhattan; Spring Lake, New Jersey; and Dennis, Massachusetts.  Her debut novel about George Washington, Aspire to the Heavens was retitled Mount Vernon Love Story and rereleased in 2002, the same year as her autobiography, Kitchen Privileges, which relied heavily on the journals she has kept all of her life in 2006 Higgins Clark announced that she would be fulfilling one of her dreams by publishing her first children’s book. Ghost Shipwas published by Simon and Schuster, who have also published her suspense novels. She has also written several Christmas themed mystery novels with her daughter, Carol Higgins Clark. Although popular with readers, some critics have complained that the books are of lesser quality than the bulk of Mary’s work, partly because the tone is much lighter than her solo output.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.