Amazing Stories from the Web
MARY HIGGINS CLARK
(This story is written specially for teachers of English).
Pre-Reading: Discussion Questions
1. What do you read for relaxation?
2. Do you like stories with a happy ending?
Mary Higgins Clark (born December 24, 1927) is an American author of suspense and mystery novels. Each of her books has been a bestseller in the USA and other countries, all of her novels remain in print and her debut novel, Where Are the Children? (1974) was published 75 times. Her books have sold more than eighty-five million copies in the USA alone. Her own life reads as a novel.
She was born on Christmas Eve, according to various sources, either in 1927 or 1929, into a family of Irish immigrants. She had one older and one younger brother. She composed her first poem when she was six, and began keeping a journal when she was seven. Her father died in 1939, and the family went through several years of very hard times financially. Mary’s mother tried to rent rooms, and her daughter worked as a baby-sitter to supplement the family income. In the 1940’s, Mary became a stewardess, and for a year, she flew all over the world. In 1949, she got married to Warren Clark. They lived happily for fifteen years and had five children. In 1964, Warren died of a heart attack. As her mother before her, Mary was faced with the necessity of providing for her children.
For several years, while staying at home and caring for her family, Mary was very active in a writing workshop, founded with her help, at New York University. She also took writing courses, and wrote for radio shows, though she could not find a publisher for her stories. Finally, after forty rejections, her story was purchased by a magazine for $100.
She worked hard, determined that her children would all get good education. To provide an example, she continued her own studies, and graduated with a B.A. summa cum laude in 1979. One of her professors recommended that she try writing a full-length novel. Where are the Children? was bought by Simon and Schuster publishers for a small sum of $3000. Three months later, in July 1974, 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. Two years after its publication, Clark sold her second suspense novel for $1.5 million.
Now Mary Higgins Clark is known as “The Queen of Suspense”. Her novels show strong, independent young women who find themselves in the midst of a problem that they must solve with their own courage and intelligence. The heroines come across as real people who make sensible decisions, which makes it easier for readers to relate to the situations. The things that happen in her books can easily happen in real life, so a reader can identify with the heroines. Clark’s books are written for adults, yet because she writes about love, not sex, and there are no long violent scenes in her stories, they have become popular with teenagers, too.
Once you open her book, you immediately feel at home. Here is her heroine, aged 27–40, invariably of Irish descent or with some Irish blood in her veins. She is an educated, independent woman who is living a normal life, that is, she usually has a job, she may be married or single, with or without children. She often has a friend, or a relative with whom she is close. As the story unfolds, several men appear, some more prominent than others. There is reason to suspect any and each one of them of a crime, or of some shady transactions. When strange or threatening things begin to happen, the heroine realizes that she is the target. She must uncover the truth before it is too late, and save herself, or her children, or her near and dear. Clark’s stories are always well-organized, clearly plotted, with the suspense becoming almost unbearable towards the end. As a good storyteller, she drops hints throughout the book, which may help the reader figure out who the villain is. But her endings are always totally unexpected, with one exception: the heroine wins.
A romantic sub-plot is a must in every book. Mary Higgins Clark says in many interviews and prefaces that this is because she herself believes in romance. Indeed, having dated for several years, she got married for a very brief time in 1978. About that marriage, all she ever said was, “It was a complete disaster”. But she remained optimistic, and in 1996, she got married again, to her present husband John Conheeney, a former CEO of Merryl-Lynch company. Judging by the dedications in her subsequent novels, Mary and John have a great number of children and grandchildren among them. All of them she considers family.
One of her own daughters, Carol Higgins Clark, began writing Christmas novels with her mother about twenty years ago. Then she launched her own mystery series about a private woman detective Regan Reilly. The titles of Carol Higgins Clark’s novels consist of one word, and it is always a participle: Decked, Zapped, Iced, etc.
Mary Higgins Clark is an author whose books should be a part of every English Language Teacher’s library. When you are tired and sad, there is nothing better than going into bed with a good romantic thriller which takes your mind off all your worries.
summa cum laude (Latin) in American universities, the highest honors given to a graduate who had received only excellent marks
CEO Chief Executive Officer
If you are interested in this story, you may read about Mary Higgins Clark on the web, using any search engine. Official sites for Mary Higgins Clark and her daughter Carol are