Mary Higgins Clark, the prolific and best-selling author whose nail-biting thrillers earned her the moniker the Queen of Suspense, died Friday in Naples, Fla., at 92. Her publisher, Simon & Schuster, announced the news and said Clark died peacefully, surrounded by family and friends.
Over the course of her long career, Clark penned 38 suspense novels, including Where Are the Children? and A Stranger Is Watching, both of which were adapted into feature films. She also wrote four collections of short stories, a historical novel, a memoir, and two children’s books; co-authored five more suspense novels with her daughter Carol Higgins Clark; and wrote five additional novels with Alafair Burke.
Clark’s reach was enormous, her novels becoming international bestsellers. According to her publisher, more than 100 million copies of her books are in print in the U.S. alone. Many of her books provided source material for TV movies as well.
She was well-respected in her field, chosen by the Mystery Writers of America as the Grand Master of the 2000 Edgar Awards, as well as serving as on the organization’s board of directors and a term as president in 1987. In 2008, she received the International Crime Writers’ First Lady of Mystery award. Clark is beloved in France, having received the Grand Prix de Literature Policière in 1980, as well as being named a chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters in 2000 by the French minister of culture.
Clark boasted 21 honorary doctorates, and since 2001 the Mystery Writers of America have given an annual award in her honor, celebrating a book most closely written in the tradition of her novels.
Born Mary Higgins in the Bronx on Dec. 24, 1927, her early life was marked by hardship. Her father died when she was 11, leaving her mother alone to raise her and her two brothers. After high school, she worked for an advertising agency before becoming a Pan Am stewardess. She married neighbor Warren Clark in 1949, at which time she began writing short stories, and she sold her first to Extension Magazine in 1956.
Warren Clark died from a heart attack in 1964, and Clark began writing radio scripts for a living. She wrote for a series called Portrait of a Patriot, which helped inspire her first novel, Aspire to the Heavens, a biographical novel about George Washington. It did not sell well, and Clark didn’t publish a novel again until her first suspense tale, Where Are the Children?, in 1975. Becoming a best-seller, it changed the course of Clark’s life.
Clark’s subsequent books included Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry, Two Little Girls in Blue, On the Street Where You Live, and The Anastasia Syndrome. Her books are often known to feature mysteries involving children or telepathy.
Clark married a second time in 1996, to John Conheeney, and they remained together until his death in 2018. She is survived by her five children and 17 grandchildren.