The celebrated best-selling writer — and prominent Catholic — has died:
Mary Higgins Clark, a fixture on best-seller lists for decades whose more than 50 novels earned her the sobriquet Queen of Suspense, died Friday in Naples, Fla. She was 92, and had homes in Saddle River, N.J., Manhattan and Cape Cod.
Her death was confirmed by her daughter Carol Higgins Clark, also a mystery novelist.
Mary Higgins Clark, whose books sold more than 100 million copies in the United States alone, was still writing until recently, her daughter said, and had a book published in November.
Legions of readers were addicted to her page-turners, which popped up on the market one after another. She wanted to create stories that would make a reader say: “This could be me. That could be my daughter. This could happen to us,” she told Marilyn Stasio in a 1997 interview in The New York Times.
Ms. Higgins Clark’s heroes are most often female, her villains, male, and she said repeatedly that she wrote about “nice people whose lives are invaded.”
Ms. Stasio wrote that “Mary Higgins Clark writes to a simple formula that entails putting a woman in peril and letting her figure her own way out.” Though that formula is “repetitive and predictable,” she wrote, “it always works because Ms. Clark is a natural-born storyteller.”
It certainly worked for fans. Masses of followers flocked to her Facebook page and showered her with praise and questions, and she kept them informed about her projects.
In her memoir, “Kitchen Privileges” (2002), Ms. Higgins Clark described herself as “aching, yearning, burning” to write, certain that she would succeed but needing guidance. Eventually, she found it in a writing class at New York University. The professor suggested his students seize upon a situation they had experienced or read about and begin by asking the questions “Suppose … ?” and “What if … ?” It is a recipe Ms. Higgins Clark said she stuck to, with the addition of the question “Why?”
Last year, CNS took note of the distinctive strain of Catholicism in her writing:
A key element in most of Higgins Clark’s work is the presence of a strong, courageous – and Catholic – heroine who, while often accomplished and living the good life, triumphs over violence, intrigue and adversity to make things right in the end.
The appearance of priests, churches and Catholic schools is no accident in the Higgins Clark canon.
“My novels almost always have at the core of the story a strong young woman who is Catholic,” Higgins Clark said. “Her faith will help her persevere. In The Shadow of Your Smile and The Lost Years, Catholicism was a central element of the story versus the background of the central character.”
But does this make Higgins Clark a “Catholic writer” or a writer who happens to be Catholic?
“I’m a writer who happens to be Catholic,” she said. “It’s no surprise that the Catholic faith, which has played a large role in my life, will be a key influence on my characters.”
…It’s little wonder the positive experience of the writer’s Catholic faith is clearly expressed in her large body of work. The main characters are courageous and upright, the church is portrayed as a place of comfort, inspiration and refuge, and nary a profane word is ever heard in the dialogue. The happy endings that characterize the vast majority of Higgins Clark’s stories are justified by the author’s basic sense of justice and goodness prevailing over evil.
Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her…