Mary Higgins Clark, the bestselling and prolific mystery writer who earned the nickname the “Queen of Suspense,” has died at the age of 92.
Clark’s publisher Simon & Schuster announced the author’s death Friday, revealing she died of natural causes in Naples, Florida.
“It is with deep sadness we say goodbye to the ‘Queen of Suspense’ Mary Higgins Clark, author of over 40 bestselling suspense titles,” Simon & Schuster tweeted. “She passed away peacefully this evening, January 31, at the age of 92 surrounded by family and friends.”
“Nobody ever bonded more completely with her readers than Mary did,” Clark’s longtime editor Michael Korda said in statement (via The Associated Press). “She understood them as if they were members of her own family. She was always absolutely sure of what they wanted to read — and, perhaps more important, what they didn’t want to read — and yet she managed to surprise them with every book.”
Clark penned nearly 40 novels and sold over 100 million copies over a career that began in earnest in the mid-Sixties after her husband Warren Clark died of a heart attack in 1964 and left her widowed with five children. Although her first novel – Aspire to the Heavens, a fictionalized romantic tale about George and Martha Washngton – was unsuccessful, Clark’s first suspense novel 1975’s Where Are the Children? became an instant bestseller; while she sold that manuscript to Simon & Schuster for $3,000, her next novel, 1977’s A Stranger Is Watching, was purchased for $1.5 million.
Clark soon became one of the mystery genre’s most successful and applauded authors: Among Clark’s many awards include Grand Master status from the Mystery Writers of America, the International Crime Writers’ First Lady of Mystery award, the Grand Prix de Literature Policière and more.
The author is credited with penning 38 suspense novels, four short story collections, a historical novel, a memoir, two children’s books and a series of novels co-written with her daughter, mystery writer Carol Higgins Clark.
Mystery writer Harlan Coben turned to Twitter to pay tribute to Clark, who he called “a generous mentor, hero, colleague, and friend.”
“Mary loved being a writer — and she loved her readers. She was kind to all. She was wonderful company and hilarious and warm and giving. She was supernaturally charismatic. She lit up every room she entered. And WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN was a game-changer,” Coben wrote.
“Mary was widowed in her thirties and left to raise five young children on her own while working a full-time job to support them. She wrote from 5am to 7am at her kitchen table and then woke her kids for school. Don’t whine you don’t have time to write.”
Coben added that David Foster Wallace once told him that Where Are the Children? was “one of the scariest fucking books I’ve ever read.”