Mary Ann Clark Biography & Facts
Mary Theresa Eleanor Higgins Clark (December 24, 1927 – January 31, 2020) was an American author of suspense novels. Each of her 51 books was a bestseller in the United States and various European countries, and all of her novels remained in print as of 2015, with her debut suspense novel, Where Are the Children?, in its seventy-fifth printing.
Higgins Clark began writing at an early age. After several years working as a secretary and copy editor, she spent a year as a stewardess for Pan-American Airlines before leaving her job to marry and start a family. She supplemented the family's income by writing short stories. After her husband died in 1964, Higgins Clark worked for many years writing four-minute radio scripts until her agent persuaded her to try writing novels. Her debut novel, a fictionalized account of the life of George Washington, did not sell well, and she decided to exploit her love of mystery/suspense novels. Her suspense novels became very popular, and have sold more than 100 million copies in the United States alone. Her daughter Carol Higgins Clark and former daughter-in-law Mary Jane Clark, are also writers.
Mary Theresa Eleanor Higgins was born on Christmas Eve 1927, although some sources mistakenly cite 1929 as the year, the second child and only daughter of Nora C. (Durkin) and Luke Joseph Higgins. Her father was an Irish immigrant and her mother was American-born, also of Irish descent. The United States census gives her age in April 1940 as 12, which indicates her year of birth is 1927, as that was her age at her last birthday, the question asked by census enumerators.She was born about a year and a half after the birth of her older brother, Joseph. Her younger brother John, followed three years later. Even as a small child, she was interested in writing, composing her first poem at age seven and often crafting short plays for her friends to enact. She began keeping a journal when she was seven years old, noting in her first entry, "Nothing much happened today."The family lived off the earnings from their Irish pub and were fairly well-off, owning a home in the Bronx and a summer cottage on Long Island Sound. Although the Great Depression began when Higgins Clark was still a baby, her family was initially not affected, and even insisted on feeding the men who knocked on their door looking for work. By the time Higgins Clark was ten, however, the family began to experience financial trouble, as many of their customers were unable to pay the bar tabs they had run up. Higgins Clark's father was forced to lay off several employees and work longer hours, spending no more than a few hours at home each day. The family was thrown into further turmoil in 1939, when young Mary returned home from an early Mass to discover that her father had died in his sleep.Nora Higgins, now a widow with three young children to support, soon discovered that few employers were willing to hire a 52-year-old woman who had not held a job in over fourteen years. To pay the bills, Higgins Clark was forced to move out of her bedroom so that her mother could rent it out to paying boarders. Six months after their father's death, Higgins Clark's older brother cut his foot on a piece of metal and contracted severe osteomyelitis. Higgins Clark and her mother prayed constantly for him, and their neighbors came en masse to give blood for the many transfusions the young boy needed. Despite the dire predictions of the doctors, Joseph Higgins survived. Higgins Clark credits his recovery to the power of their prayers.When Higgins Clark graduated from Saint Francis Xavier Grammar School, she received a scholarship to continue her education at the Villa Maria Academy, a school run by the nuns of the Congregation de Notre Dame de Montreal. There, the principal and other teachers encouraged Higgins Clark to develop her writing, although they were somewhat less than pleased when she began spending her class time writing stories instead of paying attention to the lesson. At sixteen, Higgins Clark made her first attempt at publishing her work, sending an entry to True Confessions, which was rejected.To help pay the bills, she worked as a switchboard operator at the Shelton Hotel, where she often listened in to the residents' conversations. In her memoir she recalls spending much time eavesdropping on Tennessee Williams but complained that he never said anything interesting. On her days off, Higgins Clark would window shop, mentally choosing the clothes she would wear when she finally became a famous writer.Despite Higgins Clark's contribution to the family finances, the money her mother earned babysitting was not enough, and the family lost their house and moved into a small three-room apartment. When Joseph graduated from high school in 1944, he immediately enlisted in the Navy, both to serve his country during war and to help his mother pay her bills. Six months after his enlistment he contracted spinal meningitis and died. Although the family mourned Joseph's death deeply, as his dependent, Nora was guaranteed a life pension and no longer needed her daughter's help to pay the bills.
Soon after Joseph died, Higgins Clark graduated from high school and attended 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 a then unknown 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." Inspired to become a flight attendant like her acquaintance, Higgins Clark underwent rigorous interviews to earn a position as a flight attendant (then known as stewardess) for Pan American Airlines, making five dollars fewer a week than her secretarial job. Her supervisor at Remington Rand hosted a goodbye dinner for her, and Higgins Clark invited her neighbor, Warren Clark, whom she had admired for years, to be her date. By the end of the evening Warren Clark had informed her that he thought she should work as a stewardess for a year, and then they should be married the following Christmas. Higgins Clark accepted the somewhat unorthodox proposal.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 orphan down the steps of the airplane into the waiting arms of her ad.... Discover the Mary Ann Clark popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Mary Ann Clark books.