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'Queen of Suspense' Mary Higgins Clark dies at 92

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Author Mary Higgins Clark, known as the "Queen of Suspense" in her home in Saddle River, N.J. on June 3, 2004.
Author Mary Higgins Clark, known as the "Queen of Suspense" in her home in Saddle River, N.J. on June 3, 2004.   -  
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AP Photo/Mike Derer, File - MIKE DERER
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American author Mary Higgins Clark, known as the "Queen of Suspense" for penning dozens of thrilling bestselling novels, has died at the age of 92.

"It is with great sadness we say goodbye to the "Queen of Suspense" Mary Higgins Clark, author of over 40 bestselling suspense titles," her publisher Simon & Schuster announced on Twitter.

"She passed away peacefully this evening, January 31, at the age of 92 surrounded by family and friends," it added.

Born in the Bronx on Christmas Eve 1929 to Irish immigrants, Mary Higgins started her professional life as a secretary and part-time model. She then changed tracks to become a flight attendant but gave up work when she married Warren Clark in 1949

The couple went on to have five children and Higgins, who had taken writing classes after her wedding, started selling short stories.

Her husband's death in 1964 and the financial difficulties that followed prompted her to write her first novel, "Aspire to the Heavens", which was published in 1969.

Her second novel, her first suspense one, is the one which propelled her into recognition. "Where are the Children" (1975), inspired by a tabloid trial about a young woman accused of murdering her children, became an instant bestseller and led her to sign a multimillion-dollar contract with Simon & Schuster.

It was the first of a string of successful releases including "A Stranger Is Watching" (1977), "While My Pretty One Sleeps" (1989), "We’ll Meet Again" (1999), "Daddy’s Gone a Hunting (2013)".

Mary Higgins Clark specialized in women triumphing over danger, such as the besieged young prosecutor in "Just Take My Heart" (2009) or the mother of two and art gallery worker whose second husband is a madman in "A Cry in the Night" (1982). Clark’s goal as an author was simple, if rarely easy: Keep the readers reading.

"If you're reading my book, I want you stuck with reading the next paragraph. The greatest compliment I can receive is, ‘I read your darned book ‘til 4 in the morning, and now I’m tired.’ I say, ‘Then you get your money’s worth,'" she told the Associated Press in 2013.

Sales topped 100 million copies and honours came from all over, including a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters from France or a Grand Master statuette back home from the Mystery Writers of America. Many of her books, like "A Stranger is Watching" and "Lucky Day," were adapted for movies and television. She also collaborated on several novels with her daughter, Carol Higgins Clark.

Michael Korda, Editor-in-Chief at Simon & Schuster, described her as " unfailingly, cheerful under pressure, generous, good humoured and warm-hearted, the least ‘temperamental’ of bestselling authors, and the most fun to be around".

"I feel privileged to have enjoyed forty-five years of her friendship, and saddened that I will no longer be able to pick up the phone and hear her say, ‘Michael, I think I’ve figured out how to make this story work.’ She was a joy to work with, and to know," he added in a statement.

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