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Mary Higgins Clark

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Born and raised in New York, Mary Higgins Clark is of Irish descent. "The Irish are, by nature, storytellers," says Clark, who considers her Irish heritage an important influence on her writing. Mary's father died when she was ten. Her mother struggled to bring up Mary and her two brothers. After graduating from high school, Mary went to secretarial school, so she could get a job and help her mother with the family finances. After working for three years in an advertising agency, travel fever seized her. For the year 1949, she was a stewardess on Pan American Airlines' international flights, to see the world. "My run was Europe, Africa and Asia," Mary recalls. "I was in a revolution in Syria and on the last flight into Czechoslovakia before the Iron Curtain went down. I flew for a year and then got married."

She married a neighbor, Warren Clark. Nine years her senior, she had known him since she was 16. Soon after her marriage, she started writing short stories. She sold her first short story to Extension Magazine in 1956 for $100, after six years and forty rejection slips. "I framed that first letter of acceptance," she recalls.

Mary was left a young widow with five children by the death of her husband, Warren Clark, from a heart attack in 1964. She went to work writing radio scripts and, in addition, decided to write books.

Every morning, she got up at 5 and wrote until 7, when she had to get the kids ready for school. Her first book was a biographical novel about the life of George Washington, Aspire to the Heavens. "It was remaindered as it came off the press," she says of her first try. Next, she decided to write a suspense novel, Where Are the Children?, which became a bestseller and marked a turning point in her life and career.

Mary decided to take time for things she had always wanted to do. So far, she had put all her energies into her children's education. Now she was going to catch up on her own. In 1974, she entered Fordham University at Lincoln Center and graduated summa cum laude in 1979, with a B.A. in philosophy. In May 1988, she returned to her alma mater as commencement speaker. She is a trustee of Fordham University and a member of the Board of Regents at St. Peter's College. She has thirteen honorary doctorates.

After many years of widowhood, she married John J. Conheeney, retired Merrill Lynch Futures CEO, on November 30, 1996. They now live in Saddle River, New Jersey; they also have an apartment in Manhattan and summer homes in Spring Lake, New Jersey and Dennis, Massachusetts. Between them, they have a large family -- Mary Higgins Clark has five children and six grandchildren, and her husband has four children and nine grandchildren.

Honors & Awards

Among the many honors she has received are The Women of Achievement award from the Federation of Women's Clubs in New Jersey, the Irish Woman of the Year award from the Irish-American Heritage and Cultural Week Committee of the Board of Education of the City of New York, the Gold Medal of Honor from the American-Irish Historical Society, the Spirit of Achievement Award from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and the National Arts Club's first Gold Medal in Education. In April 1997, she received the Horatio Alger Award. She is an active advocate and participant in literacy programs.

Mary was made a Dame of the Order of St. Gregory the Great, a papal honor. She is also a Dame of Malta and a Dame of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.

She was awarded the Grand Prix de Literature of France in 1980. Her books are published in translation around the world and are world-wide bestsellers. She is a #1 bestseller in France.

She was Chairman of the International Crime Congress, held in New York in May 1988. She was the 1987 president of the Mystery Writers of America and, for many years, on the Board of Directors of the Mystery Writers of America.

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