Carol Higgins Clark, who rewrote the manuscripts of her mother, famed mystery writer Mary Higgins Clark, as a young woman before becoming a best-selling thriller novelist, died Monday in Los Angeles. She was 66 years old.
His family said in a statement that the cause was cancer of the appendix.
Ms. Higgins Clark wrote more than a dozen novels on her own, beginning with “Decked” in 1992 and several other Christmas-themed novels in collaboration with her mother, who died in 2020.
She started out aspiring to be an actress and eventually racked up a handful of movie credits, several of them based on her mother’s books. But in 1975, while she was home for the summer from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, another career possibility began to take shape when she bailed out her mother, who was just beginning her career as a thriller writer. .
“She had to publish her first thriller and she had to send her second to her agent,” Carol Higgins Clark told NPR in 2008. “It was before computers and I didn’t know how I was going to get it. I wrote again in time, so I did. And that’s really what got me into it, because I had talked to her about the characters and the plot. And I did that for several of her books, which was great for me to learn to write.”
As her mother’s books became popular, Mrs. Higgins Clark continued to act as a sounding board, doing research, helping her make the younger characters’ dialogue more authentic and more. In 1986, when her mother’s first thriller, “Where Are the Kids?”, was made into a movie, Carol Higgins Clark had a small role as a television reporter. For the next 28 years she continued to appear in films, many of them made-for-television, based on her mother’s books, including “A Cry in the Night” (1992), in which she played a leading role.
That same year he marked his own debut as a novelist. “Decked” introduced Regan Reilly, a private investigator who would go on to introduce almost all of Carol Higgins Clark’s books.
In a nod to her mother, she made Reilly the daughter of a mystery writer. In that first book, set on an ocean liner, Reilly is haunted by the murder of her roommate 10 years earlier.
“Everything is fast-paced, glamorous, intricately plotted, and serenely calm,” Charles Champlin wrote in a review in The Los Angeles Times, “perfect for a plane ride or, indeed, a cruise.”
In that book, which was nominated for anthony award For best first novel, Mrs. Higgins Clark presented the style that would distinguish her from her mother: while Mary Higgins Clark typically wrote psychological suspense, Carol’s books were full of humor. She established that in the opening pages of “Decked,” in a scene involving Gavin, a dance instructor on the ocean liner.
“Just this morning I had been teaching the polka to an enthusiastic octogenarian who wore bulky black shoes,” he wrote. “They were like gunships slung from his thick ankles, aimed at his unfortunate feet. Gavin winced when he thought about it. Stomping on someone’s foot was supposed to be a form of self-defense, not a recreational activity.”
As Mary Higgins Clark said in an interview with Newsday in 2000: “A critic once said, ‘Mary Higgins Clark goes for the jugular vein and Carol Higgins Clark goes for the funny bone.’ I think that’s true.
carol ann higgins clark was born on July 28, 1956 in New York City. Her father, Warren, who was a national sales manager for Capital Airlines, died of a heart attack when she was 8 years old.
He grew up in New Jersey, graduating from Immaculate Heart Academy there and earning a BA from Mount Holyoke in 1978. He studied acting after college at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, training which he put to good use not only for his occasional film appearances, but also for acting. to narrate audiobooks, both his own and his mother’s.
Carol Higgins Clark’s books tended to have distinctive one-word titles: “Snagged” (1993) involves a pantyhose convention; “Twanged” (1998) is about a cursed violin. She and her mother first collaborated on “Deck the Halls” (2000), which reunited Regan Reilly and one of Mary Higgins Clark’s characters, Alvirah Meehan, a character Carol more or less brought back from the the dead.
“I had murdered Alvirah in my first book,” Mary Higgins Clark told Newsday in 2000. “Carol insisted that I take her out of her coma. She said, ‘You have a great character here and you’re killing her? That’s really bad writing.’”
Mrs Higgins Clark, who lived in West Hollywood, California, is survived by her brothers Marilyn, Warren and David Clark. Another sister, Patricia, died before her.
Mrs. Higgins Clark was often asked if her mother had ever given her any advice. Typically, she gave the response she offered to a Palm Beach, Florida, audience in 2016: “She said, ‘If someone is mean to you, make a victim of them in your next book.'”