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Mary Higgins Clark

December 24--Christmas Eve--is the birthday of mystery writer Mary Higgins Clark.  Born in New York City in 1929, her father died when she was ten years old, and her mother struggled to raise a daughter and two sons.  After being graduated from high school, Clark went to secretarial school and took a job to help out with the family's finances.  She worked in an advertising agency for three years before becoming a stewardess for Pan Am in 1949, flying routes between the U.S. and Europe, Africa, and Asia.

"I was in a revolution in Syria and on the last flight into Czechoslovakia before the Iron Curtain went down," she said.  "I flew for a year, then got married."

Clark married her neighbor, Warren, whom she had known since she was 16.  He was nine years her senior.  He encouraged her to develop her interest in writing, and she enrolled in writing classes at New York University.  She sold her first short story to Extension Magazine in 1956 for $100 after six years of rejection and forty rejection slips.  "I framed that first letter of acceptance," she said.

When her husband died unexpectedly from a heart attack in 1964, Clark went to work writing radio scripts in order to support her five children.  She also began work on her first novel.  Each morning, she wrote from 5 - 7 A.M. before stopping to get her children ready for school.  Her first book--a commercial failure--was a biographical novel about George Washington.  She next decided to write a suspense novel.  It turned out to be Where Are the Children?  The book marked a turning point in her career.  It became a bestseller, and today it's in its 75th edition in paperback and was recently reissued as a Simon & Schuster hardcover classic.

Finally free to catch up on things she always wanted to do, Clark enrolled in Fordham University at Lincoln Center and was graduated summa cum laude in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in philosophy.  She was awarded an honorary doctorate from Fordham in 1998 and has served as a trustee there and at St. Peterís College and Providence College.  She holds eighteen honorary doctorates.

In 1996, Mary Higgins Clark married John Conheeney, retired Chairman and CEO of Merrill-Lynch Futures.  They live in Saddle River, New Jersey.

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