‘Queen of Suspense’ Mary Higgins Clark dies aged 92 | Books | The Guardian

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Mary Higgins Clark, the “Queen of Suspense” who topped charts with each of her 56 novels, has died at the age of 92.

Simon & Schuster president Carolyn Reidy said that Higgins Clark died on 31 January in Naples, Florida, from complications of old age. The author published her first novel, Where Are the Children? in 1975, going on to sell more than 100m copies of her compulsive suspense novels in the US alone. She published her most recent thriller, Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry, about a journalist investigating sexual misconduct at a television news network, in November.

Crime author Alafair Burke, who collaborated with Higgins Clark on the Under Suspicion series, said she would “miss my friend and co-author, but consider myself one of the luckiest people around to have had the chance to tell stories with one of my favourite writers, the Queen of Suspense.

“Through it all, I marvelled at Mary’s kindness, loyalty, and utter devotion to the work of being a writer. She could write me under the table, insisting we could get a few more pages in when I felt a snack break coming,” said Burke on Twitter. “When we went to an outdoor book festival in August, I kept sneaking off to the air-conditioned ladies’ room, but Mary stayed at the table and posed in the heat for selfies long after the books had sold out.”

Higgins Clark’s fellow authors spoke of her generosity, especially to new writers. Harlan Coben said he was heartbroken to learn of Higgins Clark’s death, describing her as “a generous mentor, hero, colleague, and friend” who “taught me so much”. Laura Lippman called her a trailblazer, adding that “so many of us owe our careers to her”. Scott Turow said she was “an extraordinarily gracious person, unpretentious and remarkably generous in a hundred ways”.

In her memoir, Kitchen Privileges, Higgins Clark wrote of “aching, yearning, burning” to write when she was young. It was an achievement made in the face of heavy odds. Her father died when she was 11, and she went to secretarial school after graduating from high school in the Bronx in New York. She went on to work as an air stewardess. After flying for a year, she married Warren Clark, who she had known since she was 16. She sold her first short story in 1956, for $100. After Clark died in 1964, she began writing radio scripts for a living, while also trying her hand as a novelist. She would write from 5am to 7am, before getting her five children ready for school.




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“My mother’s belief in me kept alive my dream to be a writer. My father’s early death left her with three young children to support. A generation later my husband’s early death left me in exactly that position, except that I had five children,” she wrote.

“Mother supported us by renting rooms, allowing our paying guests to have the privilege of preparing light meals in the kitchen. I supported my family by writing radio shows. Very early in the morning I put my typewriter on the kitchen table before I went to work in Manhattan and spent a few privileged and priceless hours working on my first novel.”

She sold Where Are the Children? when she was 47. Telling of a young mother who has fled her original life after the death of her first two children, only for her next two to disappear, it was a huge hit. David Foster Wallace taught it in his college classes, and Coben recalled a letter from the Infinite Jest author, in which he called it “one of the scariest fucking books I’ve ever read”. (“Sorry about the language, Mary!” Coben added.)

She wrote, she told the Guardian in 2015, about “very nice people whose lives are invaded”. In 1988, she struck what the New York Times reported was “the first eight-figure agreement involving a single author”, with a multi-book contract that guaranteed her at least $10.1m. Given the Authors Guild Foundation award for Distinguished Services to the Literary Community in 2018, she was the recipient of numerous awards and 21 honorary doctorates, and saw many of her books adapted for film and television.

“Let others decide whether or not I’m a good writer. I know I’m a good Irish storyteller,” she said, when she was the grand marshal of the St Patrick’s Day parade in Manhattan in 2011.

Michael Corda, her editor at Simon & Schuster since 1975, said: “She always set out to end each chapter on a note of suspense, so you just had to keep reading. It was a gift, but also the result of hard work … She was unique. Nobody ever bonded more completely with her readers; she understood them as if they were members of her own family. She was always absolutely sure of what they wanted to read – and, perhaps more important, what they didn’t want to read – and yet she managed to surprise them with every book.”

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Stephen King quits Facebook over false claims in political ads | Books | The Guardian

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Stephen King has quit Facebook, saying that he is not comfortable with the “flood of false information allowed in its political advertising”.

The bestselling horror novelist, a prolific user of social media, also said he was not “confident in [Facebook’s] ability to protect its users’ privacy”. King made the announcement on Twitter, where he has 5.6m followers. His Facebook page has been deleted.

The social network has faced backlash over its decision not to factcheck political ads, with chief executive Mark Zuckerberg arguing that “political speech is important” and should not be censored. Facebook said last month that while it had considered limiting the targeting of political ads, it felt that “people should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them, warts and all, and that what they say should be scrutinised and debated in public”.

Last October, the company came under fire for airing a 30-second video from the Trump campaign that falsely claimed that Joe Biden “promised Ukraine a billion dollars if they fired the prosecutor investigating his son’s company”. CNN declined to run the ad, saying that it “makes assertions that have been proven demonstrably false by various news outlets”. When the Biden campaign complained about the ad, Facebook invoked its “fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process, and belief that, in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinised speech there is”.

Writing for the New York Times last week, the billionaire philanthropist George Soros said: “I believe that Mr Trump and Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, realise that their interests are aligned – the president’s in winning elections, Mr Zuckerberg’s in making money.” Facebook, Soros wrote, “follow[s] only one guiding principle: maximise profits irrespective of the consequences”.

Twitter, where King made his announcement, has banned all political advertising. King has long used the site as a way to air his political opinions, most recently using it to announce his support for Elizabeth Warren. “I’ll support and work for any Democrat who wins the nomination, but I’m pulling for Elizabeth Warren,” he wrote. “I’d love to see her open a large can of whup-ass on Trump in the debates.”

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On my radar: Salman Rushdies cultural highlights

The novelist on his favourite new writing, the thrill of baseball and the director whos adapting Midnights Children for Netflix

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Born in 1947 in Mumbai, Salman Rushdie is the author of 14 novels including Midnights Children, which won the Booker prize in 1981, and has twice been named the best of all the Booker prizewinners. The 1988 publication of The Satanic Verses led Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran to issue a fatwa calling for Rushdies assassination. The author now lives in New York, where he is a writer in residence at NYU. His latest novel, Quichotte, is published on 3 September.

1. Documentary
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am

Toni
Toni Morrison in a scene from The Pieces I Am. Photograph: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders / Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

I saw this before Toni Morrison died and it seemed like a wonderful portrait of her, but now it feels even more significant. Its directed by the American photographer and film-maker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, who secured amazing archival footage as well as extensive access to Morrison herself, even in these last years when she wasnt very well. I was lucky enough to know her a little bit. People sometimes think she was a very grand lady, a giant figure in literature, but actually she was very down to earth and great fun to be around she loved dancing, for example and the film does a good job of getting this across. Its a beautiful piece of film-making.

2. Music
The Rolling Stones live in New Jersey

The
The Rolling Stones performing in New Jersey. Photograph: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Last month, I went to see the Rolling Stones live at the MetLife stadium and it was an amazing evening. Ive seen the Stones a lot over the years the Observer sent me to report on the Voodoo Lounge tour at Wembley stadium in 1995 and Ive seen their latest show twice. Its extraordinary that theyre still doing it and are as good as they ever were. Mick appears to have recovered from his heart procedure hes still zinging around the stage as fast as he ever did, while Keith remains firmly planted. When I went to see the show in London with my sons, I have never seen them so excited about going to a rock concert. It demonstrated to me that their music really has transcended all generations. Its music that everybody can share.

This

3. Nonfiction
This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrants Manifesto by Suketu Mehta

This is a brief, extremely passionate polemic on the issue of immigration, which of course is a very heated subject in America, where the book was aimed at originally, as well as everywhere else. Mehtas book is a brilliant, deliberately political rebuff to the increasingly popular view that immigrants are a problem. He talks about the history of empire and quotes someone in his family who answered the question, But why are you here? by replying, We are here because you were there. And he has a comic line about how immigrants are the creditors weve come to collect the debt. Its a very powerful book, but it also has a wit about it, which makes it very attractive. Mehta has been getting the usual hate messages and threats on social media, which seems to be the inevitable consequence of putting your head above the parapet these days.

4. Sport
The New York Yankees

Masahiro
Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees pitches in the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Yankee Stadium. Photograph: Wendell Cruz/USA Today Sports

Im a pretty addicted New York Yankees fan these days and going to Yankee stadium is for me one of the great pleasures of living in New York. Apart from anything else, I really like the atmosphere at baseball games, which is rather different from football. Here, its very much a family occasion and very good-natured. And its really a good time to be a Yankees fan: theyre runaway leaders of their division and have the equal best record of the season along with the Los Angeles Dodgers. In general, its more fun than being a fan of Tottenham Hotspur, who I started supporting in 1961, when they won the double, but who have never won the league again. More than half a century Ive been waiting to see it.

The

5. Novel
The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste

This is a novel I read in manuscript and is just about to be published in the US. Mengiste is an Ethiopian writer based in New York and The Shadow King, her second novel, is about the Italian invasion of Ethiopia during world war two, showing history very much from a female perspective. Its on the edge of magic realism, but an amazing portrait of that moment in Ethiopian history. It seems to me that there is a new wave of wonderful writing from younger African women writers, from Ghana, Uganda, Zambia, Nigeria, and I think that Mengiste is very much a part of that. Her book is tightly written and has a visionary quality.

6. Film
Vishal Bhardwajs Shakespearean trilogy

Shahid
Shahid Kapoor in a scene from Haider. Photograph: UTV Motion/Vishal Bhardwaj/Kobal/Rex/Shutterstock

An adaptation of my novel Midnights Children is currently being developed for Netflix. The showrunner is an Indian director called Vishal Bhardwaj, who made a trilogy of films based on Shakespeare plays. Omkara is basically Othello and the subject of an angry, jealous husband murdering his wife for an imagined infidelity fits so easily to India. In Maqbool, he brilliantly transposes the story of Macbeth into the Bombay criminal underworld. And Haider took Hamlet into Kashmir. Considering whats happening there right now, its an even more important film than when it came out, because it really shows you what life has been like for people in Kashmir under the heel of the Indian security forces and military. His films are visually astonishing and Im very interested to see how he brings all that talent to Midnights Children.

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African Futurist Nnedi Okorafor Tells an Immigrant Story in LaGuardia

Political reality finally inserted itself into the blissfully insulated world of San Diego Comic-Con. The Trump baby balloon bounced across the street from the convention center in San Diegos Gaslamp district. The Magicians actor Jade Tailor wore a Close the Camps shirt during her season 5 panel. Sen. Cory Booker cruised through and AOC comics were for sale.

Yet, searching the sprawling convention floor, youd be hard-pressed to find imagery more politically relevantor subversivethan the nine-foot-high poster for LaGuardia, a new graphic novel from African futurism writer Nnedi Okorafor. A pregnant Nigerian-American woman in a bright blue dress, fist raised and locks flowing like a banner, leads a bridge-closing protest shoulder-to-tentacle with extraterrestrial beings. Their picket signs demand rights for aliens, both human and of off-world origin.

After a single-issue run, Dark Horse Comics released the final, collected volume during last weeks San Diego Comic-Con. LaGuardia depicts an alternative present, where first contact with aliens is made in Lagos in 2010. The protagonist Future Nwafor Chukwuebuka is modeled both in appearance and biography after the author herself. After living for several years in Nigeria, Future returns to the United States to illegally transport a plant-based alien escaping civil war through New Yorks LaGuardia airport. Once in the city, she reconnects with her grandmother, an immigration attorney for people of all planetary origins. Before too long, the government announces a travel ban.

You have a world where aliens have come, and theyre not trying to kill us and eat us and take our resources. Theyve become Earthlings, Okarofor says. Some human beings react wonderfully to it, or some human beings just are cool with it, and then others cant deal with it. And then we have the United States becoming more conservative because of it.

Its not unusual for science fiction to anticipate reality, but its remarkable how every page of LaGuardia seems only 30 seconds ahead of the horrors playing out in the headlines, from DNA testing and social media vetting at the nations entry points to the chant of send her back at the presidents recent North Carolina rally. LaGuardia explores the concept of human-only discrimination at hospitals; meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidates discussed healthcare for undocumented immigrants in their first televised debate.

Its disturbing, but at the same time, it feels great, because I feel like Ive tapped into the pulse of something, Okorafor says.

Yet this is a story that she has been working on for years.

Issues of immigration, issues of identity, all these things, theyre not new, and theyve been there for a long time, she says.

Okorafor talks and writes from experience. The graphic novel introduces Future through an extended scene at LaGuardia, where she queues up for screening along with aliens of all shapes and sizes, as well as a little white girl who yanks on her locks. At the checkpoint, she is pulled aside for a second screening by a security guard who asks invasive questions about whether the baby in her belly is human. The confrontation is ripped straight from an incident in 2009, when a TSA officer at LaGuardia took Okorafor to a private room to squeeze each of her four-and-a-half-foot locks for hidden contraband. Preoccupied with her hair, the officer missed the bottle of pepper spray that Okorafor had forgotten to remove from her bag. In LaGuardia, that misdirection allows the character to carry the alien through, undetected.

As an author, Okorafor travels a lot, and its become clear to her that airport and border crossings are more about control than safety.

Its the space between, a place of contention, a place of displacement, a place of fear, a place of identity, she says. Its where you become very aware of all the things that you are and what they mean, in the context of where you are. And depending on who you are, that place can feel very hot or it can feel very chill.

San Diego Comic-Con can also be such a space, where creators contemplate who they are and where they are in their careers. In earlier chapters of her life, Okorafor was a semi-pro tennis player and later earned a PhD from the University of Illinois, Chicago, before becoming an award-collecting novelist. Okorafor has been attending Comic-Con on-and-off since 2010, wheb she was a speaker on The Black Panel, a forum for raising the profile of Black entertainment. This year was her first returning as a comic-book author.

In addition to writing LaGuardia for Dark Horses imprint Berger Books, Okorafor was tapped by Marvel to write Black Panther: Long Live the King and a spin-off about the Wakandan princess Shuri. In coming Comic-Cons, she may be back with even more prominent projects: shes adapting Octavia Butlers Wild Seed for Amazon and HBO is developing her novel Who Fears Death, with Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin as a producer.

I am in chaos, organized chaos, wonderful, glorious, organized chaos, Okorafor says.

One could draw a straight line from Okorafor and LaGuardia to comics pioneer Will Eisner (after whom Comic-Cons awards are named) and his 1978 medium-defining graphic novel, A Contract with God. Okorafor pulled the book off a university library shelf at random, without knowing it was a graphic novel, and was immediately transfixed by the blending of prose and images.

But also it was telling this immigrant story, especially about Jews, Okorafor says of A Contract with God, and coming from a family of immigrants, my parents being immigrants, I could relate so well to that. And so this was a book that I read over and over and over again for years.

Thats how Karen Berger, the editor who oversees Dark Horses Berger Book imprint, remembers Okorafor pitching the project: A Contract with God, but with aliens in an African American community. In Bergers mind, Eisner raised the bar by writing stories for adults based on his own experiences as the child of immigrants.

The best works are when people have a personal connection, and theres something about a writers past, or the writers personality, the writers passions in the character they write about, Berger says. As a piece of immigrant fiction, LaGuardia really fills that space.

LaGuardia is also about resistance, in all its forms, whether it be protesting, legal work, or holding the line within the system.

There are many ways of fighting the battle and battles happen on multiple fronts, all at the same time, Okorafor says. This year, San Diego Comic-Con became one of them.

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