Mary Higgins Clark has become known among critics as the "Queen of Suspense," and "America's best selling suspense writer" (Pelzer). She has authored fourteen best sellers, with over thirty-five million copies in
print in the United States alone. "All Around the Town," published in 1992, was Clark's ninth bestseller, and an immediate success among both readers and critics. By May twentieth, 1992, it appeared on Publisher's Weekly "Hardcover Fiction Bestseller L
ist," at number five, and by August tenth of the same year, "All Around the Town" had climbed its way up to number two. It remained on the list for an impressive sixteen weeks (Book Wire), and became a Literary Guild main selection. The novel was praised
in publications such as Publisher's Weekly, Kirus Reviews, People Weeky, Booklist, Library Journal, The New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. Clark's critics praised the novel's high level of suspense (Stasio), and Clark's ability to "successfull
y and skillfully juggle all the plot lines," but the majority of the novel's praise was in regards to the speed in which the plot develops, hailing "All Around the Town" a "quick and easy to read page turner" (Lamphier). Susan Toepfer of People Weekly wr
ites, "for sheer story-telling power -- and breathtaking pace -- Clark is without peer."
Clark is famous for her "canny knack for placing women and children in deadly peril" (Publisher's Weekly). Kirkus Reviews claims that in "All Around the Town," "Clark returns to what she does best: using a threatened child (this time, a regressive colleg
e-student traumatized by a childhood kidnapping) to grab you by the throat and shake well." The key to Clark's popularity though, according to several critics, is her technique. The Washington Post describes Clark as "a master storyteller who builds her
taught suspense in a limited time frame." The Post goes on to explain that there is a kind of "Mary Higgins formula" that readers both expect and enjoy: "There are no ambiguities in any Clark book. We know whom and what to root for, and we do. Similar
ly, we boo and hiss or gasp when the author wants us to. Clark is a master manipulater. Her style is to write about terror lurking beneath the surface of everyday life." Clark's readers seem to agree with this opinion saying, "Mary Higgins Clark is my
favorite author. Whenever I begin one of her books, I know that I'm not going to be able to put it down" (MHC webpage), and "I love Mary Higgins Clark's style of writing. It's always exciting and easy to read" (MHC webpage). Clark's novels can be compa
red to those of authors Sue Grafton and Sidney Sheldon, both of whom are also successful mystery writers. Grafton and Sheldon's styles are similar to Clark's in that they are light, easy, quick to read, suspenseful page turners. Mary Higgins Clark's web
page lists these authors as "If you enjoy reading novels by Mary Higgins Clark, you should also check out [Sidney Sheldon, Sue Grafton, etc,]. Even Danielle Steele was on this list, probably because she too specializes in quick, easy reads.
Clark uses the popular literary genre, the novel of mystery and suspense, to explore contemporary social issues and the reality of evil in the lives of ordinary people. Common reoccurring themes in Clark's novels consist mainly of the consequences of cri
me on innocent victims, and how crime forces its victims to confront their fears and the terror of the past. They all confront current social issues, ranging frorm capital punishment to child abuse, or as in the case of "All Around the Town," the issues
of kidnapping, child molestation, and multiple personality disorder. Clark even took a course in parapsychology at New York's School of Social Research. In specific regards to "All Around the Town," Clark got the idea of writing about a young girl with
multiple personality disorder from a friend of her daughter Carol. The friend was an art therapist from the National Center for Treatment of Dissociative Disorders in Denver, specializing in the treatment of multiple personality disorder. The friend as
ked Clark to sign a book for oone of her patients. When Clark asked for the name of who to address the book to, the girl hesitated and replied, "Now which one of her personalities reads your book?" This comment aroused Clarks interest, and led to her wr
iting "All Around the Town."
When Mary Higgins Clark's long time publicist and good friend, Lisl Cade, asked Clark what she thought the secret of her popularity was, Clark answered, "Readers identify with my characters. I write about people going about their daily lives, not looking
for trouble, who are suddenly plunged into menacing situations." Clark believes that the ability for readers to relate to her characters, plays a large role in her high number of sales (Cade). When presented with the question "You are known as ?The Que
en of Suspense.' What do you consider the essence of your talent?" Clark answered, "Being a storyteller." Clark continued saying, "Isaac Bashevis Singer, who was a dedicated suspense reader, made a simple, but profound observation on receiving the Myst
ery Writers of America award as Mystery Reader of the Year. He said that a writer must think of himself or herself primarily as a storyteller. Every book or story should figuratively begin with the words ?once upon a time.' It is true now as it was in
the long ago days of wandering minstrels, that when these words are uttered, the room becomes quiet, everyonne draws closer to the fire and the magic begins."
Born of Irish decent, Clark considers her heritage an important influence on her writing, noting that the Irish are, by nature, storytellers. Clark grew up in the Bronx, where her father was the owner of Higgins Bar and Grill. Clark describes how when s
he was ten years old, she had "a terrible shock." Coming home from early mass one morning, she found a crowd of neighbors standing outside the house. Her father had died in his sleep. Clark says that "His sudden death jolted me into awareness of the fr
agility of life. My mother's example [who raised Clark and her two brothers alone] taught me resilience. The characters in my books are resilient and resourceful. When calamity strikes, they carry on." Clark also attributes her first successful story
to another one of her lifetime experiences. After working for an advertising agency, Clark decided that she wanted to see the world and signed up as a Pan Am stewardess. Her run was Europe, Africa, and Asia. Clark describes how she was "in a revolution
in Syria and on the last flight into Czechoslovakia before the Iron Curtain went down." She says that in creating the story "Stowaway," she thought of her experience on that flight and gave her imaginatiton "free rein." She thought, "Suppose the stewar
dess finds an eighteen year old member of the Czech underground hiding on the plane as it is about to leave." "Stowaway" took six years and forty rejection slips before she sold it to Extension magazine in 1956 for one hundred dollars. Clark framed that
first letter of acceptance.
Since that first accepted story, Mary Higgins Clark has experienced one success after another. Clark has nine honorary doctorates. She has achieved "The Woman of Achievement" award from the Federation of Woman's Clubs in New Jersey, the 1992 "Irish Wom
an 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 1993 Gold Metal of Honor from the American-Irish Historical Society and in 1994, the Spirit of Achievement Award from
the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and the National Arts Club inaugural Gold Metal in Education. In April 1997, she received the Horatiio Alger Award. She 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 thte Grand Prix de Literature of France in 1980. She was Chairman of the International Crime Congress, held in New York in May 1998. 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.
Mary Higgins Clark's novels, including "All Around the Town," are still popular today, in 1999. The reason for its continuing success is that the qualities which made Clark's novel popular in 1992, are still desired reading qualities today. For example,
in 1999, multiple personality disorder and child abuse (two main topics of "All Around the Town") are still intriguing topics that are popular, current social issues. Unfortunately, these issues will probably not go away any time soon, so all generation
and all ages to come will continue to be interested by them. Clark's fame for her spell-binding plots, fast-paced story line, and light, easy reading, continue to grab reader after reader, seven years after its first publishing