What Was Mary Higgins Clark’s Net Worth?
Mary Higgins Clark was a celebrated author of mystery and suspense who had a net worth of $140 million at the time of her death in 2020. Mary Higgins Clark sold over 100 million books in her lifetime in the U.S. alone. Mary published 51 books, and each one was a bestseller in the U.S. and several European countries. Higgins Clark earned hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties and advances during her career and was frequently one of the highest-paid authors in the world. In 2011, Mary received a $64 million advance covering her next four books, equaling $16 million per book. She found success with her second book/first suspense novel, 1975’s “Where are the Children?,” which was adapted into a feature film in 1986. Several of Higgins Clark’s novels have been adapted into TV movies, including 1980’s “The Cradle Will Fall,” 1982’s “A Cry in the Night,” 1989’s “While My Pretty One Sleeps,” and 1998’s “You Belong to Me.” She published the autobiography “Kitchen Privileges: A Memoir” in 2001, and she wrote the “Under Suspicion” series with crime novelist Alafair Burke. Mary was also a part-owner of the New Jersey Nets, and she produced the 2003 TV movie “A Crime of Passion.” In 2011, she was inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame. Higgins Clark died of natural causes on January 31, 2020, at the age of 92.
Mary Higgins Clark was born Mary Theresa Eleanor Higgins on December 24, 1927, in The Bronx, New York. She was the daughter of Luke Joseph Higgins and Nora C. Durkin, and Luke was an Irish immigrant. Mary had two brothers, Joseph and John, and sadly, Joseph died not long after graduating from high school when he contracted spinal meningitis while serving in the Navy. Higgins Clark wrote her first poem when she was 7 years old, and as a child, she often wrote short plays. The family owned an Irish pub and had a home in The Bronx as well as a cottage on Long Island Sound, but they began experiencing financial difficulties in the late 1930s because many of the pub’s patrons couldn’t pay their bar tabs due to the Great Depression. In 1939, Mary’s father died in his sleep, and her mother had to force Higgins Clark to move out of her room so she could rent it to boarders. Mary attended Saint Francis Xavier Grammar School, then she earned a scholarship to study at Villa Maria Academy, where the teachers encouraged her interest in writing. She took a job as a switchboard operator at the Shelton Hotel to help her family pay the bills. The family eventually lost their house and moved into an apartment. After Joseph died, the Navy guaranteed Nora a life pension, and Mary no longer had to help her pay the bills.
After attending Wood Secretarial School, Higgins Clark began working as a secretary in Remington Rand’s internal advertising division. She went to night school to study advertising and promotion, and she eventually started writing catalog copy for Remington Rand as well as modeling for their brochures alongside future star Grace Kelly. Mary later worked as a flight attendant for Pan American Airlines, but she gave up the job when she married Warren Clark in December 1949. She then studied writing at New York University, and in 1956, her short story “Stowaway” was published by “Extension Magazine.” The day Higgins Clark accepted a job writing radio scripts in 1964, Warren had a fatal heart attack, and his mother collapsed and died after discovering that her son was dead. After Mary began writing four-minute scripts for the “Portrait of a Patriot” radio segment, she was asked to write two additional radio series. By the late ’60s, magazines had stopped publishing short stories the way they once did, so Higgins Clark’s agent encouraged her to write a novel. The result was “Aspire to the Heavens,” a fictionalized account of George and Martha Washington’s relationship. The novel was published in 1968, but it was “remaindered as it came off the press.” In 1971, Mary enrolled at Fordham University at Lincoln Center, and in 1979, she graduated summa cum laude.
For Mary’s second novel, she decided to switch to suspense, and Simon & Schuster purchased the book for $3,000. Three months later, the paperback rights sold for $100,000. “Where are the Children?” was published in 1975 and became a bestseller, and Simon & Schuster bought her next novel, 1977’s “A Stranger is Watching,” for $1.5 million. In the ’80s, she published novels such as “A Cry in the Night” (1982), “Weep No More, My Lady” (1987), and “While My Pretty One Sleeps” (1989), followed by “Loves Music, Loves to Dance” (1991), “I’ll Be Seeing You” (1993), “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” (1995), “Silent Night” (1995), “Bad Behavior” (1995), “Moonlight Becomes You” (1996), “Pretend You Don’t See Her” (1997), “You Belong to Me” (1998), and “We’ll Meet Again” (1999) in the’90s. In 2007, Higgins Clark published her first children’s book, “Ghost Ship,” and around this time, she also published “No Place Like Home” (2005), “Two Little Girls in Blue” (2006), “I Heard That Song Before” (2007), and “Just Take My Heart” (2009).
In 2010, La Sabotière, a Paris-based company, began producing Mary’s crime novels as TV movies, and in 2019, it was announced that La Sabotière was partnering with Montréal’s Reel One Entertainment and the U.S.’s Element 8 Entertainment to produce an anthology series based on her novels, with the first season based on “I’ll Be Seeing You.” Between 2014 and 2020, Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke wrote the “Under Suspicion” series, which includes the books “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” (2014), “The Cinderella Murder” (2014), “All Dressed in White” (2015), “The Sleeping Beauty Killer” (2016), “Every Breath You Take” (2017), “You Don’t Own Me” (2018), and “Piece of My Heart” (2020. Mary also wrote the “Alvirah and Willy” series, which sometimes crossed over with her daughter Carol’s “Reagan Reilly” series.
Mary wed her neighbor, Warren Clark, on December 26, 1949, and they remained together until his death from a heart attack in 1964. Mary and Warren welcomed five children together: Marilyn, Warren Jr., David, Carol, and Patty (named after Higgins Clark’s agent, Patricia Schartle Myrer). As children, Patty was a Gerber Baby, and David appeared in a United Way ad. Carol followed in her mother’s footsteps and became a mystery writer, and the two co-wrote several novels. David was previously married to Mary Jane Clark, an author known for writing the “Key News” suspense novels and the “Wedding Cake Mysteries” series, and their son, David, has a developmental disability called Fragile X Syndrome. After Warren’s death, Higgins Clark married Raymond Ploetz on August 8, 1978, but she had the “disastrous” marriage annulled in 1986. Mary wed retired Merrill Lynch Futures CEO John J. Conheeney on November 30, 1996, and they remained married until his death in 2018.
Mary passed away on January 31, 2020, in Naples, Florida. Simon & Schuster confirmed the news, tweeting, “She passed away peacefully this evening at the age of 92 surrounded by family and friends.” According to findagrave.com, Higgins Clark was laid to rest at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York.
Awards and Honors
In 1980, Higgins Clark was award France’s Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, and she won the Deauville Film Festival Literary Award in 1999. In 1994, she received the Spirit of Achievement Award from Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine as well as a Gold Medal in Education from the National Arts Club. Mary won an American Irish Historical Society Gold Medal of Honor (1993), a Horatio Alger Award (1997), a Bronx Legend Award (1999), and an Ellis Island Medal of Honor (2001), and she received 18 honorary doctorates. Higgins Clark served as the president of the Mystery Writers of America (1987) and the Chairman of the International Crime Congress (1988), and she was a member of the Mystery Writers of America board of directors for many years. When Mary was inducted as a Grand Master at the 55th Annual Edgar Allan Poe Awards, it was announced that Simon & Schuster had established the Mary Higgins Clark Award to be given to suspense authors by the Mystery Writers of America. Mary was also made a Dame of Malta, a Dame of the Order of St. Gregory the Great, a Dame of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, and a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters. She received a Graymoor Award from the Franciscan Friars and a Christopher Life Achievement Award, and she was a member of the Catholic Communal Fund board and the Hackensack Hospital Board of Governors.