Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

It's All in the Details Realism Stokes Mary Higgins Clark's Creative Fire

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

It's All in the Details Realism Stokes Mary Higgins Clark's Creative Fire

Article excerpt

MARY HIGGINS CLARK loves sweating the details.

She'll call the White House to find out what color gloves the waiters wear at state dinners (it's up to the first lady), ask the Coast Guard where a body dumped off Monomoy Island near Cape Cod would most likely wash up (Martha's Vineyard), or consult with a plastic surgeon about shards of glass ground into the skin ("don't say it didn't penetrate the dermis, say the glass didn't penetrate deeply," the doctor advised her. "If it didn't penetrate the dermis, there's no need to go to a plastic surgeon.")

"I love working the details," the doyenne of American suspense novels says over iced tea in her Washington hotel room. "You don't want anyone else doing it for you. I really get so mad when writers don't pay attention to the details."

In the course of an hourlong conversation that runs the gamut from her Irish Catholic upbringing to the plot of her next book, Clark, 63, shrugs off attempts to analyze what makes her one of America's most successful mystery writers. In fact, she seems not overly enthusiastic about her work until the subject turns to her knack for detail. Then her voice grows louder. Her eyes widen. Her hands strike the air for emphasis.

You can talk about what makes people buy my books all you want, her manner says, or what separates me from the thousands of other mystery/suspense writers struggling to find an audience. But I'd rather talk about the obstetrician who insisted an embryo is not "implanted in" the mother's womb, but rather "transferred to."

She speaks with a Bronx accent that sounds as if it spent a few years at finishing school. And she's gracious to a fault, particularly when it comes to her readers. At book signings, which invariably attract hundreds of fans, she tries to personalize each autograph, even if it's just adding a stick-figure caricature of herself. (Clark will be at Library Ltd. in Clayton at 7 p.m. Friday.)

Apparently, that devotion is paying off.

For almost 20 years, the New York native has been turning out best sellers with almost clocklike regularity. A million copies of her latest novel, "Let Me Call You Sweetheart," have already been printed - and it's just been released this month. …

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