BORN: January 19, 1921, Fort Worth, Texas DIED: February 4, 1995, Locarno, Switzerland IDENTIFICATION: American novelist and short story writer best known for a series of suspense novels that probe the nature of criminal behavior and analyze its attractions.
SIGNIFICANCE: Patricia Highsmith was one of the most accomplished and, many have argued, underappreciated thriller and suspense fiction writers of the twentieth century. She is famous for her subtle and slowly unfolding portraits of psychologically disturbed men. Her best-known novels are Strangers on a Train (immortalized by Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1951 film adaptation) and The Talented Mr. Ripley, which was the first of five Ripley novels that Highsmith wrote over a span of 35 years. The Price of Salt, a novel published originally under the pseudonym Claire Morgan, is considered a landmark for being perhaps the first novel to feature a lesbian protagonist whose story ends happily.