When Mary Higgins was 7, her mother asked her to stand on the landing of the family's brick-and-stucco home off Pelham Parkway in the Bronx and recite a new poem the little girl had written for gathered guests. Seventy-seven years and 44 books later, Mary Higgins Clark can still hear her mother's thunderous applause.
Clark's new suspense novel, "The Lost Years" (Simon & Schuster, $26.99), has just been published. And Clark's daughter Carol Higgins Clark, the only one of her five children to follow in her footsteps, has simultaneously published her 15th mystery, "Gypped" (Scribner, $25).
This dynamic duo, who also have written five mysteries together, will discuss and sign their novels at Book Revue in Huntington Wednesday night. We spoke to them both by phone.
Mary, in your new book, a scholar has found a priceless letter written by Jesus, and is promptly murdered. Yet the book seems to be less about the rare document than about the relationships revealed while the daughter tries to solve the murder. The scholar's widow has Alzheimer's, which plays a big role. Did you want to highlight this disease?
Yes, I did, because two of my closest friends have Alzheimer's, and I've watched their personalities change. I thought that if it works within the framework of this book, I'd like to show both the sadness and the personality change that comes until there is quiet and stillness.
Carol, your new book is your 15th Private Investigator Regan Reilly mystery. Her mother is a mystery writer, and it takes place in Los Angeles, where you've had an acting career (and where Regan reunites with a friend with whom she'd been on a game show). Do you and she share any other qualities?
I think she's certainly the character that is closest to me. She has a good sense of humor. I'd actually been on a game show, "Super Password," when I was living in L.A. and pursuing acting.
Many mothers and daughters would be at each other's throats if they collaborated on a project as intense as writing a book. How do you two do it?
Mary: We both want the same thing, and that's a good book. We're not in competition. It's always done in the spirit of cooperation.
Mary, your mother, who had to raise you and your two brothers during the Depression after your father died, was a big supporter of your writing. How did she influence you?
Every word that I wrote -- and I've been writing since I could put two words together -- I was compelled to write. Can't sing, can't sew, can't dance -- but I can tell a story. And my mother thought everything I wrote was golden. With all the years of rejection slips, I always heard her voice saying, "Mary's a wonderful writer."
Carol, you and your mother both write mysteries. How do your styles differ?
One reviewer said she goes for the jugular, and I go for the funny bone.