DANBURY -- Beloved mystery author Mary Higgins Clark, called "the Queen of Suspense," took to a lectern in Matrix Conference Center here Wednesday to great applause and regaled a rapt audience of about 400 with tales from her life as a writer.
"I received my first fan letter after `Where Are the Children?' was published," she said.
"It was from a 13-year-old boy who wrote, `Dear Mrs. Clark, I read the first half of your book. You are a wonderful writer. Someday I hope to read the second half.'"
Laughter filled the room, and Clark went on to explain that she learned not to take herself too seriously. Her fans, however, do.
"Where Are the Children?" released in 1975, was the second of more than 40 books she has written in 43 years. She sold it for $3,000, but the paperback rights earned her $100,000. Later it became a movie. Her next book sold for $1.5 million, sources said.
As for her writing career, she told her Danbury audience, "I didn't decide. I've been writing since I was a 6-year-old.
"I fully believe in the legendary godmothers who give gifts at the cradle," she continued.
"The godmother who bestows the voice of an angel must've been out of town when I was born. In school I was told, `Just learn the words and move your mouth. Don't sing, Mary!' "
Clark said she wasn't known for her great dancing, cooking or sewing skills either, but the gift she did get has served her well.
" `You will be an Irish storyteller,' and that's what I am," she said.
After speaking a bit about her current novel, "The Lost Years," Clark revealed the title of next year's book: "Daddy's Gone Hunting."
Earlier, awaiting the arrival of the queen of suspense at the Matrix Conference Center was a bit suspenseful in itself.
Gathered in a private conference room for the VIP meet-and-greet prior to the main event were several people who had played a key role in bringing Mary Higgins Clark to the city, and keeping to the schedule was on the mind of at least a few.
Patricia Murphy, president of the Women of St. Gregory, said when she met Mary Higgins Clark at a bookstore in Falmouth, Mass., three years ago, it planted the seed of an idea in her mind.
"I have a not-so-secret agenda," Murphy said. "I want to build a community and then get a community center."
She said Clark was donating the proceeds from the luncheon to the Women of St. Gregory, and a portion would go to Newspapers In Education, a nonprofit endeavor of Hearst Media Services that supports literacy by bringing newspapers into the classroom.
And then, an elegant, petite figure wearing a tweed jacket of springtime colors and black slacks, her red hair swept up in a twist and carrying an unusual cane of clear twisted glass, was spotted making her way toward the conference room.
She was accompanied by Carol Kovacs of Danbury, who introduced Clark to several people standing near the door.
Richard Kovacs, Carol's husband, said he has known Clark for years, from meeting her at functions for the Archdiocese of New York, where he worked with Cardinal Edward Egan.
But first, downstairs at the Matrix Conference Center, a room of full of Clark fans waited.
After lunch was served, Deacon Richard Kovacs introduced Clark, earning cheers from those with connections to the Bronx when he mentioned the author was born there.
After entertaining the group, Clark patiently signed books for a long line of fans.
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