Patricia Highsmith was born in 1921 in Texas though spent much of her life living in New York. She was a complicated character who seemed to have suffered greatly because of a toxic relationship with her mother. Patricia was abandoned to her Grandmothers care at a young age and her mother often told her that she had attempted to abort her during her pregnancy. Her parents divorced days after she was born. It seems as she got older she got more difficult and more dislikable. But the quality of her fiction was never doubted. In the last few years her novel The Price of Salt has been made into the film Carol, about a lesbian relationship between two women who meet in a department store. Highsmith published the book under a nom du plume initially and spent much of her early life trying to be “cured” of her own homosexuality. At one stage she became engaged to a man but could not continue. She preferred the company of men but did not find them attractive.
The Price of Salt was the only novel Highsmith wrote in this genre. Her main body of work consists of psychological thrillers and crime novels. And there are some stand out titles.
Her first novel was Strangers on a Train which was made into a film by Alfred Hitchcock. Strangers on a Train follows the story of two men who meet by chance on a train journey where they agree to murder for each other, an unfaithful wife and a father. The unfaithful wife is quickly killed and the murderer continues to demand that the other end of the bargain is fulfilled. Eventually the father is killed too but the guilt is horrendous. The novel follows the different reactions of the killers and the effects that the actions have on their lives.
More murder in The Two Faces of January with a policeman accidently killed and an agreement between three people to hide the body. A rapid departure from the city and the murder of one of the three does not put an end to the deaths or the desperate attempts to evade justice.
But I think Highsmith is most well known for Tom Ripley, The Talented Mr Ripley don’t you? There are four novels in the series with the protagonist, Tom Ripley, a serial killer and conman, being a much respected character in literature. He is considered a charming and agreeable character despite his penchant for murder.
Patricia Highsmith sounds like she was a complicated woman who struggled with many demons through her life including dreadful bouts of depression. But she wrote through them and produced some fine books.
And she is H on my A-Z of Crime Fiction!