Patricia Highsmith

From Academic Kids

Patricia Highsmith (January 19, 1921 - February 4, 1995) was an American novelist who is known mainly for her psychological crime thrillers. She acquired world renown for Strangers on a Train, which has been adapted to the screen a number of times, most famously by Alfred Hitchcock in 1951.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Highsmith spent most of her life living in France and Switzerland, and was long widely appreciated in Europe while suffering relative obscurity in the United States. She had an unhappy childhood; not only did her mother drink turpentine while pregnant in order to abort her, but she also repeatedly told her so while she was growing up. A few days before her birth Highsmith's parents divorced and she grew up hating her stepfather. When she was younger she used imagine her neighbours to have psychological problems and murderous personalities behind their facades of normality, a theme she would explore extensively in her novels.

A bisexual, Highsmith included homosexual overtones in many of her novels. The best example is The Price of Salt—rejected by her publishers—which concerned an obsessive lesbian relationship. It was eventually published under the pseudonym Claire Morgan in 1953 and sold almost a million copies. The inspiration of the book's main character, Carol, was a woman who Highsmith saw in Bloomingdales where she worked at the time. She found out her address from her credit card details and a few months later began to stalk her.

The protagonists in Highsmith's novels defy the accepted model in detective fiction of the tough-talking but honest hero, featured in the works of authors such as Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler; the heroes in many of her novels are either morally compromised by circumstance or actively flouting the law. Many of her antiheros commit murder coldbloodedly, in fits of passion, or simply to extricate themselves from a bad situation. They are seldom brought to justice, a concept that does not seem to exist in her writing.

Her recurring character Tom Ripley, a morally and sexually ambiguous thief and occasional murderer, was first introduced in 1955's The Talented Mr. Ripley. It was filmed by René Clément in 1960 as Plein Soleil (Purple Noon), starring Alain Delon. It was also adapted under its original title as a 1999 film by Anthony Minghella, starring Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law and Cate Blanchett. A later Ripley novel, Ripley's Game, inspired Wim Wenders' 1977 film The American Friend and was filmed again in 2002 under its original title, starring John Malkovich and directed by Liliana Cavani. Ripley was featured in a total of five novels, known to fans as the Ripliad, written between 1955 and 1991.

Highsmith died of leukemia in Locarno, Switzerland, in 1995. Her last novel "Small g: A summer idyll", was published posthumously a month later.

Selected bibliography

External link

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