(1921 – 1995)
Patricia Highsmith (Fort Worth, Tx, USA, January 19, 1921 – Locarno, Switzerland, February 4, 1995) was an American novelist and short story writer widely known for her psychological thrillers, including her series of five novels featuring the character Tom Ripley.
She wrote 22 novels and numerous short stories throughout her career spanning nearly five decades, and her work has led to more than two dozen film adaptations. Her writing derived influence from existentialist literature, and questioned notions of identity and popular morality. She was dubbed “the poet of apprehension” by novelist Graham Greene.
Her first novel, Strangers on a Train, has been adapted for stage and screen, the best known being the Alfred Hitchcock film released in 1951. Her 1955 novel The Talented Mr. Ripley has been adapted for film. Writing under the pseudonym Claire Morgan, Highsmith published the first lesbian novel with a happy ending, The Price of Salt, in 1952, republished 38 years later as Carol under her own name and subsequently adapted into a 2015 film.
Major Awards and Honors
Mystery Writers of America
- 1956: Edgar Allan Poe Scroll – “The Talented Mr. Ripley”
– Special award.
- 1963: Special Award – “The Terrapin”
O. Henry Awards (U.S.)
- 1946: Best First Story – “The Heroine”
– Published in Harper’s Bazaar.
Crime Writers’ Association (UK)
- 1964: Silver Dagger Award, Best Foreign Novel – “The Two Faces of January”
The Times (UK)
- 2008: Greatest Crime Writer
French Ministry of Culture
- 1989: Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Grand Prix de Littérature Policière (France)
- 1957: Best International Crime Novel – “The Talented Mr. Ripley”
Prix de l’Humour noir Xavier Forneret (France)
- 1975: “L’Amateur d’escargots” (original title: “Eleven”)
Festival du Cinéma Américain de Deauville (France)
1987: Prix littéraire Lucien Barrière
Swedish Crime Writers’ Academy
- 1979: Grand Master
Finnish Crime Society
- 1993: Best Foreign Literary Award
- The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955)
- Ripley Under Ground (1970)
- Ripley’s Game (1974)
- The Boy Who Followed Ripley (1980)
- Ripley Under Water (1991)
- Strangers on a Train (1950)
- The Price of Salt (1952)
– Originally published as by Claire Morgan; republished as Carol under Highsmith’s own name in 1990.
- The Blunderer (1954)
- Deep Water (1957)
- A Game for the Living (1958)
- This Sweet Sickness (1960)
- The Cry of the Owl (1962)
- The Two Faces of January (1964)
- The Glass Cell (1964)
- A Suspension of Mercy (1965)
A/K/A The Story-Teller
- Those Who Walk Away (1967)
- The Tremor of Forgery (1969)
- A Dog’s Ransom (1972)
- Edith’s Diary (1977)
- People Who Knock on the Door (1983)
- Found in the Street (1986)
- Small g: a Summer Idyll (1995)
Short Story Collections
- Eleven (1970)
A/K/A The Snail-Watcher and Other Stories
- Little Tales of Misogyny (1975)
- The Animal Lover’s Book of Beastly Murder (1975)
- Slowly, Slowly in the Wind (1979)
- The Black House (1981)
- Mermaids on the Golf Course (1985)
- Tales of Natural and Unnatural Catastrophes (1987)
- Chillers (1990)
– Highsmith stories broadcast on U.S. television series Chillers.
- Mystery Cats III: More Feline Felonies (1995)
– Anthology; includes Patricia Highsmith’s 1969 short story The Empty Birdhouse.
- The Selected Stories of Patricia Highsmith (2001)
- Nothing That Meets the Eye: The Uncollected Stories (2002)
– Published posthumously.
- Katzengeschichten (2005)
– German translations of Highsmith’s cat stories Something the Cat Dragged In, Ming’s Biggest Prey, and The Empty Birdhouse, three poems, and the essay On Cats and Lifestyle.
- Stories of the Sea (2010)
– Anthology; editor: Diana Secker Tesdell. Includes Patricia Highsmith’s 1979 story One for the Islands.
- Miranda the Panda Is on the Veranda (1958)
– With Doris Sanders; verse and illustrations.
- Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction (1966)
- Introduction to The World of Raymond Chandler (1977)
– Editor: Miriam Gross.
- Not-Thinking with the Dishes (1982)
– In: Whodunit? A Guide to Crime, Suspense and Spy Fiction, ed. H.R.F. Keating.
- Foreword to Crime and Mystery: The 100 Best Books by H.R.F. Keating (1987)
- Scene of the Crime (1989)
– Granta, Issue No. 29, Winter 1989.
- Patricia Highsmith: Selected Novels and Short Stories (2011)
A Selection of Quotes
As quoted in Patricia Highsmith:Alone With Ripley (Mavis Guinard, International Herald Tribune / New York Times, August 17, 1991):
“[M]y imagination functions better when I don’t have to speak with people.”
Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction
“I create things out of boredom with reality and with the sameness of routine and objects around me.”
“Writing is a way of organizing experience and life itself.”
“Writing is a craft and needs constant practice.”
Carol: The Price of Salt
“I think people often try to find through sex things that are much easier to find in other ways.”
“He resented the fact that she wasn’t and never could be what he wished her to be, a girl who loved him passionately […] A girl like herself, with her face, her ambitions, but a girl who adored him.”
The Talented Mr. Ripley
“I’m going to enjoy what I’ve got as long as it lasts.”
Ripley Under Ground
“Honestly, I don’t understand why people get so worked up about a little murder!”
“I’ve thought of a wonderful way to start a forest fire,’ Tom said musingly as they were having coffee.”
The Boy Who Followed Ripley
“You either let some event ruin your life or not. The decision is yours.”
“Vic didn’t mind at all being considered odd. In fact, he was proud of it in a country in which most people aimed at being exactly like everybody else.”
Find more quotes by Patricia Highsmith on Goodreads.
- Patricia Highsmith Papers (Swiss Literary Archives)
- Patricia Highsmith’s biography at the Kirjasto Authors’ Calendar
- Patricia Highsmith on Britannica.com
- Mavis Guinard: Patricia Highsmith: Alone With Ripley, International Herald Tribune / New York Times, August 17, 1991
- James Sallis: The darkly talented Patricia Highsmith, Los Angeles Times, October 26, 2008
- BBC: The Black House by Patricia Highsmith; interview, August 8, 1980