Patricia Highsmith was born Mary Patricia Plangman in Fort Worth, Texas. Her parents divorced 10 days after her birth on 19 January 1921, and her mother married her stepfather Stanley Highsmith in 1924 and moved to New York three years later. Their relationship was stormy, and Patricia later described her childhood as 'a little hell'. Highsmith was taught to read by her grandmother at the age of two: the beginning of her lifelong love for books. She studied English at Barnard's College in 1942, and after graduation, took a sales job at Bloomingdale's department store while freelancing as a comic book writer. In 1949, she travelled to Europe, where she eventually settled. Her first novel, Strangers on a Train, was published in 1950, and made into a film by Alfred Hitchcock the following year. Her next book, written under the pseudonym Claire Morgan, was the lesbian love story The Price of Salt (1952), inspired by an encounter with a glamorous blonde in a mink coat during her shop assistant days. In 1955 came The Talented Mr Ripley. Featuring her own favourite character, a charming, amoral psychopath who gets away with murder, the book was a hit with the public and critics alike, and was awarded the Edgar Allan Poe Scroll by the Mystery Writers of America in 1957. It was followed by Ripley Under Ground (1970), Ripley's Game (1974), The Boy Who Followed Ripley (1980), and Ripley Under Water (1991) - collectively known as the Ripliad. Among her other novels were The Cry of the Owl (1962) and A Suspension of Mercy (1965), and she also wrote several collections of short stories including Little Tales of Misogyny (1975) and Tales of Natural and Unnatural Catastrophes (1987). Patricia Highsmith died in Locarno, Switzerland, on 4 February 1995. Her final novel, Small g: a Summer Idyll, was published posthumously the same year.
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