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Patricia Highsmith

Highsmith, Patricia, 1921–95, American novelist, b. Fort Worth, Tex., as Mary Patricia Plangman, grad. Barnard College (B.A. 1942). She first traveled to Europe in 1949 and moved there in 1963, living in Italy, France, and Switzerland. After the publication of her first novel, Strangers on a Train (1950, film by Alfred Hitchcock 1951), she was acclaimed a master of the novel of psychological menace. Dubbed a "poet of apprehension" by Graham Greene, Highsmith wrote more than 20 novels, the best known of which feature a handsome psychopath named Tom Ripley as their antihero. These include The Talented Mister Ripley (1955, films 1960 and 1999), Ripley's Game (1974), The Boy Who Followed Ripley (1980), and Ripley under Water (1991). In addition to her crime fiction, Highsmith wrote a novel of lesbian love, The Price of Salt (1952, originally pub. under the pseud. Claire Morgan), the nonfiction Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction (1966, rev. ed. 1981), and the posthumously published novel Small g (1995, repr. 2004). Her chilling tales of crime and cruelty appeared in a number of collections as well as in Selected Stories (2001) and Nothing That Meets the Eye: The Uncollected Stories of Patricia Highsmith (2002).

See The Complete Ripley Novels (2008); biographies by R. Harrison (1997), A. Wilson (2003), and J. Schenkar (2009); study by N. Mawer (2004).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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