Writing as Patricia Highsmith, her first novel, Strangers on a Train, was published in 1950. She received an award for the book from the Mystery Writers of America and, it was subsequently adapted for film to be directed by Alfred Hitchcock and released in 1951. This story has also been adapted for stage and television.
Highsmith went on to write more than 20 novels and perhaps the most recognised are the Ripley books. She wrote a total of five with the first one, The Talented Mr Ripley, being published in 1955 and the last one, Ripley Under Water, being published in 1991. Three of the Ripley books were adapted for film but only one, the first one, was adapted for stage. The Talented Mr Ripley is a script that I still have on my bookshelf. I had a hankering to direct a production, but one of my colleagues put the play on stage instead.
Way back in 2009, all five of the Ripley books were dramatized and broadcast on BBC Radio Four. Regrettably I missed that too! However I do still have my copies of the novels and from time to time I find myself dipping into them to savour the fabulous prose. I've read all five of the Ripley books more than once and I can't see me ever parting with them, as I still want to re-read them. But then, I guess that's the magic of Highsmith's story-telling - even though I know the outcome, I'm still mesmerised by the journey through the story.
Novels were not her only contribution to the written word. She wrote numerous short stories, essays and articles. She also wrote some fiction for children along with a book about writing - Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction - which was published in 1966, revised in 1981 and is still available in paperback.
Her last novel, Small g: a Summer Idyll, was rejected by her usual American publishing house. It was published in the UK shortly after her death in 1995 and it took a further nine years before the first American edition came onto the market.
In 1982 Highsmith relocated to a small village in Switzerland. On February 4th, 1995 she died in a nearby hospital. Her literary estate was left to the Swiss National Library in Bern.