|Patricia Mary Highsmith was born in 1921 in Fort Worth, Texas, and was raised by her single mother, a commercial artist. Highsmith's childhood years were grim, as indicated by her mother's confession that she had once tried to abort her pregnancy by drinking turpentine, adding, "It's funny, you adore the smell of turpentine, Pat." Though Highsmith's young life was not filled with flowers and sunshine, it was certainly filled with the stuff of great fiction. Taught to read at the age of two by her grandmother, Highsmith discovered Karl Menninger's THE HUMAN MIND at age eight and was immediately fascinated by his case studies of patients afflicted with various mental disorders like pyromania and schizophrenia. Such afflictions would later creep into the plots not only of the "weirdo" stories Highsmith wrote for her school magazine as a teenager but in her many novels. In 1942, Highsmith graduated from Barnard College, where she studied English composition, playwriting, and the short story. At the suggestion of Truman Capote, she rewrote her first novel, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, at the Yaddo writer's colony in Saratoga Springs, New York. When it was published in 1950, it proved modestly successful, but it was due to famed director Alfred Hitchcock and his 1951 film adaptation of STRANGERS that Highsmith's career and reputation catapulted. Soon she became known as a writer of ironic, disturbing psychological mysteries highlighted by stark, startling prose. Other filmmakers--primarily European--followed suit as several Highsmith novels, including THE BLUNDERER (1954), THIS SWEET SICKNESS (1960), THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY (1955), and RIPLEY'S GAME (1974) were adapted for the silver screen. Though her writing--approximately 33 works in all--shone brightly in the public spotlight, Highsmith preferred that her personal life remain a mystery. It is said that she was stimulated by art and animals--not writers. She was painfully shy. "My imagination functions better when I don't have to speak to people," she once said to an interviewer. She remained single throughout her lifetime, though she did privilege readers with a glimpse of her sexuality in her 1952 novel THE PRICE OF SALT, which was written under the pseudonym "Claire Morgan" and depicts a love affair between two women. Highsmith also held a longtime disdain for American society and in 1963 moved to Europe, where she spent the rest of her life. Highsmith died in 1995 in Locarno, Switzerland. In gratitude to the place that helped inspire her writing career, she left her estate, worth an estimated $3 million, to the Yaddo writer's colony.