The “Queen of Suspense,” Mary Higgins Clark, dives into new territory in The Lost Years (Simon & Schuster) with an ancient parchment which might have been written by Jesus Christ. If authenticated it would be a priceless religious relic-- and the perfect conduit for foul play. “I love history,” Clark tells Show Daily. “A number of my books have combined the past and the present when appropriate.”

Clark credits her longtime editor, Michael Korda, with the idea for The Lost Years, though he is quick to emphasize he is not her Svengali. He tells Show Daily, “All Mary’s novels start with a premise that is believable, intriguing, and chilling. It’s her trademark. It’s a privilege and a pleasure to have occasionally suggested the right one and to see where she takes it, often to places that I wouldn’t ever have dreamed of.”

Korda says he reads the New York Times each morning with Clark in mind to search for a MacGuffin, a term coined by another master of suspense, director Alfred Hitchcock. Korda published François Truffaut’s now classic Hitchcock and describes a MacGuffin as “the generating premise, idea, plot hook, or a device that serves as the starting point for a story.” He adds that the moment he saw a story about an archeological find near what may have been the tomb of Jesus Christ, he thought, “What if?”

After writing more than 40 books, Clark says she remains very disciplined about her daily writing regimen, but no longer gets up at 5 a.m. “I now start at 8 a.m. and write four hours a day. I have a contract to turn in a book every December.” She adds that she never turns in a book she feels is rushed, but knows she sells “a great deal of books at Mother’s Day” and maintains a healthy respect for deadlines.

Though Clark is a frequent visitor to BEA, she is nostalgic for the days before downsizing. A self-proclaimed party person who admits “I will climb out of my coffin to go to the wake,” she misses the lavish parties of yesteryear. “They were great. My publisher once took over the Los Angeles railroad station for a party. Those days are over.”

Clark will be signing copies of The Lost Years today, 10:30–11:30 a.m., at Table 15 in the autographing area. Her daughter, Carol Higgins Clark, will be with her and signing copies of her own new book from Scribner, Gypped.