Monday, October 1, 2018

Catharine Riggs

Catharine Riggs is a former banker, educator and nonprofit executive. What She Gave Away, her first work of psychological suspense, features an outsider with a dark past and a bitter grudge who moves to a wealthy beachside community only to find herself enmeshed in the secrets of her boss and his hapless wife.

Recently I asked Riggs about what she was reading. Her reply:
I tend not to read my contemporaries while I’m in in the midst of writing and/or editing a novel and I’m doing both at the moment. I steer away as I’m concerned the author’s voice might bleed into my head. I write voice before plot so I must be careful to keep the demarcation clear. For whatever reason, I don’t have that concern with the classics. If they can improve my writing, game on. Right now, I’m rereading Eleven, a collection of Patricia Highsmith’s short stories written between 1945 and 1970 and first published as a collection in 1980. She is a master of the craft. Who else can write a story about death by snails that leaves you trembling on the edge of your seat?

Even the introduction catches my attention, written by another grandmaster, Graham Greene. He doesn’t categorize her writing as ‘women’s fiction’ or ‘domestic thriller’ or author of ‘psychological suspense.’ He calls her a ‘crime writer’ like her male counterparts except she’s hands down better than most. She creates everyday worlds fraught with claustrophobia and tension where even the reader feels doomed. The tension is heightened as there is no reliance on the genre’s typical character arc. In Highsmith’s world, the bad guy may get away with the crime; the good guy may blunder into a ditch. As Graham Greene so aptly said, “Miss Highsmith is the poet of apprehension rather than fear. Fear…is narcotic, it can lull by fatigue into sleep, but apprehension nags at the nerves gently and inescapably.” My favorite story in the collection is “The Terrapin” a cruel family drama where I know where their train is heading and would do anything to make it stop. Next up on my reading list is Highsmith’s classic novel, The Tremor of Forgery. I might spend the rest of the year reading Patricia Highsmith. I have no problem with that.
Visit Catharine Riggs's website.

My Book, The Movie: What She Gave Away.

The Page 69 Test: What She Gave Away.

--Marshal Zeringue