Patricia Highsmith is lauded as the author of the unparalleled psychological thrillers “Strangers on a Train” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” “The Price of Salt,” her classic story of erotic obsession, has made Highsmith an icon of lesbian fiction in the six decades since its publication. But the woman behind the works was a self-destructive and malicious alcoholic.
In an interview after Patricia Highsmith’s death in 1995, her onetime publisher Otto Penzler said, “Highsmith was a mean, cruel, hard, unlovable, unloving human being … I could never penetrate how any human being could be that relentlessly ugly … But her books? Brilliant.”
In his groundbreaking new biography, “Devils, Lusts and Strange Desires: The Life of Patricia Highsmith,” Richard Bradford outlines the contradiction that was Patricia Highsmith “the woman” and Patricia Highsmith “the author,” delving into her exploitive relationships with women, her vocal anti-Semitism, and her complicated relationship to her own sexuality. In the process he unravels a complicated personal life that informed some of the darkest and most innovative fiction of the twentieth century.