“A mean, cruel, hard, unlovable, unloving human being … relentlessly ugly. … But her books? Brilliant.” So said Patricia Highsmith’s publisher. And PD James remarked that without the catharsis of fiction she wondered whether Highsmith might have become one of the murderers she wrote so lovingly about. A new biography relating the chaos and degradation of her life and a collection of her short stories to mark her centenary don’t paint a pretty picture.
She was born on 19 January 1921 at 3.45 am Forth Worth, Texas, into a marriage which split before she arrived, with a hostile mother, who had tried to abort her and told her. Not surprisingly she suffered depression throughout her life and became alcoholic. Her novel ‘Strangers on a Train’ about two men who ‘exchange’ murders to be rid of inconvenient wives, published when she was 30, became a success, more so with the subsequent Hitchcock film; and she followed it with the best-selling Mr Ripley series about a charming and amoral criminal who murders a rich man and steals his identity.
She was a frenetic lesbian, having sex ten times a day at times often with women she picked up in bars, or with married women and then deliberately creating havoc in their relationships, leaving a trail of destruction behind. She hated black people, Jews, Latinos, Koreans, Indians, Catholics, evangelicals and Mexicans and women.
A former lover said she was “an extremely unbalanced person, extremely hostile and misanthropic”, and that “if she hadn’t had her work, she would have been sent to an insane asylum”. Her short stories according to a review “over and over —— we find people driven to murder, suicide or insanity, or all three.“ All commentators on her life remark how hard going it is to stay with the material since it is so bleak and soused in dark cynicism.
She was a Sun Capricorn in the financial 2nd in an Earth Grand Trine to a Taurus Moon trine Saturn Jupiter in Virgo. And she also had a Water Grand Trine of an 8th house Pluto trine Uranus Mars Venus in Pisces trine a Scorpio North Node.
Earth Grand Trines can be drawn to the physical side of life, at times to the extent of becoming gross, weighed down by carnality or acquisitiveness – especially with a Taurus Moon. The Water Grand Trine can be creative though also detached from reality. Her passionately enthusiastic Venus Mars conjunction is echoed in Jeffrey Epstein’s chart and many of his associates. In her case it was ramped up even more by a deviant Uranus and a deeply buried controlling Pluto. Pluto trine Venus is compulsively seductive; Pluto trine Mars can be ruthless.
And yet despite the horrors of her personality and the wreckage of her life she was clearly talented. Her creative 5th Harmonic is confident and successful; her creative though not always well-balanced 7th harmonic is notably aspected with a brutal collection of Pluto, Saturn, Mars. Her breakthrough-genius 13H and self-destructive 16H are marked; as is her ‘serial killer’ 18H. PD James was right. Without her typewriter she could well have been out there destroying the objects of her dislike.