Mr Higgins was stung as fellow academics mocked his thrillers. So he wrote a “serious” novel, “A Phoenix in the Blood,” about racial prejudice in Britain.
When the book was published by Britain’s Barrie & Rockliff in 1964, it received “terrifyingly good reviews” from scholars who despised his later work, Mr Higgins recalled. But it only sold 1,600 copies.
Not content with being respected by the teachers but ignored by the Everyman, he went back to writing thrillers, usually working with pen and tablet. After the spectacular success of ‘The Eagle Has Landed’, Mr Higgins became a resident of Jersey, which is a British island but not part of the UK, to escape high income taxes in Britain.
His first marriage ended in 1984 and he blamed the breakup, at least in part, on his fame. “Once you’ve embarked on the journey of success, the others have no choice. Everything changes, and they get sucked in – the wife, the kids,” he said in the 1987 interview. with UPI “Suddenly you are not the same person.
Survivors include his second wife, Denise; and a son, Sean, and three daughters, Sarah, Ruth and Hannah, from his first marriage.
Mr. Higgins has sometimes noted wryly that while his opinions on literary matters were often sought when he was a teacher, they were less in demand after he became a wealthy writer. But he had a sense of his own worth.
“I don’t claim to be Charles Dickens or anything,” he said in the 2000 interview with the Belfast newspaper. “But whatever I do, whatever makes up a ‘Jack Higgins’ book, it’s not like what other people do.”
David Stout, journalist and editor of The New York Times for 28 years, died in 2020. Jack Kadden contributed reporting.