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Authors: Patricia Highsmith

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She was in front of the Imperial Fish’s blue-and-white striped awning at five past seven, and she glanced around for Willy among the people on the sidewalk, but he was probably in the restaurant, waiting for her. Isabel walked several paces in the uptown direction, then turned and strolled back, under the awning and past it. She wondered why she was hesitating. To make herself more interesting by being late? No. This evening with Willy could be just a nice evening, with dinner and conversation, and maybe coffee back at her apartment, maybe not.

What if she stood him up? She looked again at the awning and repressed a nervous laugh. He’d order a second drink, and keep glancing at the door, as she always did. He’d learn to know what it felt like. However, she had nothing whatsoever against Willy Miller. She simply realized that she didn’t want to spend the evening with him, didn’t want to make better acquaintance with him. She sensed that she could start an affair with him, which because she was older and wiser would be more important than the silly experience—She didn’t know what to call that one-night affair with the second of her loves, who hadn’t been even as important as the first, with whom she’d never been to bed. The second had been the married man.

She wanted to go back home. Or did she? Frowning, she stared at the door of the Imperial Fish. Should she go in and say, “Hello, Willy. Sorry I’m late”? Or “I’m sorry, Willy, but I don’t want to keep this date.”

I prefer my own dates,
she might add. That was the truth.

A passerby bumped her shoulder, because she was standing still in the middle of the sidewalk. She set her teeth.
I’m going home,
she told herself, like a command, and she began to walk uptown in the direction of where she lived, and because she was in rather good clothes, she treated herself to a taxi.


Born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1921, Patricia Highsmith spent much of her adult life in Switzerland and France. She was educated at Barnard College, where she studied English, Latin, and Greek. Her first novel,
Strangers on a Train
, published initially in 1950, proved to be a major commercial success and was filmed by Alfred Hitchcock. Despite this early recognition, Highsmith was unappreciated in the United States for the entire length of her career.

Writing under the pseudonym of Claire Morgan, she then published
The Price of Salt
in 1952, which had been turned down by her previous American publisher because of its frank exploration of homosexual themes. Her most popular literary creation was Tom Ripley, the dapper sociopath who first debuted in her 1955 novel,
The Talented Mr. Ripley
. She followed with four other Ripley novels. Posthumously made into a major motion picture,
The Talented Mr. Ripley
has helped bring about a renewed appreciation of Highsmith’s work in the United States as has the posthumous publication of
The Selected Stories
, which received widespread acclaim when it was published by W. W. Norton & Co. in 2001.

The author of more than twenty books, Highsmith has won the O. Henry Memorial Award, the Edgar Allan Poe Award, Le Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, and the Award of the Crime Writers’ Association of Great Britain. She died in Switzerland on February 4, 1995, and her literary archives are maintained in Berne.


“[Highsmith] is no more a practitioner of the murder mystery genre . . . than are Dostoevsky, Faulkner and Camus.”

—Joan Smith,
Los Angeles Times

“Highsmith writes the verbal equivalent of a drug—easy to consume, darkly euphoric, totally addictive. . . . Highsmith belongs in the moody company of Dostoevsky or Angela Carter”

Time Out

“Highsmith’s writing is wicked . . . it puts a spell on you, after which you feel altered, even tainted. . . . A great American writer is back to stay.”

Entertainment Weekly

“No one has created psychological suspense more densely and deliciously satisfying”


“Highsmith’s gift as a suspense novelist is to show how this secret desire can bridge the normal and abnormal. . . . She seduces us with whisky-smooth surfaces only to lead us blindly into darker terrain.”

Commercial Appeal

“Patricia Highsmith’s novels are peerlessly disturbing . . . bad dreams that keep us thrashing for the rest of the night.”

The New Yorker

“Though Highsmith would no doubt disclaim any kinship with Jonathan Swift or Evelyn Waugh, the best of [her work] is in the same tradition. . . . It is Highsmith’s dark and sometimes savage humor and the intelligence that informs her precise and hard-edged prose which puts one in mind of those authors.”


“Murder, in Patricia Highsmith’s hands, is made to occur almost as casually as the bumping of a fender or a bout of food poisoning. This downplaying of the dramatic . . . has been much praised, as has the ordinariness of the details with which she depicts the daily lives and mental processes of her psychopaths. Both undoubtedly contribute to the domestication of crime in her fiction, thereby implicating the reader further in the sordid fantasy that is being worked out.”

—Robert Towers,
New York Review of Books

“For eliciting the menace that lurks in familiar surroundings, there’s no one like Patricia Highsmith.”


“The feeling of menace behind most Highsmith novels, the sense that ideas and attitudes alien to the reasonable everyday ordering of society are suggested, has made many readers uneasy. One closes most of her books with a feeling that the world is more dangerous than one had ever imagined.”

—Julian Symons,
New York Times Book Review

“Patricia Highsmith is often called a mystery or crime writer, which is a bit like calling Picasso a draftsman.”

Cleveland Plain Dealer

“An atmosphere of nameless dread, of unspeakable foreboding, permeates every page of Patricia Highsmith, and there’s nothing quite like it.”

Boston Globe

“To call Patricia Highsmith a thriller writer is true but not the whole truth: her books have stylistic texture, psychological depth, mesmeric readability.”

Sunday Times

“Highsmith is an exquisitely sardonic etcher of the casually treacherous personality.”


Copyright © 1970, 1979, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985 by Patricia Highsmith

First published as a Norton paperback 2003

This collection first published in Great Britain by
William Heinemann Ltd 1985

First published in the United States of America by

Penzler Books 1988 (Warner Books, Inc.)

All rights reserved

For information about permission to reproduce selections from

this book,write to Permissions, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.,

500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110

Production Manager: Amanda Morrison

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Highsmith, Patricia, 1921–

Mermaids on the golf course / Patricia Highsmith.

p. cm.

ISBN 0-393-32456-7 (pbk.)

1. Psychological fiction, American. I. Title.

PS3558.I366M4 2003



eISBN: 978-0-393-34565-0

W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

500 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10110

W. W. Norton & Company Ltd.

Castle House, 75/76 Wells Street, London W1T 3QT

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BOOK: Mermaids on the Golf Course
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