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  ‘ after falling for an upper-class married Brit she met in London. The woman’s identity has never been revealed, but a previous biographer gave her the pseudonym Caroline Besterman and that has stuck.
By that time she had already enjoyed great success with her 1950 debut novel Strangers on a Train as it was adapted into a 1951 Hitchcock classic starring Farley Granger and Robert Walker. Having never met before, the two lead characters come up with what they believe to be the perfect murder pact: each is to slay the other’s nemesis. Highsmith had also won a prestigious Edgar Allen Poe Award for her 1955 psychological thriller The Talented Mr Ripley, even though critics wondered how such an amoral anti-hero could command unending fascination.
It was Besterman who introduced the writer to East Anglia, suggesting they swap the capital for the refined resort of Aldeburgh and enjoy the cultural delights on offer, from classical concerts to poetry readings. Highsmith was so enamoured with both her lover and the area that she decided to rent an 18th century house in King Street.
Aside from the draw of the Aldeburgh Festival, the region had been growing more and more attractive to Londoners for some time. “In 1963 the nearby Sizewell B atomic power station was still at an early stage of construction, causing property prices to fall,”explains Bradford. “Nuclear power was, despite itself, creating an affordable idyll for bohemians just a two-hour drive from the West End.”
By the following April, even though Besterman only visited at weekends, Highsmith was confident the relationship would last and put down roots inland. She bought a characterful house in Earl Soham that consisted of two 17th century farm labourers’ cottages knocked into one. It had attractive gardens and a stream at the rear.
Because of the nature of their affair, Highsmith and Besterman did not usually get involved in social events locally, but Besterman told an interviewer about a drinks party they attended in a nearby hotel. Highsmith opted to sit by herself in the hallway. A psychiatrist who was also on the premises observed her thunderous expression and told the hotelier he had only ever seen It before on mental patients. He went on to say he believed she could be dangerous, proving she did have something in common with Ripley.
Bradford comments that her eccentricity was not limited to the human world. She became obsessively fond of snails and bred a whole colony. The hobby apparently began after she witnessed two of the slimy creatures mating
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