Cornwell, Patricia 1956–

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Cornwell, Patricia 1956–

(Patricia Daniels Cornwell)

PERSONAL: Born June 9, 1956, in Miami, FL; daughter of Sam (an attorney) and Marilyn (a secretary; maiden name, Zenner) Daniels; married Charles Corn-well (a college professor), June 14, 1980 (divorced, 1990). Education: Davidson College, North Carolina, B.A., 1979. Religion: Presbyterian. Hobbies and other interests: Tennis.

ADDRESSES: Home—Greenwich, CT. Office—Cornwell Enterprises, P.O. Box 35686, Richmond, VA 23235. Agent—International Creative Management, 40 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019.

CAREER: Novelist. Charlotte Observer, Charlotte, NC, police reporter, 1979–81; Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Richmond, VA, computer analyst and technical writer, 1985–91. President of Bell Vision Productions (film production company); worked as a volunteer police officer.

MEMBER: International Crime Writers Association, International Association of Chiefs of Police, International Association of Identification, National Association of Medical Examiners, Authors Guild, Authors League, Mystery Writers of America, Virginia Writers Club.

AWARDS, HONORS: Investigative reporting award, North Carolina Press Association, 1980, for a series on prostitution; Gold Medallion Book Award for biography, Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, 1985, for A Time for Remembering: The Story of Ruth Bell Graham; John Creasey Award, British Crime Writers Association, Edgar Award, Mystery Writers of America, Anthony Award, Boucheron/World Mystery Convention, and Macavity Award, Mystery Readers International, all for best first crime novel, all 1990, and French Prix du Roman d'Aventure, 1991, all for Postmortem; Gold Dagger award, for Cruel and Unusual, 1993.



Postmortem, Scribner (New York, NY), 1990.

Body of Evidence, Scribner (New York, NY), 1991.

All That Remains, Scribner (New York, NY), 1992.

Cruel and Unusual, Scribner (New York, NY), 1993.

The Body Farm, Scribner (New York, NY), 1994.

From Potter's Field, Scribner (New York, NY), 1995.

Cause of Death, Putnam (New York, NY), 1996.

Hornet's Nest, Putnam (New York, NY), 1997.

Unnatural Exposure, Putnam (New York, NY), 1997.

Three Complete Novels: Postmortem, Body of Evidence, All That Remains, Smithmark Publishers (New York, NY), 1997.

Point of Origin, Putnam (New York, NY), 1998.

Southern Cross, Putnam (New York, NY), 1998.

Black Notice, Putnam (New York, NY), 1999.

The Last Precinct Putnam (New York, NY), 2000.

Isle of Dogs, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2001.

Blow Fly, Putnam (New York, NY), 2003.

Trace, Putnam (New York, NY), 2004.

Predator, Putnam (New York, NY), 2005.

At Risk, Putnam (New York, NY), 2006.


A Time for Remembering: The Story of Ruth Bell Graham (biography), Harper & Row (San Francisco, CA), 1983.

Scarpetta's Winter Table, Wyrick (Charleston, SC), 1998.

Life's Little Fable (children's book), illustrated by Barbara Leonard Gibson, Putnam (New York, NY), 1999.

(With Marlene Brown) Food to Die For: Secrets from Kay Scarpetta's Kitchen, Putnam (New York, NY), 2001.

Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper—Case Closed, Putnam (New York, NY), 2002.

ADAPTATIONS: Brilliance Corp. released a sound recording of Body of Evidence in 1992; sound recordings are also available for Postmortem, All That Remains, Cruel and Unusual, The Body Farm, and From Potter's Field; negotiations are in progress for the film rights to From Potter's Field; Columbia Pictures is planning a film treatment of Cruel and Unusual and Unnatural Exposure.

SIDELIGHTS: Since 1990 Patricia Cornwell's novels have followed Dr. Kay Scarpetta, a medical examiner called upon to solve murders with forensic sleuthing. The "Scarpetta" novels are praised for their accurate detail based upon research Cornwell did in the Virginia medical examiner's office, witnessing scores of autopsies. In addition to this, Cornwell also went out on police homicide runs. "I'm not sure I could have read my last book if I hadn't written it," Cornwell told Sandra McElwaine in Harper's Bazaar. "The violence is so real, I think it would have scared me to death."

Cornwell began her book-writing career in 1983 with a biography of Ruth Graham, wife of evangelist Billy Graham. It was Graham who encouraged her to pursue writing. "I felt she had real ability," Graham told Joe Treen in People. "I've kept every note I ever got from her." With Graham's encouragement, Cornwell went back to school at Davidson College in North Carolina, majoring in English. Right after graduation she married Charles Cornwell, one of her former professors, and began working as a crime reporter for the Charlotte Observer.

"I had a compulsion to get close to every story. I really wanted to solve crimes," Cornwell told McElwaine. In 1980, Cornwell received an investigative reporting award from the North Carolina Press Association for a series she did on prostitution. Unfortunately, just when she felt her career was getting underway, her husband decided that he wanted to become a minister, and the couple moved to Richmond, Virginia, where he attended Union Theological Seminary. "I did not want to give up the Observer," she told Treen. "It was a very bad time for me."

Cornwell began working on a biography of her good friend Graham, which kept her busy for a few years until it was published in 1983. She had always pictured herself as a novelist, so she decided to try writing crime novels with the information she had gathered as a reporter. She realized that she would need to do more in-depth research to make her murder plots seem more believable. A friend recommended that she might try talking to the deputy medical examiner at the Virginia Morgue. Cornwell took the advice.

At her first appointment with Dr. Marcella Fierro, Corn-well was introduced to a whole world of high-tech forensic procedures that she knew nothing about. "I was shocked by two things," Cornwell told Joanne Tangorra in Publishers Weekly. "One, by how fascinating it was, and two, by how absolutely little I knew about it. I realized I had no idea what a medical examiner would do—Did they put on gloves, wear lab coats and surgical greens? They do none of the above." After a short time, Cornwell began doing technical writing for the medical examiner's office.

Cornwell soon became a regular visitor at the forensic center and also took on technical writing projects for the morgue to absorb more of the forensic knowledge she craved. Working at the morgue led Cornwell to write her first novel, Postmortem, featuring the fictional investigative forensic pathologist, Dr. Kay Scarpetta.

Postmortem focuses on the rape and murder of several Richmond women by a serial killer. The book charts the work of Scarpetta, the chief medical examiner of Virginia, as she attempts to uncover the killer's identity. Frequently faced with sexism regarding her ability to handle a "man's job," Scarpetta aptly displays her knowledge of the innovative technologies of today's forensic medicine to crack the case. "Dr. Scarpetta has a terrible time with the chauvinists around her, one of whom in particular is malevolently eager for her to fail," wrote Charles Champlin in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. "These passages have the ring of truth as experienced, and so does the portrait of an investigative reporter who abets the solving."

Postmortem "won just about every mystery fiction award," declared New York Times Book Review contributor Bill Kent. "The follow-up novel, Body of Evidence, proved that Ms. Cornwell's success wasn't mere beginner's luck." Body of Evidence centers on Beryl Madison, a young woman who is writing a controversial book for which she has received death threats. Shortly after she reports these events she is murdered—apparently after allowing the killer to enter her home. Scarpetta must once again use tiny bits of evidence to track down the murderer.

In Cruel and Unusual, Cornwell introduces Temple Gault, a serial killer with intelligence to match Scarpet-ta's. Gault, who specializes in the murder of children, only narrowly escapes being captured by Scarpetta herself. "With his pale blue eyes and his ability to anticipate the best minds of law enforcement," wrote Elise O'Shaughnessy in the New York Times Book Review, "Gault is a 'malignant genius' in the tradition of Hannibal Lecter," the cannibalistic character in Thomas Har-ris's The Silence of the Lambs. "Like Lecter's bond with Clarice Starling," O'Shaughnessy concluded, "Gault's relationship with Scarpetta is personal."

Gault appears again in the 1995 novel From Potter's Field, when he murders a young girl on Christmas Eve in Central Park. Scarpetta is called in to investigate the murder and ends up in a face- to-face confrontation with Gault. Critics again noted the research involved in the novel, as Mary B. W. Tabor commented in the New York Times: "There is something especially savory about novels set in real places, with real street names, real shops, real sights and smells that ring true for those who know the territory." Booklist reviewer Emily Melton compared reading From Potter's Field to "riding one of those amusement-park roller coasters … [that leave] the rider gasping and breathless." Melton lauded Cornwell's "magnificent plotting, masterful writing, and marvelous suspense," rating her among the top crime fiction writers.

Cornwell continued the Scarpetta series with Cause of Death, Unnatural Exposure, and Point of Origin. In the 1999 novel Black Notice, Scarpetta falls into an international mystery involving "the Werewolf," a killer named Jean-Baptiste Chandonne. Library Journal reviewer Leslie Madden observed, "This novel focuses on the features that made Cornwell's earliest novels so interesting—the slow unraveling of a mystery using Scarpetta's skill and intelligence." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly declared, "The forensic sequences boom with authority; the brief action sequences explode on the page." Cornwell continues the Black Notice storyline in The Last Precinct and Blow Fly. "Cornwell writes, as usual, with unwavering intensity in this grisly, fast-paced thriller. The effect: utterly chilling," concluded Entertainment Weekly reviewer, Jennifer Reese about Blow Fly.

In a column for Mystery Scene magazine, Cornwell shed some light on the nature of her heroine, Dr. Scarpetta. "Violence is filtered through her intellectual sophistication and inbred civility, meaning that the senseless cruelty of what she sees is all the more horrific," the author explained. She added that Dr. Scarpetta "approaches the cases with the sensitivity of a physician, the rational thinking of a scientist, and the outrage of a humane woman who values, above all else, the sanctity of life. Through Dr. Scarpetta's character I began to struggle with an irony that had eluded me before: the more expert one gets in dismantling death, the less he understands it."

Cornwell has written several other novels in addition to the Scarpetta series. Hornet's Nest, Southern Cross, and Isle of Dogs feature Judy Hammer and Andy Brazil as Virginia police officers. These books do not have the technical forensic writing of Cornwell's Scarpetta novels. In addition to her novels, Cornwell has coauthored a book of recipes titled Food to Die For: Secrets from Kay Scarpetta's Kitchen, and a similar novella called Scarpetta's Winter Table, which breaks down the ingredients for some of Scarptetta's favorite dishes, but lacks detailed recipes. She also wrote a children's book called Life's Little Fable, about a boy named Jarrod who lives in a land filled with sunlight, but whose curious nature leads him to explore a mysterious pond.

In 2002 Cornwell released the nonfiction book Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper—Case Closed. The book is based on the infamous killer known as Jack the Ripper, who murdered prostitutes and terrorized London in the late 1880s. The book discusses Cornwell's forensic research and findings. Cornwell paints vivid pictures of Victorian London, specifically the crime scenes left behind by Jack the Ripper. In the book, Cornwell fingers artist Walter Sickert as the notorious killer. Though Cornwell has been criticized for basing her conclusion largely on circumstantial evidence, a Publishers Weekly reviewer described the book as "compassionate, intense, superbly argued, fluidly written and impossible to put down."

In Trace, the thirteenth Kay Scarpetta novel, Cornwell weaves a story about a human-ashes-obsessed psychopath named Edgar Allan Pogue, a dead teenager, and Scarpetta's angsty past. Called back to Virginia from Florida, where she has been working with her niece Lucy, Scarpetta is puzzled by the unexplained correlation between the deaths of the teenager and construction worker at a demolition site. She's less than pleased to deal with Dr. Marcus, who usurped her position as the state's medical examiner and ran her out of town five years ago. Numerous subplots weave danger and deceit from all directions as Scarpetta and sidekick Pete Marino try to sidestep the mayhem during their investigation. Critics agreed that the book would please Corn-well's fans. Though Leslie Madden of Library Journal said the book "[Lacks] the intensity of Cornwell's earlier works," Sean Daly of People Weekly called the climax "slick [and] unsettling" and complimented Corn-well on her ability to "generate willies with subtle poetic turns." A writer for Kirkus Reviews said the author "hits all her high notes," and Marilyn Stasio of the New York Times Book Review proclaimed Trace a welcome return to the series' former glory. Scarpetta's "recovery of her sharp tongue and imperious manner, as much as the state-of-the-art facilities of her beloved lab, fires her up to perform some of her best and most professionally re-warding work in years," Stasio wrote. "Although Cornwell's over- the-top series will probably never return to its realistic beginnings," she concluded, "it's a relief to find Scarpetta back in the lab where she belongs, up to her elbows in guts and gore."

In Predator, another Kay Scarpetta novel, Scarpetta takes the case of a psychopath who captures and tortures his victims in a house. Margaret Cannon, writing for the Globe & Mail, pointed out the novel's "solid plotline" but also commented that "this isn't [Corn-well's] worst novel … but it's far from her best." Stasio noted that "the contrived plot … plays out in too fragmented a form to sustain much suspense." However, she complimented Cornwell's ability to bring the killers "to full, frightening life."



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Beahm, George W., The Unofficial Patricia Cornwell Companion, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2002.

Contemporary Southern Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

Mystery and Suspense Writers: The Literature of Crime, Detection, and Espionage, Scribner (New York, NY), 1998.

Newsmakers, Issue 1, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2003.


Armchair Detective, winter, 1991, p. 32.

Book, September, 1999, review of Black Notice, p. 70.

Booklist, May 1, 1995; December 15, 1999, Karen Harris, audio book review of Southern Cross, p. 798; May 1, 2000, Karen Harris, audio book review of Black Notice, p. 1626; September 1, 2000, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Last Precinct, p. 6; October 15, 2001, Mark Knoblauch, review of Food to Die For: Secrets from Kay Scarpetta's Kitchen, p. 370; April 15, 2002, audio book review of Isle of Dogs, p. 1423; December 1, 2002, Brad Hooper, review of Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper—Case Closed, p. 626.

Books, autumn, 1999, review of Black Notice, p. 18; Christmas 2001, review of Isle of Dogs, p. 18.

Bookseller, November 8, 2002, "Retailers Tied by Cornwell Embargo," p. 7.

Book World, October 17, 1999, review of Black Notice, p. 13.

Children's Book Review Service, August, 1999, review of Life's Little Fable, p. 157.

Children's Bookwatch, August, 1999, review of Life's Little Fable, p. 3.

Detroit Free Press, October 14, 2001, review of Isle of Dogs, p. 4E; April 14, 2002, review of From Potter's Field, p. 5E.

Economist (U.K.), June 19, 1999, review of Black Notice, p. S4.

Entertainment Weekly, June 26, 1992, p. 73; January 25, 2002, Matthew Flamm, "Between the Lines: The Inside Scoop on the Book World," p. 97; October 17, 2003, Jennifer Reese, review of Blow Fly, p. 86.

Europe Intelligence Wire, November 11, 2002, "Patricia Cornwell Fingers Painter As Jack the Ripper."

Globe & Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), February 13, 1999, review of Southern Cross, p. D13; August 28, 1999, review of Black Notice, p. D17; October 20, 2001, review of Isle of Dogs, p. D22; November 24, 2001, audio book review of Isle of Dogs, p. D27; November 26, 2005, Margaret Cannon, "Have a Killer Christmas: Gifts. Family. Murder. Margaret Cannon Offers a Cozy Mix of Holiday Mayhem," p. D34.

Guardian, December 8, 2001, Fiachra Gibbons, "Does This Painting by Walter Sickert Reveal the Identity of Jack the Ripper?," p. 3; December 8, 2001, Mark Lawson, "A Novelist at the Scene of the Crime," p. 20.

Harper's Bazaar, August, 1992, pp. 46, 148.

Independent, November 17, 2001, Dina Rabinovitch, "Anatomy of a Gentle Ghoul," p. WR10.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 1995; January 1, 1999, review of Southern Cross, p. 30; July 1, 1999, review of Black Notice, p. 837; August 1, 2004, a review of Trace, p. 715.

Kliatt Young Adult Paperback Book Guide, November, 1999, audio book review of Black Notice, p. 48; March, 2001, audio book review of The Last Precinct, p. 52; March, 2002, audio book review of Isle of Dogs, p. 49.

Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, August 4, 1999, Linda B. Blackford, review of Black Notice, p. K6581; October 18, 2000, Connie Ogle, review of The Last Precinct, p. K4862; November 1, 2000, Jeff Guinn, "Dissecting Patricia Cornwell," p. K1359; November 1, 200, Jeff Guinn, review of The Last Precinct, p. K2261; December 11, 2002, Oline H. Cogdill, audio book review of Portrait of a Killer, p. K4617

Library Journal, September 1, 1994, p. 213; February 15, 1999, audio book review of Point of Origin, p. 126; April 15, 1999, Leslie Madden, review of Point of Origin, p. 142; July 1999, Leslie Madden, review of Black Notice, p. 129; September 1, 1999, Joyce Kessel, audio book review of Southern Cross, p. 252; November 15, 1999, Jennifer Bel-ford, audio book review of Black Notice, p. 116; October 15, 2000, Leslie Madden, review of The Last Precinct, p. 101; February 15, 2001, audio book review of Isle of Dogs, p. 194; March 1, 2001, audio book review of The Last Precinct, p. 152; April 1, 2003, Joyce Kessel, audio book review of Portrait of a Killer, p. 147; September 15, 2004, Leslie Madden, a review of Trace, p. 48.

Los Angeles Times, March 28, 1991, p. F12; February 2, 2003, Eugen Weber, review of Portrait of a Killer, p. R11.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, February 11, 1990, p. 5; February 10, 1991, p. 9; September 20, 1992, p. 8; February 1, 1999, review of Southern Cross, p. 9.

M2 Best Books, April 18, 2002, Darren Ingram, review of Food to Die For.

Mystery Scene, January, 1990, pp. 56-57.

National Post, January 18, 2003, Lynn Crosbie, "Relentless Pursuit of the Elusive Ripper," review of Portrait of a Killer, p. SP4.

New Straits Times, February 6, 2001, Martin Spice, "In Better (If Not Best) Form," review of The Last Precinct; August 6, 2001, Manveet Kaur, review of The Last Precinct.

Newsweek, August 3, 1992; July 5, 1993.

New York Times Book Review, January 7, 1990; February 24, 1991; August 23, 1992; April 4, 1993, p. 19; July 4, 1993; September 16, 1994, pp. 38-39; January 10, 1999, Marilyn Stasio, review of Southern Cross, p. 18; August 8, 1999, Marilyn Stasio, review of Black Notice, p. 21; November 5, 2000, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Last Precinct, p. 32; December 15, 2002, Caleb Carr, review of Portrait of a Killer, p. 15; September 19, 2004, Marilyn Sta-sio, a review of Trace, p. 15; December 11, 2005, Marilyn Stasio, "Sex and Violet," p. 33.

Observer (London, England), February 28, 1999, review of Southern Cross, p. 12.

People, August 24, 1992, pp. 71- 72; October 3, 1994, pp. 37-38; November 5, 2001, review of Isle of Dogs, p. 51; December 9, 2002, Galina Espinoza, "Killer Instinct: Author Patricia Cornwell Thinks She Has Unmasked a Notorious Serial Killer. Critics Say She Doesn't Know Jack," p. 101; October 27, 2003, Edward Karam, review of Blow Fly, p. 50; September 13, 2004, Sean Daly, a review of Trace, p. 56.

Publishers Weekly, December 7, 1990, p. 76; February 15, 1991, pp. 71-72; June 15, 1992, p. 89; September 12, 1994; January 4, 1999, review of Southern Cross, p. 76; June 14, 1999, review of Black Notice, p. 52; September 25, 2000, review of The Last Precinct, p. 90; January 1, 2001, audio book review of The Last Precinct, p. 42; January 8, 2001, review of The Last Precinct, p. 35; October 15, 2001, review of Food to Die For, p. 65; November 11, 2002, review of Portrait of a Killer, p. 52; November 11, 2002, Jeff Zaleski, "On the Trail of Jack the Ripper," p. 53; January 6, 2003, audio book review of Portrait of a Killer, p. 20.

School Library Journal, December, 1992, pp. 146-147; July, 1999, review of Life's Little Fable, p. 68.

Scientist, February 10, 2003, Terry Melton, review of Portrait of a Killer, p. 16.

Skeptical Inquirer, March-April, 2003, Joe Nickell, review of Portrait of a Killer, p. 27.

Spectator, November 9, 2002, Richard Sloane, review of Portrait of a Killer, p. 84.

Sunday Times (London, England), August 13, 2000, John Harlow, "Thriller Queen Is World's Top Woman Writer," p. 20; November 18, 2001, Joan Smith, review of Isle of Dogs, p. C48.

Time, September 14, 1992; October 3, 1994.

Times (London, England), November 27, 2001, Penny Wark, "I'm Over Sex and Fame," p. S4.

Times Educational Supplement (London, England), December 17, 1999, review of Black Notice, p. 19.

Times Literary Supplement (London, England), July 16, 1993, p. 22; January 22, 1999, review of Southern Cross, p. 21; October 1, 1999, Lucy Atkins, review of Black Notice, p. 21; October 27, 2000, Heather O'Donoghue, review of The Last Precinct, p. 23.

Times of India, December 10, 2001, "Ripper: Mystery Unfolds Yet Again."

Wall Street Journal, August 27, 1999, Bob Hughes, review of Black Notice, p. W7.

Washington Post Book World, January 21, 1990, p. 6.

Wilson Library Bulletin, December, 1993.

Women's Quarterly, summer, 2001, Charlotte Hays and Ivy McClure Stewart, "Politically Correct Private Eyes," p. 18.


ABC News Web site, (October 29, 2003), "Stalking Jack the Ripper: A Crime Novelist Is Obsessed with a 113—Year-Old Case.", (April 24, 2003).

Patricia Cornwell Web site, (October 28, 2003).

Richmond Review Online, (April 24, 2003), Chris Wood, review of Black Notice.

Tangled Web UK Web site, (October 29, 2003).

USA Weekend Online, (October 29, 2003), Jeffrey Zaslow, "Straight Talk."

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Cornwell, Patricia 1956–

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