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Patricia Cornwell (born Patricia Carroll Daniels; June 9, 1956) is a contemporary American crime writer. She is widely known for writing a popular series of novels featuring the heroine Dr. Kay Scarpetta, a medical examiner. A descendant of abolitionist and writer Harriet Beecher Stowe,Cornwell was born in Miami, Florida to Marilyn and Sam Daniels. Her father was one of the leading appellate lawyers in the United States and served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black. Cornwell later traced her own motivations in life to the emotional abuse she says she suffered from her father, who walked out on the family on Christmas Day 1961.
“ He was on his deathbed. We knew it was the last time we’d see each other; he grabbed my brother's hand and mouthed 'I love you,' but he never touched me. All he did was write on a legal pad 'How's work?' ”
In 1961, Cornwell's family moved to Montreat, North Carolina, where her mother was hospitalized for depression. Cornwell and her brothers, Jim and John, were placed in the foster care system. Cornwell attended King College in Bristol, Tennessee, before transferring to Davidson College, where she graduated with a B.A. in English.
In 1979, Cornwell started working as a reporter for The Charlotte Observer and soon began covering crime. Her biography of family friend Ruth Bell Graham, A Time for Remembering (renamed Ruth, A Portrait: The Story of Ruth Bell Graham in subsequent editions), was published in 1983. In 1984, she took a job at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia. She worked there for six years, first as a technical writer and then as a computer analyst. She also volunteered to work with the Richmond Police Department. Cornwell wrote three novels that she says were rejected before the publication, in 1990, of the first installment of her Scarpetta series, Postmortem.
The Scarpetta novels include a great deal of detail on forensic science. The initial resolution to the mystery is found in the forensic investigation of the murder victim's corpse, although Scarpetta does considerably more field investigation and confrontation with suspects than real-life medical examiners. The novels generally climax with action scenes in which Scarpetta and her associates confront, or are confronted by, the killer or killers, usually concluding with the death of the killer. The novels are considered to have influenced the development of popular TV series on forensics, both fictional, such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and documentaries, such as Cold Case Files.
Other significant themes in the Scarpetta novels include health, individual safety and security, food, family, and the emerging sexual self-discovery of Scarpetta's niece. Often, conflicts and secret manipulations by Scarpetta's colleagues and staff are involved in the storyline and make the murder cases more complex. Although scenes from the novels take place in a variety of locations around the U.S. and (less commonly) internationally, they center around the city of Richmond, Virginia.
There are two remarkable style shifts in the Scarpetta novels. Starting from The Last Precinct (2000), the style changes from past tense to present tense. Starting from Blow Fly (2003), the style changes from a first person to a third person, omniscient, narrator. Events are even narrated from the viewpoint of the murderers. Before Blow Fly the events are seen through Scarpetta's eyes only, and other points of view only appear in letters that Scarpetta reads.
Andy Brazil/Judy Hammer series In addition to the Scarpetta novels, Cornwell has written three pseudo-police fictions, known as the Trooper Andy Brazil/Superintendent Judy Hammer series, which are set in North Carolina, Virginia and off the mid-Atlantic coast. Besides the older woman/younger man premise, the books include discomforting themes of scatology and sepsis.
Jack the Ripper
Cornwell has been involved in a continuing, self-financed search for evidence to support her theory that painter Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper. She wrote Portrait of a Killer—Jack the Ripper: Case Closed, which was published in 2002 to much controversy, especially within the British art world and among Ripperologists. Cornwell denied being obsessed with Jack the Ripper in full-page ads in two British newspapers and has said the case was "far from closed". In 2001, Cornwell was criticized for allegedly destroying one of Sickert's paintings in pursuit of the Ripper's identity. She believed the well-known painter to be responsible for the string of murders and had purchased over thirty of his paintings and argued that they closely resembled the Ripper crime scenes. Cornwell also claimed a breakthrough: a letter written by someone purporting to be the killer, had the same watermark as some of Sickert's writing paper. Ripper experts noted, however, that there were hundreds of letters from different authors falsely claiming to be the killer, and the watermark in question was on a brand of stationery that was widely available.
Cornwell says that there are numerous links between herself and the main character in her novels, Dr. Kay Scarpetta, a forensic pathologist. They are both Miami-born, divorced, and had difficult relationships with their late fathers.
In 1979, shortly after graduating from Davidson College, Cornwell married one of her English professors, Charles L. Cornwell, who was 17 years her senior. Professor Cornwell later left his tenured professorship to become a preacher. The couple separated in 1989, with Cornwell retaining her married name after the divorce.
From 1991 to 1992, Cornwell was involved in an affair with Margo Bennett, a married FBI agent, after meeting her at the Quantico FBI academy, where Cornwell had been doing research for her Scarpetta novels.The affair came to light in 1996 after Margo Bennett's estranged husband, FBI agent Gene Bennett, was arrested for and later convicted of the attempted murder of his wife and the abduction of Margo's church minister, among a host of other charges. Cornwell has denied any responsibility for the incident, calling the affair "very brief".
In 2005, Cornwell married Staci Ann Gruber, an instructor of psychiatry at Harvard. She didn't disclose news of her marriage, which was officiated in Massachusetts, until 2007. Cornwell later stated that turning fifty had made her see the importance of speaking out for equal rights and spoke of how Billie Jean King had helped her come to terms with talking about her sexuality publicly.
Since childhood, Cornwell has been friends with the family of the Reverend Billy Graham and his wife Ruth Bell, often serving as the family's unofficial spokesperson on Don Imus' radio show. Cornwell was previously a personal friend of former President George H. W. Bush, whom she referred to as "Big George", spending a number of weeks at the family's summer retreat in Kennebunkport.
Cornwell has in the past suffered from anorexia nervosa and depression, which began in her late teens. She has also spoken openly about her struggle with bipolar disorder, stating that she is "wired differently": “ My wiring's not perfect and there are ways that you can stabilize that. I have certain things that run in my own ancestry... It's not unusual for great artistic people to have bipolar disorder, for example. The diagnosis goes back and forth but I’m pretty sure that I am. I take a mood stabilizer. "Information source: wikipedia