Patricia Cornwell was born on June 9, 1956, in Miami, Florida. Cornwell grew to become the face of the modern contemporary American crime writers. Cornwell is popular for writing a series of novels featuring her forensic pathologist character, Dr. Kay Scarpetta.
Cornwell did not have an easy childhood. At the age of five years, her father, who was one of the leading appellate lawyers, abandoned her family. Cornwell suffered a great deal of emotional abuse when her dad walked out on the Christmas of 1961. Cornwell was forced to move to Montreat, North Carolina, with her mother and two brothers, Jim and John. Later, her mother was hospitalized for mental illness, meaning Cornwell and her siblings had to move into foster homes.
In 1979, Cornwell graduated with a B.A in English from Davidson College and married her college professor. She first attended King College in Bristol, Tennessee, before moving to Davidson College. She became a reporter for the Charlotte Observer, mostly covering crime. For six years, Cornwell worked as a computer analyst and technical writer in the office of the chief medical examiner, in Richmond, Virginia.
Her first novel, postmortem, came out in 1990 after several rejections from publishers. The book featured her medical examiner character, Dr. Kay Scarpetta, who was depicted as a brainy and able to solve all murder puzzles. Postmortem was ‘huge’ and it motivated her to write 18 other top sellers starring Dr. Scarpetta.
Cornwell has been known for her deep research and attention to detail. Her writing has attracted a huge audience because she has consistently captured the imagination of the reader over time. She interviews forensic scientists and law enforcement personnel and attends autopsies to keep up with the latest technology and procedures. Her character has many talents, and that has pushed her to learn various skills: shooting guns, scuba diving, and piloting. Her books have inspired investigative TV shows like CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) and Cold Case.
Cornwell has not limited her writing to one character. She has also written novels featuring Andy Brazil, the journalist who turned to a cop, and Win Garano, a state police investigator. She has also written some cookbooks and children’s books.
In 2002, she released Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper – Case Closed. The book was purely based on her investigations into the notorious Walker Sickert. In her book, Cornwell believes the British artist was the London serial killer who was never captured in the 19th century.
Her life has not been a walk in the park. Cornwell has gone through a fair share of controversies: from a divorce to an affair with a married FBI agent. The blockbuster writer divorced in 1992 and had a brief affair with Margo Bennett, a married FBI agent. Bennett’s estranged husband, Eugene, launched a plot to murder his wife, but his plan was not successful. Eugene blamed the affair for his failed marriage.
Today, it is estimated that Cornwell has earned a whopping $100 million from her works. She is often accompanied by bodyguards and is popular for her philanthropic lifestyle. She has often donated millions towards animal rescue and forensic research.