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Patricia Cornwell, Crime Writer ~ novel name Kay Scarpetta

Updated on August 21, 2013

Who is Patricia Cornwell?

Patricia Cornwell is an American crime novel writer. Her books have sold more than 100 million copies!

A descendent of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Patricia was born in Miami, Florida. Her father was one of America's leading appellate lawyers.

Patricia was sent to live in foster care with her two siblings after her father left and her mother was hospitalized for depression in the early 1960s.

In the late 1970s, Patricia worked as a reporter covering crime.

Patricia published her first book in 1983. The following year she took a job working for the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia as a technical writer and then as a computer analyist. During her six years at the Medical Examiner's office, she also volunteered at a police department.

Patricia wrote three novels that were rejected before being published in 1990.

In this article, we will explore the dedication and commitment it took Patricia Cornwell to become one of the most talented crime writer novelists in America.

Note to Writers!
It's apparent that Patricia Cornwell had the passion and drive to succeed in writing crime novels. Her diligence working as a reporter, volunteering for a police department, and working in a medical examiner's office proved beneficial to her writing career! I think all writers can learn from Patricia's experiences. Become better by doing research and going out in the field to get information first-hand!

Crime novels.

Patricia Cornwell includes detailed forensics in her novels. Mysteries are usually solved from the forensic investigation in her novels, although the character Kay Scarpetta does most of the field investigation and confrontation with suspects than a medical examiner in real life would.

Patricia's novels are said to have influenced the creation of popular forensic TV shows such as CSI and Cold Case Squad. Patricia Cornwell appeared on Criminal Minds, a police drama television show.

Patricia's writing style includes intriguing forensic and crime-scene details which leave a reader in suspense. Kay Scarpetta's character as a medical examiner has caused a reaction and scrutiny from those in real life who are trained and licensed, including real-life forensic anthropologists that also write crime novels.

Patricia Cornwell also financed a search for evidence to support her theory about the identify of Jack the Ripper. She published Portrait of a Killer, Jack the Ripper, in 2002. Much controversy ensued. I personally purchased a copy of the book and could not get through it all. It was extremely detailed and involved.

The sacrifices writers make.

Patricia Cornwell is one of my favorite authors of all times. I used to own practically every single one of her published books. Today, I have one left in my bookcase as a reminder of the time I spent reading her books relentlessly, day in and day out, outside in the hot sun soaking up every written word.

It takes a lot to be a writer. Writers have to sacrifice a lot of themselves. Once an author becomes well publicized, they are going to face scrutiny in the eyes of the public.

Patricia Cornwell has thrived in a writing career, overcoming many obstacles in her childhood and later in life defeating many hard times. She has also won many awards for her writing, including acknowledgement for being the first author to win such awards.

Patricia should be an encouragement to all inspiring writers for her relentless pursuit of a dream.

Excerpt from Patricia Cornwell's writing.


No good deed goes unpunished. Obstacles facing Patricia Cornwell that she overcame.

Patricia divorced her husband of 8 years.
Patricia had an affair with a married FBI agent whom she met at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, where Patricia spent time researching for her novels.
Patricia crashed her Mercedes-Benz under the influence of alchohol. She was convicted of drunk driving and sentenced to a treatment center.
Another author claimed Patricia committed plagiarism. U.S. District Court declared the claims baseless and awarded Patricia almost $40,000 in damages for the internet attacks she endured.
Patricia hired a financial management company. After realizing her company's net worth had significantly declined, she discovered the financial manager had stolen from her. A jury awarded Patricia $50 million in damages.

Patricia's history with book publishers.

Patricia Cornwell has used the same book publisher for almost two decades. After merging with Random House in July 2013, Patricia Cornwell's last book and 21st novel, Dust, with Penguin will be published in November 2013.

(The merge formed Penguin Random House.)

Patricia Cornwell's first book with her new publisher, William Morrow (an imprint of HarperCollins), is expected in fall of 2014. This deal means Patricia will have a global publisher for the first time.

Encouraging news for writers.

Patricia Cornwell's last novel in 2012, The Bone Bed, sold 40,000 fewer copies than the 2011 novel Red Mist, based on 145,000 copies of The Bone Bed sold.

While book copy sales have been in decline, the author's ebook sales are increasing.

The last remaining Patricia Cornwell book in my collection. I have read almost all of her books.


Books written by Patricia Cornwell

  • 1983 A Time for Remembering
  • 1990 Postmortem
  • 1991 Body of Evidence
  • 1992 All that Remains
  • 1993 Cruel and Unusual
  • 1994 The Body Farm
  • 1995 From Potter's Field
  • 1995 The First Scarpetta Collection: Postmortem and Body of Evidence
  • 1996 Cause of Death
  • 1997 Unnatural Exposure
  • 1997 Hornet's Nest
  • 1997 Ruth, A Portrait (Ruth Bell Graham)
  • 1998 Point of Origin
  • 1998 Scarpetta's Winter Table
  • 1999 Southern Cross
  • 1999 Black Notice
  • 1999 Life's Little Fable (Children's Book)
  • 2000 The Last Precint
  • 2000 A Scarpetta Omnibus: Postmortem, Body of Evidence, All that Remains
  • 2000 A second Scarpetta Omnibus: Cruel and Unusual, The Body Farm, From Potter's Field
  • 2002 Food to Die For: Secrets from Kay Scarpetta's Kitchen
  • 2001 Isle of Dogs
  • 2002 Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper, Case Closed
  • 2002 A Third Scarpetta Omnibus: Cause of Death, Unnatural Exposure & Point of Origin
  • 2003 Blow Fly
  • 2003 The Scarpetta Collection Volume 1: Postmortem and Body of Evidence
  • 2003 The Scarpetta Collection Volume 2: All that Remains and Cruel and Unusual
  • 2004 Trace
  • 2005 Predator
  • 2006 At Risk
  • 2007 Book of the Dead
  • 2008 Scarpetta
  • 2008 The Front
  • 2009 The Scarpetta Factor
  • 2010 Port Mortuary
  • 2011 Red Mist
  • 2012 The Bone Bed
  • 2013 Coming soon: Dust

Health Concerns

Patricia Cornwell has suffered from anorexia nervosa and depression which began in her late teens.

She also struggles with bipolar disorder. Patricia believes it's not unusual for great artistic people to have bipolar disorder.


Gold Medallion Book Award
A Time for Remembering
Edgar Award, John Creasey Memorial Award, Anthony Award, and Macavity Award
Only author to receive these awards in a single year.
Prix du Roman d'Adventures
Gold Dagger
Cruel and Unusual
Sherlock Award, Best Detective
(character Kay Scarpetta)
British Book Awards, Crime Thriller of the Year
Book of the Dead
First American author to receive this award.
RBA International Thriller Prize
Red Mist


Despite a childhood spent in a foster home, separated from family, Patricia Cornwell overcame life's obstacles and went on to becoming one of the first American writers to win a British Book Award for a Crime Thriller of the Year! Patricia also was the only author to win multiple awards in a single year!

Patricia has battled with periodic times of uncertainty being accused of various things and having her book earnings stolen from her, but overall Patricia has shown that through these turbulent times she has followed her dreams in becoming one of the most famous crime writers in history.

I think all writers can learn from Patricia's passion and drive for keeping her dream in focus through it all.

Patricia is currently re-married and lives in America.

Have you ever gone out in to the "field" and did first-hand research for your writing?

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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      This book is acutally a caloimotipn of two of Alton Everests ear training books. The first, Critical listening skills, plays different frequencies, amplitudes, bands, filters, amount of total harmonic distorion, and revervbs. Then you are forced to recognize changes within these different areas. These are crucial ear training skills for anyone trying to break into the world of audio. It's not somehting you can go through once and leave. The book should become part of a routine of ear training. The second book, Auditory perception, discusses issues relating to the differences between how sound occurs and how we actually perceive it. Another valuable tool for understanding how sound works. Aparantly this book has been around for a long time but was, until this edition, only available in very expensive editions that were catering toward institutions. This is done by putting the 6 cd's onto 1 mp3 cd. This is my one complaint about this book, that people trying to become audio pros shouldn't use compromised quality files when training there ears. That is why I use the cd's as a guide and for the projects that require more acurate listening I use a tone generator in my DAW to recreate the sounds at a higher quality. All in all an excellent tool that has, in a short time, already proven very helpful.

    • CraftytotheCore profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Thank you so much Moonlake! I love her books as well. At one time I had a huge collection of them, but after reading them all several times a piece, I found them new homes.

    • moonlake profile image


      5 years ago from America

      I read Cornwell and love her books. I love mysteries. I have not been reading lately and need to get back to it. I always relax when I read. Voted up.

    • CraftytotheCore profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Thank you Astra! I agree, she is awesome!

    • Astra Nomik profile image

      Cathy Nerujen 

      6 years ago from Edge of Reality and Known Space

      I have read a lot of her books. She is totally awesome. This is a great hub.

    • CraftytotheCore profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Thank you Suzie! I had never taken the time to learn about her life through all those books I had read by her. I always thought she was a real-life medical examiner. LOL

    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 

      6 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi CraftytotheCore,

      Lovely interesting review on this talented lady. My mum had all her books up until she passed away and I had read most of them. Enjoyed the forensic and crime aspect of her novels. Thanks for reminding of the books and learning more about her life. Voted up, useful, interesting!

    • CraftytotheCore profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Except for the typo I just found and corrected in my title! Hi Bill! LOL It never ceases to amaze me how much I review and proofread, I usually end up finding an error....But yes, Patricia Cornwell is one of my favorite authors and I never knew about all the troubles she has had along her journey.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I am a big mystery and crime reader so yes, I have read Cornwell, and she is, in fact, a very good writer. Good job on the review my friend.


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