The Unofficial Patricia Cornwell Companion: A Guide to the Bestselling Author's Life and Work

The Unofficial Patricia Cornwell Companion: A Guide to the Bestselling Author's Life and Work

by George Beahm

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Overview

The Unofficial Patricia Cornwell Companion is the first and only book devoted to this bestselling author and her beloved heroine, forensic pathologist Dr. Kay Scarpetta. It's the definitive work on Cornwell--encompassing all the details of her life, her body of work, and the deep and intriguing relationship between the two.

Including numerous interviews and articles about Cornwell's work, a number of rare photographs of the author and her world, as well as a detailed discussion of each title, the Companion is a fact-packed encyclopedia for the millions of readers who've become hooked on Scarpetta and her creator. Fans will delight in the true insider's look at Richmond, the city Kay Scarpetta calls home, as well as a thorough examination of the geography of Cornwell's world. A glossary of forensic terminology and a guide to the characters who appear in each novel round out the book, making it a useful reference tool in addition to a revealing look at a reclusive author.

All in all, The Unofficial Patricia Cornwell Companion is a must-read for each of Patricia Cornwell's millions of fans.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429970730
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/01/2011
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 289
File size: 881 KB

About the Author

George Beahm lives in Williamsburg, Virginia. The Unofficial Patricia Cornwell Companion is his ninth book.


GEORGE BEAHM is a New York Times bestselling author. He has written more literary companions than any other writer, and has published more than thirty books on pop culture icons, such as Michael Jordan, J.K. Rowling, Philip Pullman, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Indiana Jones, Anne Rice, Patricia Cornwell, The Big Bang Theory T.V. show, Caribbean Pirates, censorship, and several books on Stephen King. A former U.S. Army officer, he served on active duty and in the National Guard and Army Reserve.

Read an Excerpt

The Unofficial Patricia Cornwell Companion


By George Beahm

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2002 George Beahm LLC.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-7073-0



CHAPTER 1

CHRONOLOGY

Note: The chronology that follows is abbreviated, focusing on key personal moments and professional publications. For more information, consult Cornwell's official Web site.

1956

• Born June 9, in Miami, Florida; daughter of Sam and Marilyn Daniels.

1963

• Moves with family to Montreat, North Carolina.

1965

• With her two brothers, she comes under the care of Ruth and Billy Graham, who place them with nearby missionaries who raise them after Marilyn Daniels is hospitalized.

1979

• Graduates from Davidson College, earning a B.A. degree.

• Works at the Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, North Carolina) until 1981.

1980

• Marries Charles Cornwell, June 14.

• Receives Investigative Reporting Award for a series on prostitution from the North Carolina Press Association.

1981

• Moves to Richmond, Virginia, with her husband, who enrolls in the Union Theological Seminary.

• Begins work on a biography of Ruth Bell Graham (wife of evangelist Billy Graham).

1983

• Publishes A Time for Remembering: The Ruth Bell Graham Story.

1984

• Begins work on her first novel, about a male detective.

• Meets Dr. Marcella Fierro, a medical examiner in Richmond, who is generally considered the inspiration for Dr. Kay Scarpetta.

1985

• Works in the office of the Chief Medical Examiner (Richmond, Virginia).

• Receives the Gold Medallion Book Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association for her biography of Ruth Bell Graham.

1987

• Real-life inspiration for Postmortem: a series of stranglings in Richmond in the summer.

1988

Postmortem is submitted to publishers via Michael Congdon, her first literary agent.

1989

• Scribner buys Postmortem. The beginning of Cornwell's relationship with Susanne Kirk (a Scribner editor).

• Divorces Charles Cornwell.

1990

• Publishes her first novel, Postmortem.

• Receives numerous awards for Postmortem, including:

John Creasey Award (British Crime Writers Association) Edgar Award (Mystery Writers of America) Anthony Award (Bouchercon, World Mystery Convention) Macavity Award (Mystery Readers International)

• Buys home in Windsor Farms, in Richmond.

1991

• Receives French Prix du Roman d'Adventure, for Postmortem.

• Publishes Body of Evidence, the second Scarpetta novel.

1992

• Publishes All That Remains, the third Scarpetta novel (August).

1993

• Publishes Cruel and Unusual, the fourth Scarpetta novel.

• Receives Gold Dagger Award for Cruel and Unusual.

1994

• Changes literary agents; retains Esther Newberg of ICM.

• Publishes The Body Farm, the fifth Scarpetta novel (August).

1995

• Publishes From Potter's Field, the sixth Scarpetta novel (August).

1996

• Changes publishing houses; moves to G.P. Putnam.

• Publishes Cause of Death, the seventh Scarpetta novel (July).

• Publishes An Uncommon Friend: The Authorized Biography of Ruth Bell Graham, a reprinting of her first book under a new title.

1997

• Publishes Ruth, a Portrait: The Story of Ruth Bell Graham, reprinting the previous biography, adding a new introduction and epilogue (September).

• Publishes Hornet's Nest (January), establishing a new series.

• Publishes Unnatural Exposure, the eighth Scarpetta novel (August).

• Publishes Point of Origin, the ninth Scarpetta novel (July).

• Publishes Scarpetta's Winter Table (October); a novella in hardcover.

1999

• Publishes Southern Cross (January).

• Publishes Black Notice, the tenth Scarpetta novel (August).

• Publishes Life's Little Fable (May).

2000

• Cornwell attends birthday party to celebrate Ruth Bell Graham's eightieth birthday.

• Publishes the eleventh Scarpetta novel, The Last Precinct (November).

2001

• Publishes Isle of Dogs, the third Judy Hammer/Andy Brazil novel.

• Publishes Food to Die For: Secrets from Kay Scarpetta's Kitchen, with Marlene Brown.

2002

• Publishes Jack the Ripper, Case Closed, a nonfiction book.

2003

• Tentative publication of the twelfth Kay Scarpetta novel. (Note: This will be the first of four Scarpetta novels currently under contract).

CHAPTER 2

PATRICIA CORNWELL: LIFE BEFORE POSTMORTEM

The best biography of Patricia remains unwritten, and any great one would run for pages.

— FROM THE OFFICIAL PATRICIA CORNWELL WEB SITE


It's an unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon in Richmond, Virginia, where a line of several hundred people wait patiently for the arrival of Patricia Cornwell, scheduled for a book signing at the newly renovated Science Museum located downtown.

Mostly adults, evenly mixed between men and women, almost all are holding a copy of her eleventh Kay Scarpetta novel, The Last Precinct, published earlier in the month.

Since Cornwell lives in Richmond, it seems logical that she'd arrive by car, perhaps driving her own Mercedes, with a designated parking place to be held for her. But Cornwell knows the impact of a Grand Entrance, which she makes, not by car, but by helicopter — her own, in fact, a Bell JetRanger that slowly ascends as hundreds of fans look upward, shielding their eyes from the noon sun.

Patricia Daniels Cornwell, whose first Scarpetta novel sold for six thousand dollars and who now commands millions for each new book, is soon seated behind a table inside the museum and basks in the attention of her fans, some of whom have traveled a considerable distance just to get a book signed.

Cornwell is justifiably enjoying her day in the limelight. You can't buy the loyalty of fans like this, as she knows; instead, you must earn it, book by book, slowly building up a body of work that keeps the fans coming back for more.

The challenge, as Cornwell knows, is not to simply write formulaic fiction, which will turn even the most ardent fan into a nonbeliever, but to up the ante with each new book, as she has done with The Last Precinct, which clearly shows us more about Kay Scarpetta herself than any other book Cornwell has written.

The fans always want to know more about Scarpetta, Cornwell says in a television interview with Katie Couric on Good Morning America (November 2000), and who is she to disappoint her loyal fans?

Patricia Daniels Cornwell — whose own life is as colorful as one of her books — is exactly where she wants to be in her life: a best-selling author who has the luxury of writing the books she wants to write; a respected and powerful figure, with many friends in high places; an advocate for crime victims, donating time and money to worthy causes; and a major philanthropist who has given to numerous charities, many in the Richmond community she lived in for many years.

Predictably, all of this has made her a convenient target for all comers. Former friends paint a dark picture of her as someone afflicted by rampant paranoia, obsessed with personal security; disgruntled former employees bitch about the boss; literary critics pay more attention to the details of her book contracts than to the books themselves; and the press has a field day when anything scandalous in her life comes to surface.

Perhaps this is a good thing; John Lennon, Rebecca Shaffer, and Selena might still be alive if they'd understood the nature of the abuse of power — the theme that dominates Cornwell's work — and the dark nature of fan worship and obsession.

The general facts about Cornwell's life are well-known, thoroughly documented, and oft repeated. The specifics are largely unknown because Cornwell — unlike many of her contemporaries — feels adamantly that her personal life is her own business and shares little (if anything) about her family.

Consequently, we know very little about her father and mother. We know nothing about her two brothers, just as we know virtually nothing about her former husband, with whom she's remained on good terms.


The Early Years

Born in Miami, Florida, on June 9, 1956, Patricia Daniels was the second of three children of the late Sam Daniels, an attorney, and Marilyn Zenner. Patricia, however, was the only daughter.

We know little of what life was like in the Daniels family, although Cornwell makes occasional references to her childhood in the rare interviews she grants. Many of those references — perhaps magnified through a child's eyes — point to an acrimonious relationship between her parents.

The marriage was clearly headed toward rocky shores by the time Patricia Daniels was five; two short years later, Marilyn Daniels left with her three children in tow and headed to Montreat, North Carolina.

Faced with the twin devils of having to raise the children on her own and dealing with her own illnesses, she found herself turning not to God but to one of his most famous servants — the world-famous evangelist, Billy Graham — for succor.

Ruth Bell Graham took the wayward family in, fed them lunch, and soon arranged for the Daniels children to be raised not by them but by missionaries, Manfred and Lenore Saunders, who had recently returned from Africa. Marilyn Daniels, suffering from severe depression, was hospitalized.

What could have been going through Patricia Daniels's mind at the time? Having lost her father through divorce and her mother through illness, Patricia Daniels understandably turned to Ruth Bell Graham as an authority figure who would prove then, and for the years to come, a pivotal figure in her life.

In Ruth, a Portrait: The Story of Ruth Bell Graham, Patricia Cornwell tells the fascinating story of how she and Ruth Bell Graham bonded. Perhaps the best way to summarize how Cornwell felt about Graham is to simply quote the dedication to the book, with its understated admiration: "To the wise old woman."

A bright student, a pretty young woman, and a determined athlete on the tennis court, Patricia Daniels graduated from high school and briefly attended King College in Tennessee. She soon transferred to Davidson College (Charlotte, North Carolina) on a tennis scholarship, which she later rejected when it became clear to her that although she was good, there were others who were naturally better, more gifted athletically, and perhaps her real talents lay elsewhere. Highly competitive and determined, Patricia Daniels was not interested in being second best.

Patricia Daniels's considerable talents, as it turned out, were creative in nature. A capable cartoonist, her real talent lay in writing — a talent noticed by her mentor, Ruth Bell Graham, who encouraged her literary efforts.

Patricia Daniels's contributions to the school yearbook — notably a lengthy travelogue — made it clear that she would make her mark, so to speak, not on athletic fields but on paper: A born storyteller — gifted with a rich imagination and intelligence — Patricia Daniels, an English major, graduated from college in 1979 with a B.A. degree.

Known for her determination, Patricia Daniels surprised no one with her academic excellence; she likely surprised many, though, when as an undergraduate she pursued one of her professors, Charles Cornwell, whom she would later marry.

For the next two years, Patricia Daniels put her writing skills to work at the local newspaper, the Charlotte Observer, where she started at the bottom: editing television listings, then working in features, and finally becoming a reporter, where she got her first real taste of what would prove irresistible and addictive: the world of law enforcement.

This, she knew, was something she could sink her teeth into, so to speak. The real world where, as cops put it, the rubber meets the road, a world in which the good guys went out to do battle with the bad guys; and Patricia Daniels found it a heady experience. This would prove to be, as she would find out, her milieu.

As a journalist, you are judged by your peers and your superiors by the kind of journalism you do. Covering a Little League baseball game is not the kind of story that builds careers or reputations. The real journalists went out and carved a niche, made a name for themselves, as Patricia Daniels did in a series on prostitution. It earned her an Investigative Reporting Award from the North Carolina Press Association and marked her as a journalist to watch, someone on the fast track.

On June 14, 1980, Patricia Daniels married her former college professor, Charles Cornwell, and took his name. But marriage also meant compromise, sacrifice, and decisions to make — notably, what to do with her promising career as a journalist when her husband decided to put the world of academe behind him and seek a divinity degree at the Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia.

Because Patricia Cornwell has revealed nothing about her marriage to Charles Cornwell, we can only speculate as to the nature and extent of their discussions as Patricia wrestled with the prospects of moving and leaving her promising career as a journalist behind to begin life anew in a strange city.

Patricia Cornwell, torn in her decision, confided in and consulted with the one person whom she knew she could trust, Ruth Bell Graham, who was likely more sympathetic to Patricia's plight than Charles, though Graham (of all people) knew firsthand the dynamics that lay behind a decision to attend the seminary.

From a purely practical view, instead of two steady paychecks — Charles's salary as a professor, Patricia's as a journalist — there would soon be one, and only if Patricia found employment immediately upon moving. There was, after all, no guarantee that Patricia Cornwell would find a job with the local paper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, if indeed that was her intent. Having tasted the fruit of publication and peer recognition, Patricia Cornwell clearly didn't want to let her writing skills go fallow.


Becoming a Writer

Patricia Cornwell was only twenty-four when she made up her mind to write an authorized biography of Ruth Bell Graham, which she pursued with dogged determination. As Cornwell put it (in an introduction to Ruth, a Portrait, the revised version of the biography published in 1997), "[Ruth Graham] could not see what good would come of my writing her biography. It was difficult convincing her."

In the end, Patricia Cornwell prevailed, winning Ruth Bell Graham over.

Throughout 1981 and 1982, Patricia Cornwell worked on the biography as her husband — the former professor turned student — pursued his new studies. A Time for Remembering: The Ruth Bell Graham Story was published in 1983. It received good reviews and its success ensured that if Cornwell wanted to pursue a career writing biographies of major religious figures, there were many others yet to be written.

The success of the book, though, came with a hidden cost: According to Patricia Cornwell (in Ruth, a Portrait), her friendship with Ruth Graham suffered a major blow — they weren't on speaking terms for eight years following the book's publication.

It was time for a change. Though her publisher probably encouraged her to repeat herself with another book-length biography on a major religious figure, Patricia Cornwell may have had misgivings: First, would a new book create the same personal rift between interviewer and subject? And, second, was this really what she wanted to write? Moreover, she may have been concerned about being typecast as a nonfiction writer specializing in religious biographies.

Though Cornwell could clearly write such books, she made a major decision and, drawing on her first love, began writing her first novel in 1984, which featured a male detective named Joe Constable — hardly original fare. Cornwell's problem was that while she had observed crime on the streets, she never knew what went on behind the scenes after the crime was committed.

As Publishers Weekly put it, in Cornwell's first major profile: "... a physician friend in Richmond suggested she talk with a medical examiner to get an insider's view of the morgue and the working of the examiner's office. ..."

Cornwell followed that advice, called the deputy medical examiner in Richmond, Dr. Marcella Fierro, and during the course of a subsequent interview Cornwell discovered, to her horror, that she didn't know enough about the subject to write convincingly. Dead men, she likely realized, did tell tales ... if you knew what to look for, if you could see the clues that told the story behind their untimely deaths. They would speak volumes if you knew how to listen.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Unofficial Patricia Cornwell Companion by George Beahm. Copyright © 2002 George Beahm LLC.. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Title Page,
INTRODUCTION,
SECTION I - THE FACTS: A LOOK AT THE LIFE OF PATRICIA CORNWELL,
CHRONOLOGY,
PATRICIA CORNWELL: LIFE BEFORE POSTMORTM,
CORNWELL AT DAVIDSON COLLEGE,
A SCRIBE AT THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER,
PATRICIA CORNWELL FROM A TO Z,
THE QUOTABLE PATRICIA CORNWELL,
AN INTERVIEW WITH PATRICIA CORNWELL,
SECTION II - THE FICTION: A LOOK AT THE WORKS OF PATRICIA CORNWELL,
RUTH, A PORTRAIT: THE STORY OF RUTH BELL GRAHAM, 1997,
POSTMORTEM: A KAY SCARPETTA MYSTERY, 1990,
BODY OF EVIDENCE, 1991,
ALL THAT REMAINS, 1992,
CRUEL AND UNUSUAL, 1993,
THE BODY FARM, 1994,
FROM POTTER'S FIELD, 1995,
CAUSE OF DEATH, 1996,
UNNATURAL EXPOSURE, 1997,
POINT OF ORIGIN, 1998,
SCARPETTA'S WINTER TABLE, 1998,
BLACK NOTICE, 1999,
THE LAST PRECINCT, 2000,
HORNET'S NEST, 1996,
SOUTHERN CROSS, 1998,
ISLE OF DOGS, 2001,
LIFE'S LITTLE FABLE, 1999,
JACK THE RIPPER, CASE CLOSED, 2002,
SECTION III - WHAT'S NEXT FOR PATRICIA CORNWELL AND KAY SCARPETTA,
WHAT MAY COME FOR KAY SCARPETTA,
CORNWELL WRITES A NEW CHAPTER IN HER OWN LIFE,
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS,
APPENDICES,
INDEX,
Copyright Page,

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Unofficial Patricia Cornwell Companion: A Guide to the Bestselling Author's Life and Work 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Anyone interested in the life and works of Patricia Cornwell will definitely want to buy and immediately read THE UNOFFICIAL PATRICIA CORNWELL COMPANION. The first section is a mini-biography on the author, highlighting the high points of her life. Two interesting sub-sections are ¿The Quotable Patricia Cornwell¿ and a reprint of an interview with the author.

Section II looks at the works of Patricia Cornwell with reviews of each book stating what the critical thought about each novel is. This is a treasure chest of information and shows that the author went two steps beyond a mini-synopsis to give the audience a feel for each novel. If there is one criticism of this novel, it is that there is no interview with the author specifically intended for this biography.

Harriet Klausner

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago