Patricia Cornwell
Patricia Cornwell

“If I want a character to do or know something, I want to do or know the same thing.”


Patricia Cornwell was born Patricia Carroll Daniels on June 9, 1956 in Miami, Florida. Patricia also goes by the name of Patsy. Her father was an appellate attorney and her mother was a secretary. Patricia has two brothers one of which is older and the other younger. Patricia Cornwell is a descendant of author Harriet Beecher Stowe who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin precluding the Civil War. When Patricia was young, she was molested by a private security guard near her home. She states that she only recalls a police officer showing up at her house and then going to a hearing where strangers passed around her little red shorts. She said that her mother’s way of dealing with it was taking her to a toy store after the trial and tell Patricia never to talk about what happened again. At the age of seven her parents got a divorce and Patricia, her brothers, and her mom moved to Montreat, North Carolina. Patricia’s mother did not handle the divorce very well. She tumbled into despair and then mental illness. Life for Patricia at this point was very grim and it got so desperate that Cornwell’s mother asked Reverend Billy Graham and his wife Ruth Graham to look after her children so that they would have a better life. The Graham’s were not able to take them in but they made arrangements for the children to stay with missionary friends of the Graham’s. Ruth Graham became close with Patricia after this happened and Ruth is one of the people who encouraged her to write. Ruth remained in Patricia’s life for a long time and in 1983 she wrote A Time for Remembering which was a biography of Ruth Bell Graham.

In high school, Patricia played tennis competitively for the men’s team. Her school did not have a girl’s tennis team so Patricia played on the men’s team and was quite exceptional. She played No. 3 singles on the men’s tennis team and was undefeated. After graduating high school, Patricia attended King College for a short amount of time and then transferred to Davidson College to major in literature. After graduating from College in 1979, Patricia initiated her writing career with the Charlotte Observer. While writing for the Charlotte Observer, Patricia worked as a journalistic factotum, features writer, and finally a police reporter. It was Patricia’s jump into the police reports that won her an investigative reporting award from the North Carolina Press Association for a published series on local prostitution. A little while later on June 14, 1980 Patricia married Charles Cornwell. He was her former English professor at Davidson College and was seventeen years older than Patricia at the time. They moved to Virginia shortly after Charles quit his job at Davidson College.

Patricia began writing A Time for Remembering at this time and it was published in 1983. In 1985, A Time for Remembering won Golden Medallion Book Award. In 1984, Cornwell took a job as a part time technical writer in the Virginia Medical Examiner’s Office. Her first crime novel, Postmortem, was initially rejected by seven major publishing companies. Finally in 1990, Postmortem was published by Scribner’s and it became the first novel to win the Edgar, Creasey, Anthony, Macavity awards, and the French Prix du Roman d’Aventure in a single year. Patricia went onto write seventeen Kay Scarpetta books as well as three Andy Brazil books, two cook books, Life’s Little Fable, and Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper – Case Closed. Numerous books have received many rewards and even Dr. Kay Scarpetta herself won the Sherlock Award for best detective created by an American author.

Cornwell is a founding member of the Virginia Institute of Forensic Science and Medicine, National Forensic Academy, and a member of the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital’s National Council where she advocates psychiatric research. She is also well known in her philanthropic contributions to animal rescue, criminal justice, and college scholarships. Some of her projects include creating an ICU at Cornell’s Animal Hospital, the archeological excavation of Jamestown and most recently she donated a million dollars to Harvard’s Fogg Museum to establish a chair in inorganic science. Life for Patricia Cornwell isn’t always grandiose and perfect. Patricia Cornwell was publicly ousted in 1997 when Eugene Bennett, a former FBI agent, kidnapped Reverend Edwin Clever and attempted to murder his wife, Margo Bennett. Margo and Patricia had an affair while she was researching for her books at the FBI headquarters in Quantico. Patricia had now been forced to come out of the closet with this very public event. In February of 2005, Patricia married her partner who is Dr. Staci Gruber. They were married in Massachusetts, which has newly permitted same-sex marriage and Patricia Cornwell now states that, “Finally, I feel rooted somewhere.” Patricia Cornwell is now working on the eighteenth Kay Scarpetta book where we will find out something about Scarpetta that is truly shocking.

Work Cited:
Jardine, Cassandra. "Patricia Cornwell: 'Finally, I feel rooted somewhere'." 26 Nov 2007.
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"Patricia Cornwell's Biography." Patricia Cornwell. 08 Jan 2010. Patricia Cornwell, Web. 14 Feb 2010.


"Patricia Cornwell Biography." Squidoo. Squidoo, Web. 14 Feb 2010. <

"Patricia Cornwell." Mystery Authors Online. 2004. Mystery Authors Online, Web. 14 Feb 2010.

Turner, Janice. "Patricia Cornwell's extraordinary life." Times Online. 19 Apr 2008. Times, Web. 14 Feb