Author profiles submitted by Chris Bacon, Mason County District Library


Patricia Cornwell was born in Miami, Florida in June of 1956. She is related to author and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe.   Her father Sam Daniels was one of the leading appellate lawyers in the US and served as a law clerk to the Supreme Court. Pat grew up in a troubled family as she suffered emotional abuse from her father, who eventually walked out on the family on Christmas Day 1961.   When the family moved to Montreat, North Carolina that same year her mother was hospitalized for depression and Pat and her brothers were placed in the foster care system. Pat went on to attend Davidson College in North Carolina where she graduated with a B.A. in English in 1979.

In 1980, she married one of her English professors, Charles L. Cornwell, who was 17 years older than she was. In 1989, the couple separated and eventually divorced. In 1991 Pat began a two year affair with a married female FBI agent Margo Bennett after meeting her at the FBI Academy in Quantico where Pat was conducting research for her writing. In 1996, the affair was made public after Margo's estranged husband, also an FBI agent, was arrested for and eventually convicted of attempted murder of his wife. In 2005, Pat married Staci Ann Gruber, an instructor of psychiatry at Harvard University and the couple currently live in Massachusetts.


Not only has Pat lived a troubled personal life she has had some legal trouble as well. In1993, Pat crashed her Mercedes-Benz and was convicted of drunk driving and sentenced to twenty-eight days in a treatment center.   In 2000, author Leslie Sachs claimed there were similarities between his novel “The Virginia Ghost Murders” and Pat's “The Last Precinct” and accused Pat of plagiarism. Eventually Pat was cleared of all charges and in 2007 Pat was awarded $38,000 to cover legal fees for defending herself against Sachs's charges. Pat also had trouble with a management firm she hired in 2004 to oversee her financial matters and her company, Conrwell Enterintertainment Inc. The firm had been stealing tens of millions of dollars from her over a several year period and in 2013 Pat was awarded $51 million dollars after suing the management company for $100 million.


Besides being a best selling author and expert in forensics Pat is involved in numerous other activities. She co-founded the National Forensic Academy and created a Chair in Organic Science at Harvard. She appears as a forensic consultant on CNN and serves as a member of Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital’s National Council. She’s helped fund an ICU at Cornell’s Animal Hospital, the scientific study of a Confederate submarine, the archaeological excavation of Jamestown, law enforcement charities, and various scholarships and literacy programs.


Pat's writing career began in1979 when she started working as a reporter for “The Charlotte Observer.” She would write about anything and everything and soon was covering the crime beat. In 1984, she took a job at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia and worked there for six years as a technical writer and a computer analyst. In 1990, her first novel “Postmortem” was published and it was the first in her her very successful Scarpetta series. The Scarpetta series follows medical examiner Kay Scarpetta along with her tech-savvy niece Lucy and fellow investigator Pete Marino. The Scarpetta novels include a great deal of detail on forensic science with some action scenes as Kay and her colleagues solve various murders mostly in Richmond, VA. There are currently twenty-two novels in the series with the next one “Depraved Heart” due out in November of 2015. This story will follow Kay as she tries to unravel a series of mysterious videos of her niece Lucy along with solving the death of a Hollywood mogul's daughter.


Pat's literary career also includes a book about Jack the Ripper’s identity, two cookbooks (Food to Die For and Scarpetta’s Winter Table), a children’s book (Life’s Little Fable), and a biography of Ruth Graham. She’s also writes two other series one based on an upstart Boston detective and another that follows an enterprising Charlotte, North Carolina reporter.


Pat’s books have sold some 100 million copies with twenty-six appearing on New York Times Best Selling list. Her books are well known for unsuspecting twists, tension filled drama, and the latest in forensic science. Her novels generally end with suspense filled action scenes as Scarpetta and her colleagues solve the murder and confront the killer. Authors similar to Pat include Faye Kellerman, Tess Gerritsen, Jeffery Deaver, Kathy Reichs, John Sanford, and Tami Hoag.


So if you are looking for mystery and intrigue along with some action and loads of forensic detail and science check out Patricia Conrwell and enter a world of high tech forensic detective work that will leave you amazed, a little bit smarter, and definitley entertained.