Patricia Cornwell was born on June 9th, 1956 in Miami, Florida. She grew up to becoming the face of a new generation of contemporary American crime writers. Patricia is best known for writing a popular series of novels featuring the heroine Dr. Kay Scarpetta, a medical examiner.
Cornell’s father was one of the leading appellate lawyers in the United States and served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black. Patricia suffered a great deal of emotional abuse from her father when he walked out on the family on Christmas Day 1961. She has said, “He was on his deathbed. We knew it was the last time we’d see each other; he grabbed my brother’s hand and mouthed ‘I love you,’ but he never touched me. All he did was write on a legal pad ‘How’s work?'” Cornwell’s mother was hospitalized for depression in Montreat, North Carolina, where the family had moved in 1961. Along with her brothers Jim and John, Cornwell was sent to live in a foster care system. Cornwell attended King College in Bristol, Tennessee, before transferring to Davidson College, where she graduated with a B.A. in English.
Patricia began her career in 1979 with a job at The Charlotte Observer where she covered crime as a reporter. In 1983, she published a biography of her friend, Ruth Bell Graham, A Time for Remembering. For six years after that Cornwell worked as a technical writer and then as a computer analyst at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia. The first installment of her Scarpetta series, Postmortem was published in 1990 after the rejection of three novels she had written prior to this. In addition to the Scarpetta series, Cornwell is also author to the Andy Brazil/Judy Hammer series and Portrait of a Killer – Jack The Ripper, a self-financed search for evidence to support her theory that painter Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper.
In 1980, Cornwell married for the first time shortly after graduating from Davidson College. Her first husband, Charles L. Cornwell was one of her English professors and 17 years her senior. Charles later left professorship to become a preacher. Although the marriage ended in separation and then divorce in 1989, Patricia retained her married name. For a brief period of time between 1991 and 1992, Cornwell was involved in an affair with Margo Bennett, a married FBI agent, after meeting her at the Quantico FBI academy, where Cornwell had been doing research for her Scarpetta novels. However, the affair only surfaced in 1996 when Margo Bennett’s estranged husband, FBI agent Gene Bennett, was arrested for and later convicted of the attempted murder of his wife and the abduction of Margo’s church minister, among a host of other charges. Cornwell has denied any responsibility for the incident, calling the affair “very brief”. In 2005, Cornwell married again. Her second husband was Staci Ann Gruber, an instructor of psychiatry at Harvard.
When disclosing about her health issues, Cornwell revealed about her late teenage struggle with anorexia nervosa and depression. Cornwell is also known to suffer from bipolar disorder.