It’s no mystery to readers here that I’m a mystery book lover. One of the authors I enjoy most in the genre is Patricia Cornwell. I was reading her stuff long before I came out. In fact, it all started way back in 1990 when her first novel in the Kay Scarpatta (the Virginia State Coroner/ Medical Examiner) series was published, Postmortem (Kay Scarpetta Mysteries). I just loved the story telling.
I was recently involved in a discussion about her work on another forum and it brought her back to mind. I hadn’t picked up any of her work in a while. And then, I’m perusing the books available in the thrift store where my son works part time and I came across her 2nd book, Body of Evidence which was published in 1991 and which I read way back then. Since the details of the story were not stored in my memory banks, I bought the book and read it again like it was the first time.
Included prominently in many of Cornwell’s books in the Scarpetta series was the character “Lucy”, Kay’s niece. Her lesbian niece. Now, frankly, Cornwell’s work has always been targeted at a mainstream audience. Body of Evidence was published in 1991… way back in 1991. Back before same sex couples were looked upon favorably by even 40% of the U.S. population and yet, a prominent story line in this best selling book is the work that Lucy – an FBI agent – and her female partner Janet (also an agent) do. How incredible is that?
Cornwell lost some of her audience back in 2003 with the publication of her12th Scarpetta based book, Blow Fly but she gained some new fans too. Blow Fly is not written in the first person with Kay doing the storytelling. It’s written from the point of view of the criminals and it has a much darker feel. I didn’t personally care for it as much (especially since I’d been following the series since the beginning) but others loved it. Her most recent book, the 2012 publication, The Bone Bed returns to her original roots with Scarpetta as a 1st person story teller. Another book is due out later this year.
Patricia Cornwell was married to a man for more than 10 years. They divorced in 1989. In 2005 Cornwell married her female partner Staci Gruber. She’s a private person who has never had much to say about her sexuality. Is she bi? Is she gay? No one but Cornwell really knows for sure. It’s true that she has not been a vocal advocate for the LGBT community. It’s also true that she has been an avid supporter of Republican candidates for office in the past (but not recently) going against the grain of much of the gay and lesbian community. Make of her personal history what you want. The lady can still write.
In closing, I’d like to say that Patricia has a couple of other smaller fiction series that are worth checking out but she’s also authored some very interesting non-fiction and, in the case of her true crime book, Portrait Of A Killer: Jack The Ripper — Case Closed, some that is highly controversial as well. Several of those non-fiction books are certainly worth a read. If you read or have read “Case Closed” and you’ve read some of the arguments against her theory, I’d love to hear your take on it. Feel free to comment on this post.