December 2, 2014

Dec 2


Patricia Cornwell


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SOLD: $2,000

When I began to reread Postmortem, it was the first time I’d done so since it was published in 1990. In the end, I annotated heavily, finding that Scarpetta should lighten up a bit and Marino shouldn’t talk so ignorantly. I think I’ve made the book better, especially with the addition of cartoons.

First edition, signed on title-page. The book that launched Cornwell’s career and the gripping adventures of chief medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta. Postmortem and all the books that followed have brought Cornwell a devoted readership, and sales topping 100 million copies. But as she tells us here in her extensive, playful and revealing annotations—covering half the printed pages of the book–“Things didn’t start well at first…Once upon a time I felt I’d ruined my life.” Her hometown paper, The Richmond Times Dispatch, “slammed” the book, calling Scarpetta “an often annoying man hater.” A prominent Richmond bookstore refused to stock it! The experience was jarring. “Finished this in 1988,” she tells us on the rear flyleaf, “& had no clue it would become a series. For 7 or 8 months it made the rounds in NY & was rejected by major publishers. Meanwhile I was working on Body of Evidence but decided I’d failed & should go back to journalism.” But, fortunately, “Nobody would hire me. Washington Post said ‘we don’t have a morgue beat.’ Then it all changed but Richmond would always give me bad reviews.” She caps this story with a Gary Larson-esque drawing (an excellent imitation!) of an angry, obese man screaming: “And another thing Patricia Cornwell…Scarpetta hates men & I hate her!” When Scarpetta complains about being “an easy mark because I’m a woman,” Fortosis tells her ‘You’ll always be an easy mark until the ole boys discover you have teeth. And you do have teeth.” Cornwell writes in the margin: “Tres true! And some male reviewers proved the point by savaging Sarpetta.” She indulges in many second thoughts about stylistic points, how certain characters would speak. “Too many ‘Good Gods’,’” she decides. “But I had to be sparing with profanity then. Not like now. Couldn’t get away with what I do now.”

CORNWELL, Patricia (b. 1956). Postmortem. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1990. 8°. Original cloth-backed boards; dust jacket.


© Sue Courtney

Patricia Cornwell grew up in Montreat, North Carolina, and graduated from Davidson College in 1979. She immediately began writing for the Charlotte Observer, advancing from listing television programs to covering the coveted police beat in record time. For her series on prostitution and crime in downtown Charlotte, she won an investigative reporting award from the North Carolina Press Association. From 1984 to 1990, she worked as a technical writer and computer analyst at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond, Virginia.

In 1990, Scribner published Postmortem, her first crime novel. Previously rejected by seven major publishing houses, Postmortem became the first novel to win the Edgar, Creasey, Anthony, and Macavity Awards, as well as the French Prix du Roman d’Aventure, all in a single year. Cornwell has written thirty-one books, twenty-one of which make up the bestselling Scarpetta Series. The series, for which Cornwell won the Sherlock Award for best detective created by an American author in 1999, follows the brilliant forensic sleuth Dr. Kay Scarpetta.