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.