Is Patricia Cornwell's Life More Interesting Than Her Best-Sellers?

Illustration for article titled Is Patricia Cornwells Life More Interesting Than Her Best-Sellers?

Whether you're a fan of Patricia Cornwell or walk right on by when you see her books at the airport, you'll find that the incredibly revealing profile of the best-selling crime novelist in USA Today is a genuinely compelling story. Cornwell has never discussed her 2006 marriage — to a woman named Staci Gruber — in a mainstream publication before.


Cornwell, 52, lives in a "sprawling farmhouse-style home" with the 41-year-old Gruber in Concord, MA. The writer has the trappings you'd expect from someone who can live more-than-comfortably after selling millions of copies of books: a Ferrari, a helicopter, some motorcycles, a bulldog puppy. But Cornwell, who grew up in a small town in North Carolina, has always kept her private life private. "I'm not a soapbox kind of person," she says.

A difficult childhood (absentee father, mother so stricken by depression that she couldn't care for her kids) led Cornwell to turn to writing. And, according to the article:

She was married for 10 years to Charles Cornwell, one of her college English professors. In 1992, three years after her divorce, she had a short-lived affair with an FBI agent named Margo Bennett, but its repercussions would play out for years. The story made headlines after Bennett's husband learned of the affair; in 1996 he attempted to kidnap his wife at gunpoint. Cornwell was outed, but she didn't comment to the press. "That was not publicly known about me, and I wasn't happy when I got outed," she says. "That's not nice to happen to anybody. It shouldn't be other people's choice instead of yours."


And though Cornwell has a gay character in her books — which center around fictional forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta — being comfortable enough to speak openly about her sexuality has been a process.

Yet she's happy with Gruber, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Cornwell tells USA Today: "Mother used to say the worst things that could happen to anybody were to be an alcoholic and a homosexual." But it seems that Cornwell, who donates millions of dollars to animal rescue, law enforcement, education and literacy has finally come to terms with her life: "I'm OK with who I am, and to the things that really matter to me, I can say yes: 'Are you decent? Are you generous? Are you compassionate? Do you have humility?' Yes, I have a Ferrari in the garage, but I also give a lot away."

Crime Pays Quite Well For Patricia Cornwell [USA Today]

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Erin Gloria Ryan

My general rule for judging books by their covers is, avoid the following red flags:

1. GIANT font denoting author

2. Tiny picture of a sailboat in the middle of the cover, or a knife, or a single flower

3. Cutout covers that show something intriguing lurking behind the front cover

4. Very tall letters with shadows behind them

5. Jackie Collins

6. Picture of shoes or engagement rings or mention of a designer

7. A dragon

Since her books probably meet some of those criteria, I have not read them. Her life sounds interesting, though, and good for her for making her way in the world.