Sunday, November 24, 2013

Patricia Cornwell: By the Book

Published: November 21, 2013 - The New York Times

The author of the Scarpetta novels, most recently “Dust,” plans to write her memoirs, but not anytime soon: “I will want my story told with glaring, unflinching honesty.”
Patricia Cornwell - Illustration by Jillian Tamaki

Tell us about your favorite book of the year. 

Chris Kyle’s “American Sniper.” It’s an amazingly detailed account of fighting in Iraq — a humanizing, brave story that’s extremely readable. It will give you a much stronger appreciation of our troops, more awe for Navy SEALs and also insight into how wars are really fought today. 

When and where do you like to read?
I keep my iPad nearby constantly and read snippets whenever I want a break from writing. So I read at my desk, on planes, in bed — you name it. I also like to read when I’m eating in a restaurant alone or in the back of a car. In those situations, I often do it on my iPhone.

Of the books you’ve written, which is your favorite?
The new Scarpetta, “Dust.” I love the way Scarpetta is evolving. I feel this novel has re-energized the series, opening the door for a new beginning, and that’s a gift when you have a series that has been out there for more than two decades.

Do you read memoirs? Have you ever thought of writing one yourself?
I love memoirs and just started reading Jennifer Saunders’s “Bonkers: My Life in Laughs.” In many ways I weave my own experiences into my novels, and I’ve often said that Scarpetta is a lifelong biography of her with hints of my own autobiography, as many of my adventures end up in the novels. I can’t imagine writing my memoirs anytime soon. I hope I have too much ahead for that, and there are many people still around (thankfully) who might feel uncomfortable about ending up in a published memoir. Ultimately? Yes, I will want my story told with glaring, unflinching honesty. 

Which books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?
Well, I don’t know if you’d be surprised. . . . There is “Sexual Murder,” by Dr. Louis Schlesinger. And “Essentials of Forensic Imaging,” by Angela Levy and Theodore Harcke; not to mention my pal Nicholas Petraco’s many books on crime scene investigation and microscopy. Mixed in with all this are Hemingway and Dr. Seuss.

Which novels have had the most impact on you as a writer? Is there a particular book that made you want to write?
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” She demonstrates that one can write something that changes the world and makes it a better place. She reinforces the concept that the root of evil is the abuse of power, and it is important for all of us to remember that. It’s why people bully. It’s why they rape, torture and murder.  

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