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Law in Popular Culture

Meet Patricia Cornwell, Forensic Author Who Earned $100 Million

Posted Apr 28, 2008 12:15 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A hard childhood and a fascination with crime as an adult helped make Patricia Cornwell one of the world's best-known authors of forensic murder mysteries—a genre that she herself established.

Abandoned and abused as a child, lacking the education that more privileged individuals with her intelligence and drive would have been likely to obtain, the 51-year-old Cornwell nonetheless has achieved startling success, reports the London Times in a lengthy profile. With a self-earned fortune estimated at $100 million from her writing, Cornwell can afford to indulge other interests including a passion for personal security, expensive designer clothes, plastic surgery, what the newspaper describes as "epic philanthropy" and non-fiction writing.

She took an interest in the infamous 19th-century British murder case of Jack the Ripper, for instance, purchasing related documents and, she now claims in a nonfiction book, solving the long-ago crime. She has written another nonfiction book about her mentor, Ruth Bell Graham, the late wife of Rev. Billy Graham.

Although some may see her writing as too graphic, describing in lurid detail what has been done to her overwhelmingly female victims, Cornwell says her work focuses public attention on the domestic terrorism that crime constitutes.

Having the money to do so, she doesn't hesitate to spend on personal security, including bodyguards, the author of the newspaper article notes. "Giving me a lift in her Porsche 4x4, she remarks that it has a gun turret. She’s joking, but I have to ask to make sure."

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