W1 Crime writer Patricia Cornwell is among America’s top ten best- selling authors. Deirdre = Molloy asks the grand dame how she scaled these heights and what makes her tick.
Name Patricia Cornwell. Age 39. Route to becoming a writer I guess I was a born storyteller. I wrote my first novel at college btit went into journalism because I wanted to get paid for writing. My next book was a biography of Ruth Graham. evangelist Billy Graham‘s wife. who I‘ve known since childhood. She's almost like a mother figure to rrre. I went full-time as a writer in 1988. Previous jobs I was police reporter for | |
the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina. and then joined the Medical Examiner‘s Office as a computer programmer. Whilst there. I was also a police voltrrrteer working on non- enforcerrrent activities. I had an unmarked car and for four years I rode with homicide detectives every weekend. All of it was research.
Daily Routine I get tip when the sun rises. make some coffee. and start writing. whether I‘m in my LA condo l or my oflice-cum-house in Richmond. 1 have two offices and a staff of ten. so I spend lunch sorting ottt business matters with them. In the evening I take off and go for a run or roller-blade. Deep into a novel it gets quite intense and I can be writing for fifteen hours a day.
Influences Without a doubt the good and remarkable people I've had the honour to becorrre close to. My success wouldn‘t be what it is if] hadn‘t met Dr Marcella Fierro. Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond. in the mid-80s. People should never underestimate the powerful influence any individual can have on your life. In my case those individuals have been women. Ambition 1 want every book to be better than the last book and to be true to my calling.
Fears My biggest fear is rrryself— I‘m the only one who can screw it up. Income In the multi-million bracket. I grew up poor. worked hard. and made it. I like to see that as an inspiration to young people out there. They can be a success.
From Potter's Field by Patricia Cornrr'ell is published by Little. Brown at £15.99. See Events.
REVIEWS ~ BEYOND OYBERPUNK
I The Diamond Age Neal Stephenson
(Viking. £9.99) The end of the next
century. for all its global reshufﬂing and technological daneg bits. is a rather familiar place. Stephenson‘s second novel. following the all-action satire of .S‘nont'rush (which starred Yours Truly and Hiro Protagonist). foregrourrds this conceit with a baroque attitude that pole vaults it otrt of the cyberpunk ghetto. into the grabbing hands of a wider audience.
The Primer. an interactive text created to educate the daughter of a powerful businessman and diplomat. falls into the Irands of Nell. an underclass waif living in the Leased Territories of Atlantis-Slrarrglrai. As Nell grows tip. her fate becorrrcs pivotal to the
'; ideological war between the lrenclrrrrcn
of neo-Victorian and neo-(‘onfusian
Punclry heroines bestride the tale. and the bugbears of our current malaise —
i relativism. gender. and spiritual loss
surrender to the stor'yteller‘s tongue. Catch a Seattle-based author going inter-stellar. There's space for everyone. (Deirdre Molloy)
IN FULL FLIGHT
I Cleared For Take-01f Dirk Bogarde (Viking £16) A ‘six volume ego trip' is how Dirk Bogarde describes his compilation of memoirs. From the first. A l’osti/lion Struck By Lightning. to this final volume. Bogarde has recounted the experiences of tortured souls: those he witnessed in wartime and those he played for directors such as Joseph Losey and Luchino Visconti.
Growing up meant inhaling the stench of death. The horror of Belan and the sight ofcornrades ripped apart by
landmines doused his boyish glee. Rather than internalise this terror into stark xenophobia. he returned home to cultivate a strident Europhilia.
This illuminates each page. from his choice of stage fornarrrc to his love of all things French. Movie anecdotes are sprinkled throughout as Bogarde encounters a raging Ingrid Bergman. a flirty Mai Zetterling and Alec Guinness giving advice on receiving a Knighthood. Bogarde tells his story with wit and hurrranity and he retains his status as favourite great uncle. (Brian Donaldson)
SHORT CHANGED I V. I. For Short Sara Paretsky (Hamish Hamilton £14.99) After Parctsky‘s smart-talking. no-messing creation V.l. \\"arshawski swept into the detective genre in 1982 against the backdrop of Chicago‘s crime-ridden streets. the adjective ‘feisty' was applied to just about every sassy female tec born in her wake.
lf Paretsky is not culpable of this crime. she is guilty in the first degree of a serious cash-in with this collection of short stories that didn‘t have the beef to make a novel. The stories appear to be the result of a clearout of Warshawski's case files over the last thirteen years. In fact. the author‘s admission at the beginning of the book confirms this: ‘1
Sara Paretsky: no (punch. sorrretirrres write short stories when I am trying to understand a question that doesn't seem to merit a whole novel.’
This is for devoted l’ar‘etsky fans only. btrt even then it could be like getting the hors—d'hoevre when you ordered a horse between two mattresses. if you get the analogy. (Ann Donald)
£5“ ‘ L‘s“ n ’ A
I long Walk To Freedom Nelson Mandela (Abacus £8.99) Proving himself an accomplished wordsmith arid a humble. genuine man. Mandela‘s biography. begun secretly while he was incarcerated in 1974. is a truly moving and inspirational read. 1-‘r‘orn his childhood as sort of a tribal chief to his inauguration as president of a new South Africa. this is an in-dcptlr personal and political account.
': essential to an understanding of the country's recent history. ‘ I Psychoville ("lrr'istopher l‘owler
(Warner £7.99) When townies the Marches move to the nriddlc class tnodel new town Itrvicta (toss. little do they realise that the pretensions of their neighbours will destroy them completely. Ten years later. a glamorous couple arrives in town. and then the trouble starts. With a srrperb twist. this lrilarrous arid chilling novel is a masterpiece of baroque brilliance.
I The Smiths: All Men Have Secrets 'I‘om Gallacher. Michael Campbell and Murdo ('iillies (Virgin £6.99) from ‘Acccpt Yourself‘ to ‘You Jrist Haven't Earned It Yet. Baby. topped \\ itlr a John Peel penned introduction and tailed with a discography. this is an alphabetical collection ol'global sonndbites documenting the personal significance of each Smiths opus I‘ar front a sad cash-in. this is a social. political and ctrltural overview of a decade.
I Dependence Day Robert Newman (Arrow £4.99) Don't believe the hype. Bar a neat line in quirky characteriserion. Rob ‘\\'lritelrotrse' Newman's debut is an
anorexic. somnamlurlant turkey.
l I-leartbrokcn Kevin with a Kenny Rogers
, fixatiotr flits through the life of Karen who I is in Iriding after witnessing a nrurder.
5 Meanwhile. ()rlando's gangster lifestyle is
not going according to plan. Ho. hum.
I Patricia oomwell Wed 1 1. 7pm. (ii-7T. 12 Rose Street. £1.50. The award-winning creator of forensic sleuth Dr Kay Scarpetta speaks about and signs copies of her latest book Front Potter's Field (Little. Brown £15.99). For tickets contact Dillons. 174-6 Argyle Street. 248 4814 or the OFT. 332 8128. See The Write Stuff. I Jack Hirshman and Peter Plate Sun 15. 2pm. CCA. studio. £2/£1. A powerful double bill from this pair of Californian writers. Hirshrnan's work is unabashedly political and fired with humour; Plate. who began performing his poetry in bars during the punk era. tackles the American myth.
I Torn Weir Wed 11. 7.30pm. City Hall. Candleriggs. Tickets £4 from Waterstone‘s. 132 Union Street. 221 0890. Tom Weir gives a lecture in association with the Scottish Rights of Way Society.
I Sue Johns and Patrick ounane Fri 6. 7.30pm. £1.50 (£1). The West End Hotel. Palmerston Place. London-based performance poets Johns and Cunane kick off the season‘s first poetry and pints session.
I Adrian Gilbert Fri 6. 7pm. Waterstone‘s.
13—— 14 Princes Street. 556 _3()34.'1'ickets free. Author of The .Ilrtv/rttn Prophecies (lilement £ 16.99). Gilbert joins Maurice Cotter'ell to discuss the secrets unlocked in the Mayan temples of Central America and their implications. He will sign copies of his book.
I Alex Benzie and Pat Barker Mon 9. 7pm. 128 Princes Street. 226 2666. Free tickets from branch. Ben/.ie will be reading from and signing copies of his debut novel The i’eur's Midnight. Barker will dip itrto and sign copies of The Ghost Road. the third novel it) her World War 1 series.
I Patricia Cornwell Tue 10. 7pm. Assembly Rooms. George Street. £1.50. Tickets frorri Waterstone's. 128 Princes Street. 226 2666. Thebestselling American crime novelist speaks about and signs copies of her latest book Front Potter '5' Field (Little. Brown £15.99). See The Write Stuff.
I Andrew Sullivan Tue 10. 7pm. Waterstone's. 13—14 Princes Street. 556 3034. Tickets free. Editor of The New Republic Andrew Sullivan will discuss the arguments about homosexuality in his book Virtually Normal (Picador £14.99). I Professor 8111 Fletcher Wed 1 1. 7pm. James Thin. 53-59 South Bridge. 556 6743. Professor Fletcher will launch his new book Baxter's Book 0fFomous Scots ( Lang Syne £10. 95).
I Tim Willocks Thurs 12. 7.30pm.
\Vttlct‘sltutc's. b' i (ictugc 511111.225 3430. The author of the bestselling (ireen River Rising reads from and signs copies of his IZIIL‘SI “in CI liltnu/ Sllllllt'l.’ Klitg‘.) (Jonathan (‘ape £14.99). a thriller exploring the darkest corners of the lrnrrran psyche. I Tim Pat Coogan Mon 16. 7pm. Waterstone's. 134714 Princes Street. 556 3034. Tickets free. Brographer of De Valera and Michael Collins. Coogan will be reading from and signing copies of his new book The 'I‘roubles (Century £20). a study of the Northern Irish situation from 1966 to present. I John Burnside Tue 17. 7pm. James Thin. 53—59 South Bridge. 556 6743. The Durrferrnline poet reads from his new collectionSwimming In The Flood (Jonathan Cape £7). I Penelope Fitzgerald Wed 18. 7pm. James Thin. 53—59 South Bridge. 556 6743. The writer reads from her latest novel Blue Flower (HarperC‘ollins £14.99). I ﬂattering On The Net: Women, Power And Cyberspace Thurs 19. 7.30pm. South Side Community Centre. 1 17 Nicolson Street. Tickets £2 (£1) from Word Power Bookshop. 43 West Nicolson Street. 662 91 12. Australian author Dale Spencer talks about her latest book Nuttering On The Net (Spinfex Press £1 1.95). Inaugural Word Power lecture celebrating the bookshop's first birthday.
The List 6-19 Oct 1995 93