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The Unofficial Patricia Cornwell Companion: A Guide to the Bestselling Author's Life and Work [Paperback]

George Beahm
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 4 2002
The Unofficial Patricia Cornwell Companion is the first and only book devoted to this bestselling author and her beloved heroine, forensic pathologist Dr. Kay Scarpetta. It's the definitive work on Cornwell--encompassing all the details of her life, her body of work, and the deep and intriguing relationship between the two.

Including numerous interviews and articles about Cornwell's work, a number of rare photographs of the author and her world, as well as a detailed discussion of each title, the Companion is a fact-packed encyclopedia for the millions of readers who've become hooked on Scarpetta and her creator. Fans will delight in the true insider's look at Richmond, the city Kay Scarpetta calls home, as well as a thorough examination of the geography of Cornwell's world. A glossary of forensic terminology and a guide to the characters who appear in each novel round out the book, making it a useful reference tool in addition to a revealing look at a reclusive author.

All in all, The Unofficial Patricia Cornwell Companion is a must-read for each of Patricia Cornwell's millions of fans.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

George Beahm, the compiler of The Stephen King Companion and The Unauthorized Anne Rice Companion, has now assembled The Unofficial Patricia Cornwell Companion. Beahm examines both the bestselling author's life and her works, while appendices include a technical guide to the world of Kay Scarpetta and a guide to collecting Cornwell from Postmortem (1990) to the present.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Many readers consider these companion volumes as essential additions; others find them superficial and simplistic. This slight companion to the works of Patricia Cornwell (the creator of Dr. Kay Scarpetta) is somewhere in the middle: while the book is, its author acknowledges, full of commonly known facts (it draws heavily on Cornwell's own official Web site, for example, and on various published interviews and articles), it does offer enough variety to make it interesting to Cornwell's fans. Beahm, who has written companion guides to the works of Anne Rice and Vaughan Bode, offers brief chapters on each of Cornwell's books, a couple of introductory chapters that constitute a sketchy biography, and a handful of appendixes on forensic pathology, scientific terminology, and a list of codes used by the police to describe criminal activities. Nearly all of the book's information can be found elsewhere by Cornwell fans who are keen to play detective, but those who prefer a handy book that puts it all between covers will find it useful. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
It's an unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon in Richmond, Virginia, where a line of several hundred people wait patiently for the arrival of Patricia Cornwell, scheduled for a book signing at the newly renovated Science Museum located downtown. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Paperback
This book does well what it does, which isn't much. I received it as a Christmas 2003 gift, and while I'm happy to have it, I will admit quite readily to its limitations.
That is, for those like me (avid readers and fans of Cornwell BOOKS -- with maybe a vague curiosity in the author of the work), do we really need a companion book that's 50% summaries of books we've already read and 50% information that we've already seen or read in the media? Not really.
However, for someone who's insatiably interested in authors as people, in tracking the progress of popular writers from obscurity to surpassing success, or requiring (for whatever reason) a nutshell expression of the literary and public interface of Patricia Cornwell, then this book is the ideal.
The thing is, the book is really detailed in its provision of information... there are glossaries of terms Cornwell uses in her books, reviews of the books, published interviews with Cornwell, and the aforementioned summaries of all of her novels through Jack the Ripper: Case Closed. I learned a little more about her as a person, but mostly, the book asserts what I already knew. She is reclusive -- even shy -- by nature, passionate about helping others, and intrinsically private.
Frankly, there's an awful lot of Cornwell in her novels, and perhaps it's through them that it's most possible to get to know her.
Was this review helpful to you?
2.0 out of 5 stars Companion is hardly reader friendly Nov. 27 2003
Format:Paperback
Author companions are often considered essential reading by die-hard fans, providing a unique insight into the author's private life and literary world.
And, for readers who are also writers, companions promise a peak under the curtain by revealing the inspiration and inner workings of the author's craft.
That's what I gained many years ago when I read 'The Stephen King Companion' by George Beahm. And that's what I expected to read with his latest unauthorized tome on the life and times of Patricia Cornwell, bestselling author of 11 medical thrillers featuring forensic pathologist Dr Kay Scarpetta.
Sadly, 'The Unofficial Patricia Cornwell Companion' is not up to Beahm's previous work.
On the surface, it has all of the ingredients for a successful companion book ~ biographical information, author interviews and an examination of her works ~ but it is missing a few less tangible but equally vital elements ~ passion, enthusiasm and depth.
Beahm has gathered information from a variety of sources, including Cornwell's own web site as well as third party interviews and articles. But there doesn't appear to be a lot of original work beyond the guide to her books (including plot synopses, research and critical reviews) and a glossary of forensic terminology which command the lion's share of the book.
The most sought-after component of the companion is missing ~ an original interview with the reclusive author.
Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars Patricia Cornwell, a Portrait Feb. 4 2003
Format:Paperback
Not since Beahm's Stephen King Companion has a book made a writer so accessible. Much like the earlier title, the Patricia Cornwell Companion is an equally fascinating read for folks just getting into Ms. Cornwell's work as well as for experts. Each chapter goes into depth about each book in Cornwell's canon, presenting a breakdown, listing each edition and awards won, reprinting reviews and interviews, and (my favorite) presenting an "A to Z" glossary of each book. The best feature of this book, though, are the Appendices, discussing the facts and details of the life of real-life forensic investigators.
A terrific book by a consistantly terrific writer, The Patricia Cornwell companion is a worthy addition to anyone's Cornwell collection.
-Kevin Quigley
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4.0 out of 5 stars interesting bio Oct. 9 2002
By Harriet Klausner TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Anyone interested in the life and works of Patricia Cornwell will definitely want to buy and immediately read THE UNOFFICIAL PATRICIA CORNWELL COMPANION. The first section is a mini-biography on the author, highlighting the high points of her life. Two interesting sub-sections are "The Quotable Patricia Cornwell" and a reprint of an interview with the author.

Section II looks at the works of Patricia Cornwell with reviews of each book stating what the critical thought about each novel is. This is a treasure chest of information and shows that the author went two steps beyond a mini-synopsis to give the audience a feel for each novel. If there is one criticism of this novel, it is that there is no interview with the author specifically intended for this biography.

Harriet Klausner
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.3 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good for Hard Core Fans, a Pass for the Mildly Interested Dec 28 2003
By D. Rizzo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book does well what it does, which isn't much. I received it as a Christmas 2003 gift, and while I'm happy to have it, I will admit quite readily to its limitations.
That is, for those like me (avid readers and fans of Cornwell BOOKS -- with maybe a vague curiosity in the author of the work), do we really need a companion book that's 50% summaries of books we've already read and 50% information that we've already seen or read in the media? Not really.
However, for someone who's insatiably interested in authors as people, in tracking the progress of popular writers from obscurity to surpassing success, or requiring (for whatever reason) a nutshell expression of the literary and public interface of Patricia Cornwell, then this book is the ideal.
The thing is, the book is really detailed in its provision of information... there are glossaries of terms Cornwell uses in her books, reviews of the books, published interviews with Cornwell, and the aforementioned summaries of all of her novels through Jack the Ripper: Case Closed. I learned a little more about her as a person, but mostly, the book asserts what I already knew. She is reclusive -- even shy -- by nature, passionate about helping others, and intrinsically private.
Frankly, there's an awful lot of Cornwell in her novels, and perhaps it's through them that it's most possible to get to know her.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Patricia Cornwell, a Portrait Feb. 4 2003
By Kevin Quigley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Not since Beahm's Stephen King Companion has a book made a writer so accessible. Much like the earlier title, the Patricia Cornwell Companion is an equally fascinating read for folks just getting into Ms. Cornwell's work as well as for experts. Each chapter goes into depth about each book in Cornwell's canon, presenting a breakdown, listing each edition and awards won, reprinting reviews and interviews, and (my favorite) presenting an "A to Z" glossary of each book. The best feature of this book, though, are the Appendices, discussing the facts and details of the life of real-life forensic investigators.
A terrific book by a consistantly terrific writer, The Patricia Cornwell companion is a worthy addition to anyone's Cornwell collection.
-Kevin Quigley
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Riddled with errors and inaccuracies Nov. 25 2010
By Duchess of New Town - Published on Amazon.com
I borrowed this book from the local library on a whim and unfortunately can't say I was impressed. I've read each of Cornwell's Scarpetta novels once or twice over the past decade or so, but certainly wouldn't consider myself a Scarpetta obsessive. Nevertheless, I immediately noticed several factual errors within the small proportion of this book actually relating to Cornwell's works.

I agree with the Amazon review that virtually all material contained within this book is easily available through the internet. In fairness to the author, perhaps this wasn't the case at the time his work was originally published.

The author's pontificating over the care and treatment of collectible editions of published works would be of more interest to book collectors than to those who are interested in an overview of Patricia Cornwell's work, themes, characters etc.

I find the book's self-marketing as "the definitive work on Cornwell", containing "a detailed discussion of each title", a "guide to characters" (which, with the possible exception of Scarpetta, seemed completely non-existent) and "fact-packed" completely misleading. At best, it is a reasonable compendium of Cornwell's press interviews prior to 2002 and an annotated bibliography, concentrating more on publication details than themes, plot features and characters.

I would recommend that any Cornwell fan who is interested in reading about the background to her books purchase or borrow "The Complete Patricia Cornwell Companion" by Glenn L. Feole and Don Lasseter, instead.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars ONLY FOR THE MOST DIE HARD CORWELL FANS Jan. 15 2008
By Shannon Deason - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I read things about Cornwell and Ive read all of her books, lord help me...and frankly, there was nothing in this book I had not heard or read elsewhere and I'm hardly an expert on Cornwell. One piece of advice..if you have not read a certain book DONT read the synopsis of it in this book, it will ruin it for you, it's a real spoiler, eventhough ive read all the books, ive forgotten some of them and even I dont want to have the whole book explained to me. Really, I dont get the reason for this book, is it really necessary to have all the books broken down and a quick index of the characters, I mean if you've read her books, you know who all these people are and you know what the books are about, and Cornwell it not interesting at all, she's notoriously mysterious and prickly.
2.0 out of 5 stars Companion is hardly reader friendly Nov. 27 2003
By Michael Meanwell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Author companions are often considered essential reading by die-hard fans, providing a unique insight into the author's private life and literary world.
And, for readers who are also writers, companions promise a peak under the curtain by revealing the inspiration and inner workings of the author's craft.
That's what I gained many years ago when I read 'The Stephen King Companion' by George Beahm. And that's what I expected to read with his latest unauthorized tome on the life and times of Patricia Cornwell, bestselling author of 11 medical thrillers featuring forensic pathologist Dr Kay Scarpetta.
Sadly, 'The Unofficial Patricia Cornwell Companion' is not up to Beahm's previous work.
On the surface, it has all of the ingredients for a successful companion book ~ biographical information, author interviews and an examination of her works ~ but it is missing a few less tangible but equally vital elements ~ passion, enthusiasm and depth.
Beahm has gathered information from a variety of sources, including Cornwell's own web site as well as third party interviews and articles. But there doesn't appear to be a lot of original work beyond the guide to her books (including plot synopses, research and critical reviews) and a glossary of forensic terminology which command the lion's share of the book.
The most sought-after component of the companion is missing ~ an original interview with the reclusive author.
Beahm explains in the introduction:
"Unlike (Stephen) King and (Anne) Rice, who have been covered exhaustively in the media at large and in books studying their work, Cornwell has kept a low profile: no book-length works had been published about her or her work, and because she zealously guards her time and personal access, especially with the media, only a handful of profile pieces had been published to date, few of them flattering."
He concedes later:
"Much of what is in this book is common knowledge, collected for the first time under one set of covers. Drawing from public sources, this book strikes a balance between what her readers would like to know and the privacy to which Cornwell is entitled."
Given that this is the first Patricia Cornwell biography, it does, of course, shed some light on the writer's life ~ whetting the appetite for an authorised version hopefully some time soon.
For fellow writers wishing to gain an insight into her literary life, the companion offers a handful of quotable quotes from the scribe:
Cornwell on literary production:
"The best I did was write 200 pages in 10 days. Next morning I woke up, my left hand was paralyzed for four months. Radial-nerve damage. But I wasn't unbalanced. I was just manic like an artist gets manic."
Cornwell on characters:
"It's important to me to live in the world I write about. If I want a character to do or know something, I try to do or know the same thing."
Cornwell on inspiration:
"I think the most important thing is that you have to believe in what you're doing. It can't just be cranking out another book ~ it's your mission."
Cornwell on writing:
"I don't do it as a job. I don't write an outline or plot everything out. My office looks like a bomb hit it, totally unstructured. I do all the research first, and none of the writing, then I sit in front of what I've gathered and go to work. I take notes all the time, can't turn off, use spare moments to jot things down. Then I go into seclusion; I go under, and I write a book."
And a passing shot at critics:
"When you've had really big success, critics are just looking for a chance to blast you out of the water. I think my characters are colourful, and I think my fans agree. They wouldn't keep buying my books if they didn't."

The Bottom Line

'The Unofficial Patricia Cornwell Companion' goes some way to documenting the literary life of Patricia Cornwell. But for those fans who want more than a skin-deep examination of the author's world, you'll have to wait for a companion to this book.
-- Michael Meanwell, author of the critically-acclaimed 'The Enterprising Writer' and 'Writers on Writing'. For more book reviews and prescriptive articles for writers, visit [...]
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