Drama and accolades in a life less ordinary
Born Patricia Carroll Daniels, on June 9, 1956, in Miami, Florida.
1961 Cornwell's father, Sam Daniels, a lawyer, walks out on the family on Christmas Day.
1963 The family move to Montreat, North Carolina, when Cornwell is seven years old. Her mother suffers from depression, and Cornwell spends two horrific spells in foster care.
1976 Suffering from anorexia and depression, Cornwell meets Ruth Graham Bell, wife of evangelist Billy. Graham changes Cornwell's life, helping to get her a place at Davidson College, and encouraging her to write.
1979 Graduates with a BA in English. Marries her English professor, Charles Cornwell. They divorce in 1989 but stay friends. Cornwell says he's now 'her private editor'. Becomes a crime reporter for The Charlotte Observer.
1983 Publishes her biography of Ruth Graham Bell (A Time for Remembering). She later falls out with members of Graham's family.
1984-1990 Works for the chief medical examiner of Virginia, first as a technical writer and then as a computer analyst. Also volunteers at the Richmond Police Dept.
1990 Having failed to publish three previous novels, Cornwell writes Postmortem after someone suggests she elevate the forensic examiner from a bit-part to starring role. Dr Kay Scarpetta is born.
1991 Postmortem, the first of 15 Scarpetta mysteries, is published to ecstatic reviews. It's the first novel to win the Edgar, Creasey, Anthony, and Macavity awards as well as the French Prix du Roman d'Aventures in one year.
1993 Crashes her car in Malibu after drinking two glasses of wine with her agent, Diane Cairns - and not actress Demi Moore as was rumoured. She's convicted of drink-driving and sentenced to 28 days in a treatment centre. Seeks help for substance abuse problems.
1997 Cornwell is 'outed' when a former lover, FBI forensic instructor Margo Bennett, is held hostage in a church by her jealous husband, Gene. Having threatened to kill his wife and the pastor, Bennett is jailed for 23 years.
1999 Dr Kay Scarpetta wins the Sherlock Award for best detective created by an American author.
2002 Cornwell publishes Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed to enormous controversy, in which she names British artist Walter Sickert as the mass murderer. She's said to have spent US$2 million buying 31 Sickert paintings to extract DNA.
2004 Moves to the Boston area where she marries her female partner. Writes a Sunday serial for The New York Times.
2007 Seeks injunction against Leslie Sachs for 'cyberstalking'. Sachs had unsuccessfully accused Cornwell of plagiarism, and later branded her a 'Jew hater' and 'neo Nazi'. Publishes The Book of the Dead. Working on Scarpetta No16. A novella is to be serialised in London's The Times next year.