Tea Party puts off US crime writer Patricia Cornwell

1st April 2011, Comments 0 comments

She's a longtime supporter of Republican hopefuls, but best-selling American crime writer Patricia Cornwell says the Tea Party is sending a chill down her spin.

In Paris to promote the French translation of her latest book "Mortuary Port", Cornwell also explained her about-face on capital punishment and her mixed feelings with Barack Obama's turn in the White House.

"I think that the Tea Party is terrifying," the 54-year-old novelist told AFP in an interview, referring to the populist conservative movement that has been rattling the US political landscape.

"It's discriminatory and racist. I don't want our democracy turning into a theocracy."

"Port Mortuary" finds Cornwell's enduring heroine, medical examiner Kay Scarpetta, in the realm of virtual autopsy at real-life Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, which handles the remains of US service personnel killed overseas.

It went straight to number one on the New York Times best-seller list upon publication in November, and is expected to be popular among Cornwell's many French fans.

Like her heroine, "I don't like the war but I'm very loyal to the troops", said Cornwell, who took time to go to Dover and study first-hand the use of computed tomography, or CT scans, for post-mortem examinations.

"I like Obama, but I'm disappointed (with his administration), like everyone," she added. "But it's true that with the economic situation, the wars, all that, it's very difficult."

A native of Miami, Florida, Cornwell -- drawing on her work as a crime reporter and staffer in the office of the Virginia state chief medical examiner -- launched her literary career in 1990 with "Postmortem".

It was the first of what has become 18 novels featuring Scarpetta, a series that helped to inspire the current fad for network television series featuring forensic investigators.

"I'm a great fan" of such programmes, said Cornwell, who on Wednesday was honoured by the French state with a knighthood in the French Order of Arts and Letters.

"I can't compete with all those TV shows, so I have to offer something different with my books."

Politically, she has backed a number of Republicans, plus the odd Democrat, but social conservatives no doubt frown on her relationship with a female neurologist she married after Massachusetts approved gay weddings in 2004.

Cornwell's support for capital punishment changed after she met death-row convicts, "in particular a woman last summer in Tennessee", witnessing executions, and reflecting upon miscarriages of justice revealed by DNA tests.

"I have changed my mind," she said. The death penalty "is a matter of revenge and hatred ... not the role of a society."

As for Scarpetta making the leap from the printed page to the silver screen after Fox acquired the film rights to the character in 2009, Cornwell is optimistic -- and cheered by the prospect of Angelina Jolie assuming the role.

"The scriptwriter is selected, I have begun to work with him," she said.

"I have also met Angelina Jolie. I was very impressed when I met her. She is not a prima donna, she is very smart, friendly, very professional. She's got some ideas about her part, and she was very interested in mine."

"I hope it (the movie version) will go on."

© 2011 AFP

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