Marksmanship

John Sutherland

  • From Potter’s Field by Patricia Cornwell
    Warner, 405 pp, £5.99, June 1996, ISBN 0 7515 1630 9
  • Cause of Death by Patricia Cornwell
    Little, Brown, 342 pp, £9.99, October 1996, ISBN 0 316 87885 5

Earlier this year it was announced that Patricia Cornwell, America’s newest Queen of Crime, had defected from Scribner (the publisher who ‘discovered’ her) to Putnam. In defiance of trade courtesy, Cornwell bad-mouthed Scribner unmercifully on leaving: they had never pushed her books hard enough, she was reported as claiming, treating her like some ‘midlist author’. She promptly infuriated her new publisher by divulging precise details of their deal to her local paper in Richmond, Virginia. Putnam wanted to leak the figures in their own good time and in places of their choosing, as part of a long-term promotion campaign for their expensive new acquisition. Cornwell’s pre-emptive disclosure showed her belief that Putnam’s record-breaking sum was a mark of her achievement, not their largesse.

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