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Friday 19 September 2014

Patricia Cornwell: Why I've come to Ireland to speak on Dracula

Published 26/10/2012 | 06:00

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The best-selling author tells Joe O'Shea why she'll pay homage to one of our great literary success stories

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One of the most successful crime writers of all time is coming to Ireland this weekend to pay homage to the Irish godfather of gore.

Best-selling US author Patricia Cornwell will be the keynote speaker at a festival to promote the legacy of Dracula author Bram Stoker.

Cornwell, who has sold over 100 million books worldwide, will talk about "The Anatomy of Fear" at Trinity College -- Stoker's alma mater -- tomorrow night.

And the 56-year-old writer will focus on how the serial-killers of modern fiction have become, in many ways, the equivalent of Stoker's vampire, existing in "those dark corners of the human psyche".

Speaking from London yesterday, Cornwell said she is fascinated with Stoker, partly because of his connections to a real-life serial killer she has written (and some would say obsessed) about, Jack The Ripper.

In her 2002 book, Portrait of a Killer -- Jack The Ripper: Case Closed, Cornwell put forward her own theory that "Jack" was the Victorian painter Walter Sickert.

"I came across the connections involving Bram Stoker, who was the manger of the Lyceum Theatre in London for the actor Henry Irving, who would have been very well known to Sickert.

"They all would have moved in the same circles," said Cornwell. "I find the connection between the Jack The Ripper case, and what we might call the early Gothic horror, from writers such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Wilkie Collins and Bram Stoker, deeply fascinating.

"A lot of people may not realise this, but the time that the Jack The Ripper murders started happening was around the same time you had theatrical productions of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde hitting the London stage."

Cornwell sees the Gothic horror stories of Dracula and Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde as a "precursor to modern crime fiction".

"What I am dealing with, through characters that use modern investigative techniques and technology, are the same sort of drives and impulses that Stoker was writing about and Mary Shelley dealt with in Frankenstein.

"It is the dark side of the human psyche, the understanding that there were disorders in people, what we now call personality disorders, like psychopathy, sociopathy, narcissism, which you find bundled together in one person, that can make them capable of being the perfect violent storm."

Cornwell has recently published her 20th book featuring Kay Scarpetta, a forensics examiner who many see as the inspiration for TV dramas such as the CSI shows.

"I don't claim to have invented all of those CSI-type programmes but maybe I should," she said.

The writer says she has already begun the next Scarpetta story, but will have to wait until she returns home to really give her next novel the "time and discipline it needs".

Patricia Cornwell will speak in the Edmund Burke Theatre in Trinity College, Dublin, tomorrow night from 7.30pm, and will sign copies of her new book afterwards

Irish Independent

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