Born in England, early childhood in Jamaica. I was five when we visited New York; I knew right away I'd live there someday. The bit in-between is a blur—some grade school in the US, boarding school in England, medical school in London. Pathology in Boston, forensics in Miami. And then, finally, New York. It's even better than I imagined it—I've lived here 20 years now, and not a day goes by when I wouldn't drop to my knees and kiss the sidewalk.
I'm a forensic pathologist, a Senior Medical Examiner in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner; it's demanding, fascinating and vitally important work. I've lectured on forensics around the world, including for the New York Police Department, the National Institute of Justice and the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA.
In the evening, I write. I got my start in Paper magazine, doing a column on the music and culture of raves and nightclubs. Then the gastronomy thing took off, and my food writing started popping up in bigger and bigger magazines—Food & Wine, then Martha Stewart Living, then the New York Times, GQ etc. I became a contributing editor for Martha Stewart Living, which I think kept me sane during the hard times after 9/11. The cops found this hilarious—one detective liked to say, "Dr. Hayes—he spends his days with the dead, his nights with Martha Stewart Living!" (The same cop also sang Hendrix's "Purple Haze" as "Doctor Hayes", with the chorus "Excuse me/While I cut this guy".)
My first novel, Precious Blood introduced Jenner, a burnt-out forensic pathologist dragged out of retirement to hunt a serial killer in post-9/11 New York (USA Today: "a nail-biting masterpiece", The Sun Sentinel: "a dark, hard-boiled procedural that soars".) Jenner returned in A Hard Death (Reviews have been good, but Booklist's frothing quote drives home the point best: "a CinemaScope novel, in Technicolor and surround sound: bloody murders, hot sex, decadence, incest, drug cartels...")
I live in a small loft near Union Square Park in downtown Manhattan. In 1911, my building was a carriage garage and stables; a century later, it's full of people who do things with money that I don't understand. I collect Victorian taxidermy, and midcentury Scandinavian ceramics. I lived with two endlessly warring cats, one the legacy of an old girlfriend, the other acquired at her suggestion "to keep the first company"—the worst advice since someone whispered "$28 worth of trinkets for this useless island? We'd be crazy not to take it!" The first cat is dead now; the second lives on, fat, asthmatic and happy.