Edna Buchanan, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1986 for her coverage of murder and mayhem in Miami, spoke Saturday at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla.
I introduced the author, who told students how she overcame her awkwardness as a child growing up in Paterson, N.J., to become an acclaimed crime reporter.
Among the keys to Buchanan’s success: Hard work, determination and a passion for giving a voice to the victims of crime.
I met Buchanan for the first time while working at the Miami Herald in the 1980s. She was a legend by then and I remember being in awe of her – and her big hair – when I bumped into her in the elevator at the paper’s headquarters at One Herald Plaza.
Buchanan went from covering crime at the Herald to writing novels 20 years ago. I am a fan of her crime stories and cite her punchy writing when teaching students how to write leads.
Buchanan has written many books. My favorite is “The Corpse Had a Familiar Face.” Her latest book is called “A Dark and Lonely Place.”
You can learn more about Buchanan and her work at her website, which lists some of the things she’s learned over the years:
- The person most likely to murder you sits across the breakfast table. Your nearest and dearest, the one who sleeps on the pillow next to yours and shares your checking account, can be far more lethal than any sinister stranger lurking in the shadow. Love Kills.
- Don’t argue with anyone holding a machete, or a garden hose for that matter. You’re bound to get wet or worse. And, never pull a knife on a man with a gun.
- Never allow an abductor, irate ex-husband, spurned lover, or total stranger force you into a car, van truck, or your own home. Do whatever you have to do.
- If kidnapped, ask for fried chicken when your captors offer food. The FBI will find your fingerprints in their hideout even if they never find you.
- Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
- Doctors are a lot like cops; there is no bad situation they cannot make worse.
- People who say, “Let me tell you the truth,” won’t. When they say “Trust me,” don’t.
- Never trust a man whose manicure is better than yours.
- Keep your word. Don’t lie. The truth is easier. You won’t have to stop and think every time you’re asked a question.
- Writers should never reveal a source. And the three cardinal rules of journalism are: never trust an editor, never trust an editor, and never trust an editor.
- Go with your gut feeling—it’s usually right.
- True justice is so rare that it is most often found on the pages of novels. That is why it’s a joy to write fiction. You can make the good guys win and the bad guys get what they deserve—so unlike real life.
- Know your limitations. Set priorities, and focus, focus, focus. Don’t try to be Superwoman or Superman. They don’t exist. People who multi-task are the ones most likely to forget and leave the baby in the car on a hot summer day.
- Friends are the family you choose. The past is gone. The future’s uncertain. The present is a gift.
- Don’t walk barefoot in a house full of puppies.