Sunday, October 31, 2010

The "Queen of Crime" gets hitched

The bride had a familiar name. The groom had a common name.

Click to enlarge

Edna Buchanan, the legendary former Miami Herald crime reporter, has quietly married. So quietly in fact, that details - or lack of them - are just now coming to light almost 6 months after the marriage ceremony last May 9.

According to information on the Website of the Miami-Dade County Clerk of the Courts, a marriage license was issued on May 4, 2010 and Buchanan was married five days later.

The groom is listed as Thomas M. Smith of Miami Beach. Buchanan and Smith share the same birth date - March 16 - although Buchanan is older than Smith by five years.

Some Edna trivia: I first met Edna when she interviewed me after one of my neighbors was gunned down on the lawn of his home after returning from shopping one rainy night in the late 70's.

In the mid-eighties, one of my first assignments as a freelance news photographer was to take a picture of Edna for a St. Petersburg Times profile. The editors thought it would be nice to have Edna pose near the Dade County jail. When I told Edna, she agreed and used her considerable influence to get us inside the jail.

Edna covered the cops beat for the Herald for 18 years and in 1986 won a Pulitzer Prize for her work. She left the Herald a few years later to write books full-time.

Her most famous book, "The Corpse Had a Familiar Face", was published in 1987. Today it's considered a Miami crime classic. She's written three other non-fiction crime books and 14 crime novels.

Edna also penned one of the most famous first lines ever written for a newspaper. "Gary Robinson died hungry," wrote Edna in a 1985 Miami Herald story about a man who was shot dead by a restaurant security guard for causing a ruckus after he was told there was no more chicken.

However, in 1986 New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin weighed-in with his favorite: "I'm rather partial to the Edna lead on a story last year about a woman about to go on trial for a murder conspiracy: 'Bad things happen to the husbands of Widow Elkin.'"

Veteran Herald photographer Tim Chapman remembers a particularly graphic description of death in one of Edna's stories.

In Sept. 1977, Chapman and Edna were sent to the Miami Serpentarium, a tourist attraction on South Dixie Highway, to cover the grisly death of a six year-old boy who had fallen into a pit that was home to an 1,800 pound Nile crocodile.

In the paper the next day, Edna wrote that "horrified tourists said they could hear the crunch of bones as the crocodile bit into the boy." Chapman recalls that many Herald readers wrote letters of complaint.

Of course that was exactly the reaction that Edna wanted. Edna told Calvin Trillin that her "idea of a successful lead is one that might cause a reader who is having breakfast with his wife to "spit out his coffee, clutch his chest, and say, 'My God, Martha! Did you read this!'"

Whatever your favorite Edna line is, one thing's for sure; you'll never see that kind of writing in the Herald again. Ever.

One Herald staffer told me, "The kind of stuff Edna used to write would never see the light of day in our paper today."


  1. Go Edna! Great post Bill!

  2. "The kind of stuff Edna used to write would never see the light of day in our paper today."

    And they wonder why their readership is plummeting.

  3. What a great story. Edna is one of my favorites...Thanks, Bill, for helping me track her down a few years ago for a phone interview.

  4. My first-ever crime story in Miami had me waiting behind yellow crime scene tape with other reporters and camera crews for some statement from the police PIO. The PIO arrives, and says, "Where's Edna? She'll want to hear this."
    Just then, the door to the townhouse where the murder had occurred opens, and out walks Edna.

  5. It's difficult to top the "died hungry" lead, but she's amazing.

    My first time meeting with her? discovery of a car in a Miami suburb with machine gunned-bodies in the trunk.

  6. I seem to remember getting her meat loaf recipe... from a cop. (Hi Nick!)


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