David Randall, author of The Universal Journalist, presents 13 in-depth profiles of the best journalists who ever lived - nine Americans and four Britons, ten men and three women, whose lives were full of adventure, wit and the ingenuity to bring the story home.

Edna Buchanan
Crime correspondent, Miami Herald

Was deemed useless by her teacher, never attended college, and went from dead-end job to dead-end job until a writing course and spell on a tiny Florida paper set her on her way to become the greatest crime reporter in history. She covered the festival of mayhem that was the city of Miami, a place so lawless in the 1980s that at one point, as Buchanan reported, the Dade County morgue was so stuffed full of corpses that officials had to hire a refrigeration truck from Burger King to cope with the overflow.

Buchanan was a relentless collector of detail (“Ask one more question, knock on one more door, make one last phone call, and then another …”), and a relentless questioner of those in authority. One officer said he’d sooner be interrogated by Internal Affairs than by Edna. The result was an extraordinary portfolio, ranging from the rape victim who, running in distress down the street, came across another rape victim running in the other direction; the 72-year-old man who ran away from home because his 103-year-old mother wouldn’t buy him a car; the mother who framed her own two-year-old for the murder of his playmate; and Jacinto Roas, who murdered a man only to find that an iron security door had slammed shut and trapped him with the corpse.

Her stories were typified by crackling one-liner intros: “They called it Operation Snow White because the drug was cocaine and the suspects included seven Miami police officers” (1982); from 1985: “Bad things happen to the husbands of Widow Elkin”; and, most famously in March 1985, on the ex-con shot by a security guard before he could order at a fast food joint: “Gary Robinson died hungry”.

She was famous too for her three rules of reporting: “Never trust an editor, never trust an editor, never trust an editor.”

All text and logos copyright David Randall

Book cover images copyright Pluto Press