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Who is Edna Buchanan?

By Britt Archer
Updated May 23, 2024
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Edna Buchanan is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who made her mark at the Miami Herald for nearly two decades on the police beat. After winning the Pulitzer in 1986, she went on to write a series of mystery novels whose heroine, Cuban-American Britt Montero, also is a crime reporter in Miami. In interviews, Edna Buchanan denied the Britt Montero character is her alter ego, claiming the fictional heroine is much more of an active participant in her news stories than she ever was in her own. Edna Buchanan also wrote several nonfiction books based on her experiences covering crime in Miami, including The Corpse Had a Familiar Face.

She was born in 1939 in Paterson, New Jersey. From the age of 7, she grew up in a household held together by a single parent. Her father, who worked in a factory, had deserted his wife and daughter. Money was tight, and Edna Buchanan held part-time jobs throughout her adolescence to bring in extra money. After high school, she wired switchboards in Paterson in the same factory where her mother was employed.

Edna Buchanan did not attend college or obtain any journalism training other than what she learned on the job. She fell into reporting after moving from New Jersey to Florida where she learned that the Miami Beach Daily Sun was hiring. The first job she had applied for, the Miami branch of the Paterson company where she had been responsible for wiring switchboards, was not hiring.

After switching to the Miami Herald, she stepped into the police beat and made it her own. In journalism circles in the 1970s, it was unusual for a woman to cover crime, murder and the morgue, and it was not a beat where many stayed long before moving on to another area of reporting. Despite the gruesomeness of what she was called on to report, including 3,000 murders over her career, she devoted herself to giving voice to the victims for 18 years. In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, she also won the George Polk Award, a highly respected journalism award given by Long Island University, and the Green Eyeshade Excellence in Journalism Award given by the Society of Professional Journalists. Her mysteries have twice been nominated for the Edgar Award.

Edna Buchanan is an avid animal lover who has owned a number of pets, all of them rescued strays, including a rabbit, cats and dogs. She has been divorced twice. She met her first husband, James Buchanan, while working at her first newspaper job. Her second husband was a Miami Beach policeman, Emmett Miller, who went on to become police chief.

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Discussion Comments
By anon237097 — On Dec 27, 2011

Great writing on her. Have you heard her recent interview on the book report? It got me to read her last book but I am interested in her past ones. Such a fun lady. If you just look up book report radio, I think you can archive her show and listen to it on the site.

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