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Apr 18 / King Kaufman

Edna Buchanan on getting the details right

Edna Buchanan

Edna Buchanan

Jeff Passan’s advice about sweating the right details reminds me of something one of my favorite writers, longtime Miami Herald crime reporter Edna Buchanan, wrote in her classic book “The Corpse had a Familiar Face.”

A question I always ask is “What was everybody wearing?” It has little to do with style. It has everything to do with the time I failed to ask. A man was shot and dumped into the street by a killer in a pickup truck. The case seemed somewhat routine — if one can ever call murder routine. But later, I learned that at the time the victim was shot, he was wearing a black taffeta cocktail dress and red high heels. I tracked down the detectives and asked, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You didn’t ask,” they chorused. Now I always ask.

Get the details and get them right. Even if you’re writing analysis or opinion as opposed to straight reporting like Buchanan, any one of those details could make the difference between an OK story and a great one.