Every corner of the country worth a damn seems to have a signature author painting its streets in the darkest shades on the palette – from Tony Hillerman hiking the parched Navajo desert to Dennis Lehane lurking in Boston's grimiest allies to James Ellroy plumbing LA's bloodiest past.
Luckily for us, no one does crime quite like Miami. And no one else has a signature queen of the thriller quite like Edna Buchanan.
Buchanan spent years on the police beat at the Miami Herald, where she won a Pulitzer Prize in 1986. She left reporting after her thrillers starring Britt Montero took off, and just published her 15th novel, "Legally Dead."
Buchanan will speak about her time on the crime beat and her newest book on Sunday, Nov. 16, at 4 p.m. in room 3208-09 on the Miami-Dade College Wolfson Campus.
On the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Miami Book Fair, Buchanan postponed an early afternoon swim with her dog, pulled off her bathing cap, and -- after the jump -- talks about why she loves the Book Fair, what it means to be a South Florida writer, and what she's cooking up next.
Riptide: This is the Book Fair’s 25th anniversary. How long have you been a part of it?
EB: This is the 25th, so it started in '83, right? I’ve been involved every year since ‘87. It’s a wonderful event. I’ve been to so many other book-fairs around the country and there’s really no comparison. I love that it represents all these genres from all over the world. The only problem is there’s so many good programs on opposite each other that you have to make some very difficult decisions. Last year, I went to see three black woman horror writers. The year before Nora Emphron and I got to mix it up. I love the chance to see other fiction writers because it’s great moral support. When Tim Dorsey had his first book at the fair, he was on a panel with two other writers and I came to see him and brought copies of his book. I know that meant a lot to him. It's fun to see these writers grow.
Riptide: Anything in particular on this year's schedule that you're excited about?
EB: I haven’t even seen it yet, to be honest. I should take a look. I know they've always got some fantastic mystery writers, and someone mentioned that Mario Batali is coming to talk. Cookbooks are the big thing right now, you know? I've always wanted to write a cookbook. When I was a reporter, the best food in town was always at the firehouse because they’re always around and cooking for each other. What I wanted to do, because those guys have such such great war stories about fighting fires, the rescues, really more exciting stuff than you see on ER, my idea was to go visit the busiest firehouses around the country, get the war-storeis, and publish their best recipes with them. You've got everything in that book -- love, sex, danger, and great food.
Riptide: That's a fantastic idea. What else are you working on?
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EB: I have three new book proposals and a non-fiction proposal with my publisher right now. "Legally Dead" just came out, and that was intended as a stand alone novel from the start. I think the Britt Montero series, I thought would be a series from the start. I had been wanting to write that series for 26 years and I thought it was a natural fit.
One proposal involves a new Britt book. Another is a historical book, which is something I haven't really done. I always say it takes about 9 months to write a book, and when you finally deliver it, it weighs about four or five pounds and you're hoping that, like a baby, it grows up someday and sends you some money back home.
Riptide: How much do you connect with other South Florida writers?
EB: You know, it’s harder to write fiction in a place like Miami. When the real news is so incredible, to the point that editors would reject the stories if you proposed them as a fiction piece, it can be hard to write fiction. So to me, the book fair is like Christmas, my birthday and New Year's Eve all wrapped up in one. It’s a very lonely business, being a writer. I write at home alone every day with my dog, so it's really exciting to be plunged in with so many other writers for a week. It’s the biggest event of my year.