There are many who believe The Miami Herald's Edna Buchanan to be the best police reporter in the country. A 1986 Pulitzer Prize and a best-selling 1987 collection of her articles, The Corpse Had a Familiar Face, add weight to that claim. Further proof now comes with this sequel of sorts.
In Never Let Them See You Cry, Buchanan pounds the tough turf of her beat as if on a mission. Between offering lively reminiscences about her life and the crime scenes she has witnessed, she writes about love ("The person most likely to murder you sits across the breakfast table"), dreams ("Dreams do come true. Unfortunately, many of them are terrifying") and Miami politics.
Most and best of all, Buchanan writes about cops: "Three days after Harrison Crenshaw's death, Officer Simmons Arrington, in uniform, on patrol, was dispatched to a routine neighborhood dispute. A resident complained that a man named Sam Smith had threatened him. Smith was seated in a car when Officer Arrington arrived.
" 'I'm the man you're looking for,' he called out. As the officer walked toward him, Smith fired a shotgun at point-blank range. Seventy-two hours earlier, Arrington had cradled a fellow policeman who died in his arms. Now he, too, was dead."
Never Let Them See You Cry is a primer about how a first-rate journalist approaches her work. It also shows, in explicit detail, how living and dying are often separated by microseconds for those who carry guns and wear badges.
Most important, Never Let Them See You Cry is about fine writing, the kind of work too seldom seen in the pages of today's homogenized newspapers. Just for that, a ride with Edna Buchanan down the streets of the nice and the vice of Miami is worth the fare. (Random House, $20.00)