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It was my day off, but it was murder. Again.
The phone caught me on the way out. A body in a car in a parking lot. Sure, I said. It was on my way. I'd check it out. It was high noon, during the Christmas rush, in a city parking lot outside a Miami Beach department store near bustling Lincoln Road Mall.
A shiny, lime-green Coupe de Ville sat at a meter, its wheels turned sharply. The red flag signaled violation.
The driver's time had run out.
The meter maid had written a parking ticket. She leaned over to place it on the windshield and saw the man inside. A parking ticket would not irritate this driver. Nothing would. She called the police.
A knot of patrolmen and detectives ringed the car. I still hoped it was something simple. Maybe a heart attack, or a suicide. A bald, cigar-smoking detective named Emery Zerick stepped away from the car and called my name. I saw the look in his eyes and I knew: My day off was down the toilet.
This cop was no rookie. He had seen it all -- and more. It was clear that something was different about this one. "Come on," he invited. We walked up to the Cadillac. I leaned over carefully, without touching it, and peered inside.
The corpse had a familiar face.
To the thatch of silver-gray hair, the ferociously dark and shaggy eyebrows, something had been added: powder burns. They smudged the flesh around the two holes in his left temple. An exit wound on the right side of his face had bloodied his cheek.
"It's your friend and mine, Mr. St. Jean," the detective said. His low, distinctive voice was steady and without emotion. We looked at each other. I took a deep breath and nodded.
My day off was history. So was Harvey St. Jean.
Harvey had it all: money, prestige, and a national reputation as a formidable and flamboyant criminal defense lawyer. He attracted the most colorful and newsworthy people in trouble. I first met Harvey when he represented Jack "Murph the Surf" Murphy, the beachboy jewel thief who stole the priceless Star of India, the world's finest sapphire.
The murdered criminal lawyer and the weathered detective standing beside me went back even further. As young men both wore the badge and the gun.
Harvey began as a Miami Beach cop. He pedaled a bicycle on patrol of the rich residential islands back in the days when Al Capone lived in a big house on Palm Island. Harvey liked the moneyed lifestyle he saw there. He didn't keep his badge long. He studied law at night school and learned how to use it to get people out of jail instead of putting them in there. He had a talent for freeing the accused.
The talent bought him a Jockey Club apartment and his own sauna and whirlpool. His expensive golf clubs lay in the trunk of his Cadillac. It looked as though he had planned to play eighteen holes that afternoon.
Harvey had it all, but somebody with a gun had just taken it away. I scanned the parking lot for a pay phone. I had to tell my editors to start a photographer rolling.
I cover crime for The Miami Herald, daily circulation 438,334. In my sixteen years at the Herald, I have reported more than five thousand violent deaths. Many of the corpses have had familiar faces: cops and killers, politicians and prostitutes, doctors and lawyers.
Some were my friends.
This book is about them, about life and death in Miami -- the place, the people, and the world of a police reporter in a city like no other.
Copyright © 1987 by Edna Buchanan
One Miami, It's Murder
Two Paterson, New Jersey
Three Miami Dreams and Legends
Four Nobody Loves a Police Reporter
Sidebar White Kittens Dancing
Sidebar Rocky Rowf
Twelve Miami Then and Now
Thirteen Getting the Story
Fourteen Home at Last
Posted April 27, 2011
Posted September 28, 2005
This was my first Edna Buchanan book and I plan on reading some others. Her writing style and wry sense of humor make this a fun and interesting read. The old saying 'fact is stranger than fiction' is reinforced in this book. If you are into Miami, police work or journalism this is the book for you. Although I could have lived without the chapter on her kittens.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 24, 2000
Get the dirt on newspaper reporting from a natural, Edna Buchanan, whose tireless and talented coverage of the police beat at the Miami Herald eventually won her a Pulitzer Prize. Ms. Buchanan's mid-life autobiography represents the best of the 'almost old' school of newspaper reporting, when gifted writers with a knack for what folks really want to know could ply their trade and weren¿t expected to repair computers, lay out pages or run the press. Follow the queen of understated, but real-life horror from her early years, when, without a college education, she fled a fate she feared as a factory worker in the Northeast. Find out how her unblinking inquisitiveness made her a star covering homicide in Miami. Learn why she stayed in print reporting when TV stations offered an attractive, talented 'woman reporter' more money. Revisit a moment in history when a female police reporter was still considered a sexy novelty. And find out why Buchanan -- like another notable Florida woman with historic ties to the Miami Herald, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas -- says sex is a waste of time that can create big problems for women. Read this book, and you¿ll laugh and weep. But you won't leave your doors unlocked again!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 25, 2009
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Posted December 24, 2009
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