Before "CSI Miami," there was Edna Buchanan. She's worked on more than 3,000 homicide cases, but she's not a Miami police detective. She's a Pulitzer Prize-winning crime reporter who's written 15 books, including her latest, "Cold Case Squad."
So where do the ideas come from?
"In 1984, I wrote a feature story for the [Miami] Herald about Miami's cold case squad. I was blown away by the possibilities," Buchanan tells The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler. "What a great television series and book this would make. Twenty years later, here's the book. Ten years later, Steve Cannell optioned a proposal I wrote for a television series. He wrote a pilot, but the network didn't go ahead with it. So I guess that was before my time."
The story of "Cold Case Squad" revolves around four very different detectives who breath new life into these cold case.
Buchanan explains, "They have the luxury of a cop's most valuable weapon, and that's time, enough time to follow up this case. And they have to be self-starters and have good imaginations, because crime scenes are long gone and paved over. Killers are vanished like footprints on a sea-washed beach.
"Today, they say if a case isn't solved in 48 to 72 hours, if you don't have a good idea who did it, lots of good leads, it gets pushed to a back burner. A lot of killers think they got away with it, because detectives prefer to follow the new cases that come in with hot leads. Now, no killer can think that he got away with it. He always has to figure that that knock at the door, that tap on the shoulder, is going to come, because these cold case squads are out there and have this new 'Star-Wars" type technology that, in most cases, wasn't even dreamed of when the murder took place," she says.
And as with her previous books, Buchanan did extensive research on this one. She says, "I'm on the board of directors with the Forensics Institute at Florida International University. And I get to meet with some of the great minds in forensics all over the country. And it's fascinating. Of course, I always do a great deal of research, because once a reporter, always a reporter. I'm afraid I'll have my poetic license revoked if I don't."
She also got help from the Dragon, a voice-activated intuitive software, she says. "After so many years of pounding keyboards, decades and decades, I really sort of messed up my hands and couldn't type for long stretches so I use this voice-activated software."
What is neat about this software, she says, is that by feeding it disks of her former books, it can tell what speech pattern and word usage is, and it recognizes the sound of her voice.
She says, "Sometimes when I start a sentence, I speak into the microphone and it appears on the computer screen. It will finish the sentence before I say it. If it's wrong, then it will correct it. But most often, it's right.
"Just recently, as I worked on the 'Cold Case Squad' book, I was thinking about what to do with this character. I was only thinking what should I do with her and I must have sighed and the words appeared on the screen, 'kill her.' And I did. It was a good idea. It's a lot like having a collaborator.
Then one night, it was dark, I'd been working for 10 or 12 hours. I was slurring my words. I said Craig Birch, the lead character, opened the refrigerator and grabbed a beer. I was slurring and it thought I said, 'read to hear.' And suddenly, a male computerized voice with a British accent started reading the chapter to me. I didn't know it could do that. I almost fell off the chair. My dog started to bark. I thought I was alone in the house."
Despite problems like that, she says, "I'm so lucky this technology came along."
Read an excerpt from Chapter One. Click here.
Buchanan is also the author of:
"Contents Under Pressure," (also nominated for an Edgar)
"Miami It's Murder," (1994)
"Suitable for Framing," (1995)
"Act of Betrayal," (1996)
"Margin of Error," (1997)
"Garden of Evil," (2000)
"You Only Die Twice," (2001)
"The Ice Maiden," (2002)
Buchanan won the Pulitzer Prize in 1986 for 10 unrelated police-beat stories out of more than 200 that she wrote that year. She also won the Paul Hansell Award for Distinguished Journalism from the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors, the Florida Bar Association Media Award, the American Bar Association Gavel Award, the David Brinkley Award from Barry University in 1988, the Miami Police Trailblazer Award, and has been honored by the Association of Police Planning, the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, and the Miami Police Department.