One of the best magazine assignments I ever got was in the early 1980s and an editor challenged me to hang out in the Pinellas County, Florida, Medical Examiner’s Office for a week. I was just out of college and this was well beyond the scope of anything I ever previously attempted.
The editor wanted a kind of detail from the story that I wasn’t sure I could accomplish. Perhaps seeing the fear in my eyes—of the assignment, not the dead bodies likely to be in the morgue—he gave me some simple advice.
“Take one grain of sand, put it under a microscope and describe it to me,” he said.
Probably the best advice I ever got.
I was reminded of it when reading Ashley Kahn’s book, Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece. Because that’s exactly what Kahn did in doing an autopsy of two days in the career of an American master Miles Davis.