June 22-24, 2018

The 5th Annual Mystery Fest Key West –Join renowned mystery writers, aspiring authors, true crime experts and fans in America’s southernmost city! Featuring a who’s-who of award-winning and bestselling mystery/suspense authors and true crime experts, Mystery Fest Key West is a fun and fascinating meet-and-greet where writers can catch up with old friends and readers can meet leading authors, collect signed books and participate in workshops, panels, and presentations where the most devious of minds explain why—and how—they do it.

This year we welcome:

  • Keynote Speaker Ace Atkins, the multi-award winning, New York Times bestselling author of twenty-one novels.
  • Special Guest of Honor, the multi-award winning Otto Penzler, publisher, editor and proprietor of the famed The Mysterious Book Shop in New York City.
  • Special Guest Presenter, Heather Graham, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, with more than seventy-five million books in print, published in more than twenty languages.

. . . joined by a stellar ‘hit-list’ of renowned bestselling and award winning authors and true crime experts.

Ace Atkins

Heather Graham

Otto Penzler

Register Now

A weekend with your favorite mystery writers and friends, only $195 – it’s practically criminal!
Includes poolside reception, all panels and workshops, Whodunit Awards event, book signings, Conch Train mini-tour of Key West, prime rib luncheon & keynote speaker event, Key West Lighthouse tour & ice cream social, and Mystery Writers of America – Florida Chapter sponsored brunch overlooking historic Key West Harbor.
Want to bring a friend to the keynote luncheon, ice-cream social or brunch? It’s just $35.00 additional per event to bring a buddy.

Discounted hotel rates while available
$209 per person – nearly ⅓ off regular room rates.
(Speakers have a special room rate.)

We’ll be holed up at the luxurious
DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Grand Key
Call 800/222-TREE to make your booking
or go online to
Enter Group Code: SMA

Books & Books @ The Studios Of Key West
will provide book sales for Mystery Fest Key West.


Mystery Fest Key West 2018!

Look out, internet, I’m back! And just in time to let you know about the 5th Annual Mystery Fest Key West on June 22-23rd. More details to follow.

Keep your eyes on the website for registration and other information.



Q&A With New York Times Best-Selling Author Clifford Irving, Mystery Fest Key West Keynote Speaker

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Acclaimed American novelist and New York Times best-selling author Clifford Irving is set to appear as Keynote Speaker for the June 16-18Mystery Fest Key West, an annual gathering of award-winning and high-profile mystery writers, true crime experts and fans, held at the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Grand Key.

His works have run a gamut from restless youth searching for hope and meaning – “On a Darkling Plain” (1956) and “The Losers” (1958), to history – “The Battle of Jerusalem: The Six-Day War of June, 1967” (1970), memoir – “The Hoax” (1972), in which he tells how he perpetrated the Howard Hughes Autobiography Hoax – to numerous true-crime and legal thrillers.

Today, more than 20 novels bear his name, with several adapted for television. Those attending the Fest will have the opportunity to meet and gain insights from him. In the meantime, the author agreed to answer a few questions about his work and methods:

Q: In 1956, just out of school and after working as a copy boy at The New York Times, you wrote your first novel, “On a Darkling Plain.” The Florida Times-Union described your characterizations as rivaling those of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. How did you feel about that comparison? Do you think it impacted how you approached crafting personalities in subsequent book projects?

CI: I was thrilled to be compared to Fitzgerald and Hemingway; every young writer is a sucker for flattery. It’s only later in life that you realize that if you believe the praise you have to believe the insults as well. But I don’t think the reviews impacted my writing. I simply did things my own way, for better or for worse; and my true mentors were Conrad, Maugham, and Isaac Bashevis Singer. My favorite contemporary writer is Ruth Rendell. (Alas, she died two years ago.)

Q: You have worked as an investigative reporter. You write fiction and you write fact. Is there one abiding research practice or formula that you employ across the genres?

CI: There are a few principles that I try to follow:

* Portray interesting people in conflict, making choices, risking something, even their lives.
* Show, don’t tell. Action makes character.
* Delete unnecessary words, especially adjectives and adverbs.
* Be sure the story has a beginning, middle, and end.

Q: Publishers Weekly described the courtroom scenes in your 2015 legal thriller, “Trial,” as “breathtaking.” As an investigative reporter, do you have access to criminal court records that others might not? On a scale of one to ten, how much trust do you have in the judicial system?

CI: I spent a year in Houston covering three murder trials in order to write the nonfiction book “Daddy’s Girl,” so I came to understand the system pretty well. Without permission I recorded whole trials (boring!) and, with permission, dozens of the intimate conversations of defense attorneys, prosecutors, judges and witnesses who were my friends to varying degrees. I had all the material I needed for a few novels.

I do not use scales of one to ten. I do not trust the judicial system or the people who shape it.

Q: Do you currently have a book project underway? If yes, can you tell us something about it?

CI: I’m writing a memoir called “Bad Boy” about my life in Europe and elsewhere when I was in my twenties and thirties. My wife calls it a “mystery” because neither I nor the reader is sure what’s going to happen next.

Q: Are some or all of your books still available to readers? If so, where?

CI: Only “The Hoax” is currently in print between covers, but since 2012 eighteen of my books, the worldwide rights to which I own, are available in digital form on Kindle (Amazon) and Nook (Barnes & Noble). I depend on those e-book sales for my livelihood.

The 2017 Mystery Fest Key West is sponsored by the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, the Key West Citizen daily newspaper, Mystery Writers of America – Florida Chapter, the Florida Keys Council of the Arts, and is supported by the Marion Stevens Fund at the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys and the Helmerich Trust.

Fest registration is $195 and includes all panels, presentations, social events and four meals. For registration and information visit


Experts’ Secrets Revealed at the 4th Annual Mystery Fest Key West, June 16-18

Key West, Florida Keys – The 4th annual Mystery Fest Key West launches Friday, June 16, 2017 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Key Resort, 3990 S. Roosevelt Blvd., in Key West, Florida.

The “Murder & Mayhem in Paradise” themed weekend of total mystery immersion – open to published authors, aspiring authors and non-writing book lovers alike – includes panels, presentations, workshops and social events with a “killer” hit-list of some of America’s top award-winning and bestselling mystery writers and true crime experts.

Headlining the 2017 author-roster are John Hemingway, grandson of Ernest and author of ‘Strange Tribe,’ Keynote Speaker Clifford Irving, and Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter past-President Randy Rawls.

Events kick off on Friday afternoon with four back-to-back workshops: “How Law Enforcement Deals with Explosive Situations,” presented by Lt. Mike DiGiovanni, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, with “Johnny 5” the MCSO Bomb Squad robot; “Police Myths,” presented by award-winning author and former undercover agent James O. Born; “Blood Spatter Forensics,” presented by forensic scientist and New York Times bestselling author Lisa Black; and “How to Write a Cozy,” presented by award-winning author Nancy J. Cohen.

With the evening comes a welcome celebration and dinner on the grounds of the famous Hemingway Home and Museum, presided over by Fest co-founder and producer Shirrel Rhoades, a publisher who has held executive positions with Reader’s Digest, Scholastic, Harper’s, Marvel Entertainment and other well-known publishing companies, and special guest speaker John Hemingway. Wrapping up the evening, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Heather Graham will co-host a Sloan’s Haunted Key West tour through the island’s “Old Town” area.

2. Heather Graham_7870_by Carol Tedesco

(New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Heather Graham is to host a “Sloan’s Ghost Tour Key West” on Friday night for Fest attendees and fellow authors. (Photo by Carol Tedesco))

Saturday’s series of panels and presentations is populated with leading authors representing a variety of mystery genres including (but not limited to), action/adventure, “cozy” mysteries, forensic, supernatural, noir and police procedural. They include, “Where I Get My Ideas,” with John H. Cunningham, David Beckwith, Charles Todd and Paul Sinor, moderated by Randy Rawls; “How to Commit a Perfect Murder,” with Lisa Black, Rick Ollerman, Robert Coburn and Siera London, moderated by Heather Graham; “It Takes a Crook,” with Mike Dennis, Bill Craig, Ken Rijock and Reef Perkins, moderated by Rick Ollerman; and “Cozy Mysteries and Female Sleuths,” with Susan Haskell and Norah-Jean Perkin, Marjory Sorrell Rockwell, Renee Kumor and Meg Muldoon.

For Saturday’s final panel, moderated by James O. Born, notable Florida Keys true-crime experts Carol F. Frederick, FDLE; Jim Linder, JIATF; Lt. Michael DiGiovanni, MCSO, and Sheriff Rick Ramsay, MCSO, will share insights on the Keys criminal element and details of the strange crimes that surround them.


(Attendees at a previous Mystery Fest Key West gained insights on fingerprinting techniques in a true-crime workshop with Monroe County Sheriff’s Office CSI Detective John Underwood. (Photo by Carol Tedesco))

Saturday highlights include luncheon with keynote speaker Clifford Irving, presentation of the Whodunit Mystery Writing Award, an author’s book-signing hour and a“mysterious” special event at the Custom House Museum.

Sunday is for chilling along the waterfront with the Fest’s finale Bloody Mary Sunday Morning Buffet Breakfast at the island’s iconic Schooner Wharf Bar.

“It’s not just writers and fans of mystery fiction and true-crime that come to the Fest,” said Rhoades. “Because of the caliber of our guest authors, the fascinating panels and unique social events, the Mystery Fest was quickly infiltrated by enthusiasts of many genres. After all, how many festivals are there in which leading, world-class authors are hanging out, having fun and rubbing elbows with the audience members every day?”

2017 attendee’s will also have an opportunity to meet with and pitch their own book ideas to several on-site literary agents—Dianna Collier, owner/agent Collier & Associates, Tom Colgan of the Berkley Publishing Group, Jessica Faust of Bookends Literary Agency, and Scott Miller of Trident Media Group.

The 2017 Mystery Fest Key West is sponsored by the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, the Key West Citizen daily newspaper, Mystery Writers of America – Florida Chapter, the Florida Keys Council of the Arts, and is supported by the Marion Stevens Fund at the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys and the Helmerich Trust.

Fest registration is $195 and includes all panels, presentations, social events and four meals. For registration and information (High resolution photo available here.)


Whodunit Winner Announced!

Winner Named in 2017 Mystery Writers Whodunit Writing Competition

Winning Authors Composite

Mike Pettit of Gulf Breeze, Florida, has been named First Place winner in an international competition to claim the 2017 Mystery Writers Whodunit Award, to be presented at the 4th Annual Mystery Fest Key West, set for June 16-18 in Key West, Florida.

Supported by the Marion Stevens Fund at the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys and sponsored by Absolutely Amazing eBooks,Pettit’s winning entry “Key West Flashpoint” wins him a Whodunit Award trophy, book-publishing contract with Absolutely Amazing eBooks, complimentary Mystery Fest Key West 2017 registration, airfare and hotel accommodations for two nights.

No stranger to mystery writing, Pettit is author of 29 fiction suspense thriller novels as well as several short stories and how-to books for independent authors. Joining Pettit in the winner’s circle are Kathryn K.M. Hershberger of Richmond, VA, who took Second Place with “Triggerpoint;” Lewis C. Haskell of Key West, FL, (who was also 2016 First Place winner and 2015 Second Place winner) who took Third Place with “Kilimanjaro Snow;” and Susan Chiappone, who placed with “The Choirboy Sings.”

Candidates for the award were required to submit the first three pages of a finished, but unpublished manuscript to a “blind” judging committee comprised of Dr. Toby Armour, a playwright, author and performer whose credits include the murder mystery book “Blood Tells” and the play, “Is This 24 Lily Pond Lane?”; Carol Lazar, an author, columnist, photojournalist and former senior editor for South Africa’s Independent Newspapers; Captain Reef Perkins, author of “Sex, Salvage and Secrets,” Screwed, Blu’d and Tattoed,” and the mystery novel “Deep Air”; Robin Robinson, an author, syndicated newspaper columnist, educator and horticulturist; and Shirrel Rhoades, an author, film critic, media consultant and publisher of Absolutely Amazing eBooks.

“Why just the first three pages? That criterion is a nod to late author Jeremiah Healy, a world-class mystery writer and a great judge of mystery writing,” says Shirrel Rhoades, co-founder of Mystery Fest Key West. “Jerry’s opinion was that a book either captures a reader in the first three pages…or it doesn’t. The competition judges all agreed with that assessment, and decided to use it as a yardstick for the competition.”

“I am honored and truly humbled to have won the First Place award,” said Pettit. “It is an amazing and talented group of authors that entered the contest and how fortunate I am for even placing in the run off. I thank the organization for selecting my book and look forward to receiving the Whodunit Award at the Key West Conference in June.”

Pettit is to receive his award trophy at 11am on Saturday, June 17, at DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Key Resort, headquarters for the Key West Mystery Fest, and will read his entry for the audience. The Fest itself is to include multiple workshops, presentations, panel discussions and social events where attendees mingle with acclaimed crime fiction and true crime writers including this year’s headliners John Hemingway, Clifford Irving, Randy Rawls and Charles Todd, featured presenters Lisa Black, James O. Born, Nancy J. Cohen, Heather Graham and many other authors and true-crime experts.

For information on attending the 4th Annual Fest as well as complete Mystery Writers Whodunit Writing Competition guidelines and submission details, visit

8 Killer Reasons…

8 Killer Reasons to Register for Mystery Fest Key West 2017 Now

 The 4th Annual “Murder & Mayhem in Paradise” themed Mystery Fest Key West will take place June 16-18 in Key West, Florida. Here are 8 “killer” reasons to register now:

1)   With celebrated authors of action/adventure, true-crime, cozies, noir and more, it’s a mystery genre cornucopia!

2)   Sensational star power: Liaise with headliners John Hemingway, Clifford Irving, Randy Rawls, and Charles Todd, featured presenters Lisa Black, James O. Born, Nancy J. Cohen and Heather Graham, and panelist authors David Beckwith, Robert Coburn, Bill Craig, John Cunningham, Mike Dennis, Lewis C. Haskell, Susan Haskell and Nora-Jean Perkin, Renee Kumor, Meg Muldoon, Siera London, Rick Ollerman, Reef Perkins, Ken Rijock, Shirrel Rhoades, Marjory Sorrel Rockwell and Paul Sinor.

3)   Ramp up your sleuthing savvy: Learn first-hand the exciting how-to’s of crime scene investigation from leading local true-crime law enforcement experts.

4)   Pitch session opportunities with four prominent literary agents!

5)   You’ll get to explore infamous hauntings in Old Town Key West with New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Heather Graham as she co-hosts a Saturday evening ramble with Sloan’s Ghost Tour Key West.

6)   You might walk into the very pages of a mystery novel: Fest guests who register by midnight on June 1 are automatically entered into a drawing for a cameo role in bestselling author Meg Muldoon’s next “Christmas River” series novel.

7)   Alluring diversions: A reception and dinner at the Hemingway Home and Museum, author book signings, a ‘mysterious’ special event at the Custom House Museum, and a Bloody Mary Morning breakfast at Key West’s historic Schooner Wharf Bar.

8)   It’s a steal of a deal: Event registration is just $195 and includes three days of exciting panels, presentations and social events – in Paradise – plus four meals in the company of Fest guests and celebrity authors.

The 2017 Mystery Fest Key West is sponsored by the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, the Key West Citizen daily newspaper, Mystery Writers of America – Florida Chapter, the Florida Keys Council of the Arts and supported by the Marion Stevens Fund at the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys and the Helmerich Trust.  For a full Fest schedule, online registration and links to accommodations visit

Mystery Fest 2017 Square Art w TDC out of county logo (1)

Schedule of Events: June 16-18, 2017



1:00 – 1:45 p.m. Workshop 1: To Be Announced (Special Guest Appearance)
2:00 – 2:45 p.m. Workshop 2: James O. Born – Police Myths
3:00 – 3:45 p.m. Workshop 3: Lisa Black – Blood Spatter Forensics
4:00 – 4:45 p.m. Workshop 4 – Nancy J. Cohen – How to Write a Cozy
6:30 – 8:30 p.m. Reception and Buffet Dinner at Hemingway Home and Museum
Welcome – Mystery Fest Co-Founder Shirrel Rhoades
Special Guest Speaker – John Hemingway
8:30 p.m. Sloan’s Ghost Tour Key West – hosted by Heather Graham

8:30 a.m. Coffee & Danish

8:45 a.m. Introduction

9:00 – 9:45 a.m. Panel Discussion: Where I Get My Ideas
Moderator: Randy Rawls
John H. Cunningham
David Beckwith
Dan Ames
Paul Sinor

10:00 – 10:45 a.m. Panel Discussion: How to Commit a Perfect Murder
Moderator: Heather Graham
Lisa Black
Rick Ollerman
Robert Coburn

11:00 – 11:45 a.m. the Whodunit Mystery Writing Award, presented by Shirrel Rhoades.
Introduction of 2016 winner, Lewis C. Haskell
Presentation of the 2017 Whodunit Award

11:45 – 12:00 p.m. Presentation of the Florida Keys Community College Scholarship Winners

12:00 p.m. Luncheon

12:30 – 1:45 p.m. Clifford Irving, Keynote Speaker

2:00 – 2:45 p.m. Panel Discussion:  It Takes a Crook
Moderator – Rick Ollerman
Mike Dennis

Ken Rijock
Reef Perkins

3:00 – 3:45 p.m. Panel Discussion: Cozy Mysteries and Female Sleuths
Moderator – Nancy J. Cohen
Susan Haskell / Nora-Jean Perkin
Marjory Sorrell Rockwell
Renee Kumor
Meg Muldoon


4:00 – 4:45 p.m. Panel Discussion: Law Enforcement 
Moderator: James O. Born
Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, Key West Police Department, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and Federal Bureau of Investigation


5:00 – 5:45 p.m. Book Signing

7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Event To Be announced

8:30 – 11:00 a.m. Brunch at Schooner Wharf Bar at the historic Key West waterfront (included in registration + $15 for each additional guest.

To Contact:
Mystery Fest Key West
Please write to:
Mystery Fest Key West,
926 Truman Avenue,
Key West, Florida 33040
or Email Us