For the mystery reader, it’s all about the suspense and the twist, and outguessing the author who’s doing their best to carefully design those words so that the reader doesn’t guess the secret until the author wants him to. Author versus reader.

Killer Nashville is a conference devoted to enabling and supporting those authors so that the readers receive the best game the genre can offer. For four days, this conference presents classes, panels, and hands-on crime-solving to authors, readily involving famous names and law enforcement experts.

This year represented a ten-year anniversary for Killer Nashville. Founder Clay Stafford applauded the life of the conference, and honored the genre, by creating Killer Nashville Noir: Cold-Blooded, an anthology he carefully filled with stories from greats like Jeffrey Deaver, Donald Bain, Robert Dugoni, Steven James, and Heywood Gould, then added stories from highly respected contemporary authors and Killer Nashville alumni like Catriona McPherson, Jonathan Stone, and Blake Fonteney. Sixteen twisting and turning mystery short stories representing the best of what Killer Nashville represents. I was very lucky to be included in the mix with my short story “Rich Talk.”

The conference opened with a short film by mystery great John Gilmore then an interview of the man by Clay Stafford, who weaves and winds his way throughout the conference so devoted to this cause, making himself reachable to all. Clay, no slouch in his own right, is an award-winning author, screenwriter, and filmmaker. He has sold over 1.5 million hardcover copies of his children’s adaptations and has seen his film work distributed in over 14 languages. Publishers Weekly named Stafford one of the Top Ten Nashville literary leaders playing “an essential role in defining which books become bestsellers.” His thrill is making literature happen, particularly in this genre. He’s given hand-up assistance to many an author, and his heart and soul manage this conference.

Of course there are classes and panels, consisting of not only bestselling authors, but also expert crime experts, from local to state to federal levels. My husband, a federal law enforcement criminal investigator, presented on non-traditional federal law enforcement and had a ball helping authors mold their scenes into something credible. Then there are the experts in other areas who answered questions to these writers about works in progress. Experts like these: a sex offender counselor, psychologists, publicists, a social media expert, a Microsoft senior programmer, and a filmmaker. I moderated a presentation by a mortician that I had to cut off because the questions would have gone on and on about how to deal with death and bodies in a story. Intriguing stuff!

And what mystery aficionado doesn’t want to try their hand at solving a murder? Tennessee Bureau of Investigations Assistant Director Dan Royse sets up a crime scene, giving attendees two days to analyze and turn in their answers as to what happened. The winner receives free attendance to next year’s conference. It’s amazing at the details and who has that keen eye.

But the conference also presents famous, well-established authors who not only present, but make themselves available. This year, we were graced with the presences of Robert K. Tannenbaum (NYT Bestselling Author of nonfiction and fiction, to include Echoes of Silence and Trapped), M. William Phelps (NYT Bestselling Author of 30 books and producer/writer/host of the television Investigation Discovery Series Dark Minds) and John Gilstrap (NYT Bestselling Author of All Enemies, End Game, High Treason, and many more, plus the creator of four Hollywood screenplays adapting the works of Nelson DeMille and Thomas Harris). Unlike other conferences where these guys appear and disappear, they availed themselves to attendees on a regular basis, open to help in the style that Clay Stafford promotes.

But the conference culminates in a grand banquet at the end, not only with great presentations from the guests of honor, but also announcements of award. Killer Nashville presents the Claymore Award to an unpublished mystery novel and the Silver Falchion Award to mystery releases of the past year. Winners consisted of Catriona McPherson, Terry Odell, Laura McHugh, Lori Rader-Day, Hank Phillip Ryan, and myself for my novel Palmetto Poison.

Add to this excitement the wine tasting, signings, agent and editor roundtables (no five-minute pitches here!), costume contest, samurai sword training, live band, and book con to the public, and you have more than you could ever ask for in a mystery environment. Next year promises to be bigger and better, which seems to happen every year. Why not give it a try?

BIO – C. Hope Clark is the author of award-winning Carolina Slade Mysteries and the most recent Edisto Island Mysteries. Her latest release is Edisto Jinx (October 2015). At Killer Nashville, she accepted a Silver Falchion Award for her Slade series title Palmetto Poison. Needless to say, she’ll be back next year to her fourth Killer Nashville conference and highly recommends it to all mystery, suspense and thriller lovers. 

When she’s not penning mysteries, she’s managing, an online resource of funding opportunities for serious writers, chosen by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 15 years. /

BLURB for Edisto Jinx - Is it a flesh and blood killer—or restless spirits? According to an island psychic, beautiful Edisto Beach becomes a hotbed of troublemaking spirits every August. But when a visitor dies mysteriously during a beachhouse party, former big-city detective Callie Morgan and Edisto Beach police chief Mike Seabrook hunt for motives and suspects among the living. With tourists filling the beaches and local business owners anxious to squelch rumors of a murderer on the loose, Callie will need all the help she can get—especially once the killer’s attention turns toward her.


Jacqueline Vick said…
Thank you so much for sharing! I haven't been able to attend a crime writer's conference in a few years, so I always appreciate hearing from others who have attended them. And I appreciate the work you do for Funds for Writers. Edisto Jinx sounds like another must read for my list.

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