The Hemingway Cats and a Key West Mystery


One cat just leads to another. – Ernest Hemingway

Guest Post by Lucy Burdette

Key West (both my home town and the setting for my mystery series) can be a magical island. But with 3 million visitors a year, many coming for the giant street parties during big events like New Year’s Eve, St. Patrick’s day, spring break, and Fantasyfest, it also can be crowded, noisy, and dirty.


And yet, a few places provide peaceful getaways, even in the busiest conditions. My favorite is the Hemingway House on Whitehead Street.If you’ve visited Key West, you may have toured the property where Ernest Hemingway lived from 1931-1939. It’s a gorgeous, private piece of land with a swimming pool and a wonderful old home, including the little attached studio that housed Hemingway’s office. No wonder he wrote so well here! (Ingrid’s note: Can’t you just picture a few cats in the office?)


But the best part of the property is the colony of 50+ polydactyl cats who live on the premises, allegedly descendants of Hemingway’s felines, beginning with his first multi-toed cat, Snowball. Cats are treated like royalty at the Hemingway House. Let me show you around.

This little replica of the main house is a place to keep kittens at night or various other fellows who might need a “time out.”


The cats are named after historical figures when they are young kittens. Amazingly enough, their personalities often mirror their celebrity namesakes. Rudy Valentino, Truman Capote, and Olivia DeHavilland the bookstore cat are only a few of the current residents:


As you can see, cats are allowed everywhere on the grounds…


In Murder with Ganache, my new Key West mystery, food critic Hayley Snow has her hands full with her extended family descending on the island like a category 3 hurricane for her best friend’s wedding. When her stepbrother disappears into the spring break party scene, she must put the baking of cupcakes and other wedding chores on hold in order to search for him. The book features Hemingway cats, and cupcakes, wedding drama, and a murder mystery, but in the end it’s about finding and embracing family in whatever form they come.

When I heard about the weddings that are frequently held on the grounds of the Hemingway House, you can bet that I had to work one into the book. And I was thrilled when the editorial folks in New York placed the Hemingway House wedding scene, complete with cats, on the new book’s cover.

In parting, here’s one of my favorite Hemingway House denizens, Duke Ellington, resting after he posed for the photo at the top of the post:


Lucy Burdette (aka Roberta Isleib) is the author of 12 mysteries, including the Key West series featuring food critic Hayley Snow. Her books and stories have been short-listed for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. She’s a past president of Sisters in Crime. For more information about Lucy Burdette, please visit You can also find Lucy on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

For more about Hemingway and his cats, visit Hemingway’s Cats.

9 Comments on The Hemingway Cats and a Key West Mystery

    February 22, 2014 at 9:19 am (5 years ago)

    LOVE Hemingway house! Went their twice in my4 day visit to KEY WEST!

  2. Sue Brandes
    February 21, 2014 at 8:08 pm (5 years ago)

    She is new to me. Love her book cover. Sounds like a great mystery. I would love to visit there some day.

  3. Nancy Blue Moon
    February 20, 2014 at 10:51 pm (5 years ago)

    The book sounds great and I love Hemingway’s cats!

  4. The Island Cats
    February 19, 2014 at 4:49 pm (5 years ago)

    The mom wants to visit the Hemingway House one day. After all, I may be related to some of those cats there!


  5. Random Felines
    February 19, 2014 at 10:05 am (5 years ago)

    we love learning about authors we haven’t heard about before. mom visited the Hemingway house…and there are normally cats in the office 🙂

    • Lucy Burdette
      February 19, 2014 at 2:01 pm (5 years ago)

      Thanks RF! I was disappointed not to catch cats lounging on that chaise or Hemingway’s desk so I could show you cat lovers:). they also like to nap on his bed LOL

  6. Lucy Burdette
    February 19, 2014 at 7:45 am (5 years ago)

    thanks for the paws up Constance Marie! and Pam too–thank you to Sam and you!

  7. Sammy
    February 19, 2014 at 6:06 am (5 years ago)

    Sounds like a cute book…….obviously we have a soft spot around here for Hemingway cats! Sam gives this book (even without reading it) a “six-toed” paws up!!

    Hugs, Pam

  8. Constance Marie
    February 19, 2014 at 1:05 am (5 years ago)

    I love Lucys books!!
    Great post.


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