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Boalsburg Resident’s First Novel Puts a Fictional Twist on Hemingway’s Life

Boalsburg native and president of the Boalsburg Heritage Museum, Elizabeth Ritter recently released her first novel, a fictional twist on the life of Ernest Hemingway. “Hemingway Was Murdered” draws upon Ritter’s unique connection to the man who is frequently called one of the greatest American authors. 

Before returning to Boalsburg, Ritter and her husband, Dave Gonzales, who is currently the Boalsburg Heritage Museum curator, lived in Key West, Florida, where Gonzales was the executive director of the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. The couple lived on the property for seven years.

“I feel a particular affinity to Pauline Hemingway, because in this world-renowned museum-mansion, there were only two women to ever live [there], Pauline Hemingway and me,” says Ritter. “Pauline was the mistress of the grand mansion; I was only the mistress of the caretaker’s quarters overlooking the cat cemetery,” she clarifies, laughing. 

Pauline Hemingway was Ernest Hemingway’s second of four wives, all of whom make appearances in the novel. However, readers won’t find true-to-life depictions of the pair in Ritter’s book. Rather, Ritter takes the story of Hemingway’s life in a new direction, using her extensive research and knowledge to create a murder mystery that’s sure to intrigue.

Channeling Pablo Picasso’s advice to “learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,” Ritter says, “I’ve taken the most famous suicide of the 20th century and I’ve turned it into a murder. I caricature both Pauline and Ernest’s characters in order to make [it] believable. I think that somewhere, Ernest and Pauline are sitting and sipping a cocktail and laughing at my audacious charade.”

Boalsburg resident Elizabeth Ritter’s first novel ‘Hemingway Was Murdered,’ won third place in the Mystery Writers Key West Whodunit Writing Competition. Photo provided 

“Hemingway Was Murdered” was a long time coming for Ritter. Previously a lawyer and professor at Georgetown University Law Center, Ritter enjoyed an impressive legal career, during which she began writing the novel in 2013. After a year or so of revisions, however, her writing was put on hold, as was her career. 

“In 2015, I had the first of two major heart attacks, the first of three open heart surgeries, a stroke and four stints,” she says. “I could no longer practice law and I couldn’t teach. My life, in 2015, was turned on its head. I put the book away.”

But, in 2020, as COVID-19 proved a challenge to the entire world, Ritter says she began pondering what life might still have in store for her and she pulled out her work in progress once again. She entered “Hemingway Was Murdered” into the Mystery Writers Key West Whodunit Writing Competition, open to unpublished authors, and won third prize. The book was subsequently published and debuted in November. 

“The publication of the book has sort of sparked something in me,” says Ritter. “It’s something good that came out of COVID.”

Now, Ritter is working on a non-fiction book to be published in the latter half of 2021, once again drawing on her life’s experiences. “I’ve been asked to write a nonfiction book about women of a certain age who have been through a lot, speaking to younger women in their 20s, 30s and 40s who are struggling …. to be able to provide, not Pollyanna commentary or ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ stuff, but real and honest hope for women who are struggling with marriages, children, jobs or money,” she says.

“Hemingway Was Murdered” is a fit for any reader that’s a fan of historical novels or mysteries, or anyone who has an interest in Hemingway, Ritter sums up. She also notes that, for Hemingway scholars, there are plenty of little details that reference actual events and facts from Hemingway’s life.

“Hemingway Was Murdered” is available in paperback and digital formats via Amazon, at

Elizabeth Ritter and her husband, Dave Gonzales, lived at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, where Gonzales was executive director, for seven years. Photo provided