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Authors for virtually every reader at the Times Festival of Reading

The 2020 lineup includes Colson Whitehead, Maggie O’Farrell, James Lee Burke, Michael Connelly and many more.
Colson Whitehead's novel "The Nickel Boys" won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
Colson Whitehead's novel "The Nickel Boys" won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
Published Sep. 4, 2020

The 2020 Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading will be different from the 27 before it: All events will be virtual. But two things won’t change: We have a terrific lineup of authors talking about a range of books to appeal to almost every reader. And it’s all free.

Video interviews with more than 40 writers will be available starting Nov. 12 at You’ll be able to buy the featured books through the website.

For three days, Nov. 12-14, there will be a live event each day; other interviews and panels will be recorded in advance. The Nov. 13 live event will feature PolitiFact staffers answering your election questions; other live events will be announced soon.

If you have questions you’d like to ask any of these authors, please send them with the subject line “Festival author question” to We’ll ask them while recording the virtual interviews.

Two of the hottest names in literary fiction will be part of the 2020 festival. Colson Whitehead won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction (his second) for The Nickel Boys, his quietly stunning novel based on the disturbing history of the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.

Maggie O'Farrell will talk about her novel "Hamnet" at the 2020 Times Festival of Reading.
Maggie O'Farrell will talk about her novel "Hamnet" at the 2020 Times Festival of Reading. [ MURDO MACLEOD | Murdo MacLeod ]

Maggie O’Farrell’s acclaimed new novel Hamnet immerses readers in 16th century England for the rich and heartbreaking story of William Shakespeare’s son.

The iconic crime fiction writer James Lee Burke will make his first festival appearance to talk about A Private Cathedral, an enthralling gothic mystery. It’s his 40th book and 23rd novel about Louisiana detective Dave Robicheaux.

One of the bestselling, and busiest, crime fiction writers around, Michael Connelly, returns to the festival with his latest book, The Law of Innocence, featuring “Lincoln Lawyer” Mickey Haller and his half brother, detective Harry Bosch.

Another prolific and accomplished mystery writer, Walter Mosley, makes his first appearance. Known for his Easy Rawlins series and many other books, he’ll be talking about his new short story collection, The Awkward Black Man.

Two bestselling novelists with St. Petersburg roots will talk about their popular Facebook Live show, Friends and Fiction, and their latest books. Mary Kay Andrews (a.k.a. Queen of the Beach Reads) delivers her signature mix of mystery, romance and wit in Hello, Summer, about a suddenly jobless journalist. The new book from Kristin Harmel, The Book of Lost Names, is gripping historical fiction about a young woman whose knack for forgery saves hundreds of Jewish children during World War II.

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Essayist (Sunshine State) and fiction writer Sarah Gerard, a Clearwater native, will talk about her darkly satirical new novel, True Love.

Elizabeth Wetmore takes an unflinching approach to the reverberations of the rape of a teenager in a small Texas town in her debut novel, Valentine.

James Lee Burke comes to the festival for the first time to talk about his 40th book, "A Private Cathedral."
James Lee Burke comes to the festival for the first time to talk about his 40th book, "A Private Cathedral."

Theater fans will know the work of novelist Gregory Maguire, who has two new publications to talk about. One is the 25th anniversary edition of his book Wicked, source of the smash Broadway musical; the other is his new novel, A Wild Winter Swan, based on a Hans Christian Andersen story.

Speaking of children’s stories, two popular children’s authors will present their latest books. Brad Meltzer is a bestselling thriller writer, but his kids’ book series, Ordinary People Change the World, is close to his heart. He’ll talk about the latest additions, I Am Anne Frank and I Am Benjamin Franklin.

Two-time National Book Award finalist Eliot Schrefer brings his new book, The Popper Penguin Rescue, a sweet sequel to a children’s classic, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, published in 1938.

As always, the festival will feature lots of top-notch crime fiction authors. Teaming up (virtually) for their annual Bourbon and Books panel will be Ace Atkins, with The Revelators, his new Quinn Colson book, and Lisa Unger, whose latest psychological thriller is the twisty Confessions on the 7:45.

Florida favorite Tim Dorsey will be on hand to talk about the latest wacky adventures of Serge Storms in Naked Came the Florida Man. Sterling Watson will discuss his compelling historical mystery, The Committee, set in Gainesville in the 1950s.

There will also be several panel discussions by the 15 contributors to the anthology Tampa Bay Noir (which I edited and wrote a story for). In addition to Atkins, Connelly, Dorsey, Gerard, Schrefer, Unger and Watson, the contributors include Karen Brown, Luis Castillo, Ladee Hubbard, Danny Lopez, Gale Massey, Yuly Restrepo Garces and Lori Roy.

If you need even more noir, Les Standiford (director of Eckerd College’s Writers in Paradise conference) will be on hand with Miami Noir: The Classics, an anthology collecting stories by Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Elmore Leonard, Zora Neale Hurston and more.

James W. Hall has based many of his mysteries in South Florida, and fans will be glad to hear his series character Thorn is back to take on some very bad guys in Bad Axe.

Odessa author James Swain will join the festival with Bad News Travels, his third thriller about FBI agent Beth Daniels and retired detective Jon Lancaster, who discover sinister truths behind her father’s suicide.

St. Petersburg’s own Cheryl Hollon, known for her Webb Glass Shop books, will introduce her new Paint & Shine series with Still Knife Painting.

Michael Connelly returns with "The Law of Innocence," featuring two of his series characters, Mickey Haller and Harry Bosch.
Michael Connelly returns with "The Law of Innocence," featuring two of his series characters, Mickey Haller and Harry Bosch. [ Beowulf Sheehan ]

Memoirs, some in essay form and one illustrated, will give readers a personal look at writers’ lives. Laura Lippman is known for her mystery fiction, but her new book, My Life as a Villainess, is a witty and poignant collection of personal essays.

Rick Bragg is one of the masters of Southern storytelling, and he’s bound to dish some up when he talks about Where I Come From: Stories From the Deep South, a collection of his columns from Southern Living and Garden & Gun.

Eleanor CrewesThe Times I Knew I Was Gay combines charming illustrations and text in a warmly funny graphic memoir.

Former Tampa Bay Times staffer Katherine Snow Smith offers humor and insight in her essays in Rules for the Southern Rule-Breaker.

If you’re a fan of nonfiction, the festival has authors for you. Ariel Sabar will be discussing his book Veritas, the fascinating true tale of a Harvard biblical scholar, an ancient artifact and a Florida con man.

Neal Karlen’s biography This Thing Called Life: Prince’s Odyssey, On and Off the Record draws from his multiple in-depth interviews with the musical superstar.

Just out in paperback is a 2018 book of some local interest — 12: The Inside Story of Tom Brady’s Fight for Redemption. Authors Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge will tell us all about it.

Festival favorite Roy Peter Clark will entertain fans with a talk about his latest book, Murder Your Darlings: And Other Gentle Writing Advice From Aristotle to Zinnser. He will also team up with University of South Florida St. Petersburg historian Raymond Arsenault to discuss The Changing South of Gene Patterson: Journalism and Civil Rights 1960-1968, a collection of columns by the late editor of the then-St. Petersburg Times.

It wouldn’t be a festival without a bunch of Florida books. Former Tampa Bay Times staffer Craig Pittman’s nonfiction Cat Tale: The Wild, Weird Battle to Save the Florida Panther reveals an amazing story with a happy ending, at least for now.

Kent Russell took a walk from the Florida-Alabama border to his childhood home in Coconut Grove, and he’ll talk about the resulting book, In the Land of Good Living: A Journey to the Heart of Florida.

Naturalist Susan Cerulean weaves together her experiences studying and protecting wild shorebirds on Florida’s coast and caring for her father while he has dementia in her memoir I Have Been Assigned the Single Bird.

USFSP historian Gary Mormino will talk about his biography of a Florida governor who led the state into the modern age, yet held shockingly racist ideas, in Millard Fillmore Caldwell: Governing on the Wrong Side of History.

In From Saloons to Steak Houses: A History of Tampa, USF special collections librarian Andrew Huse tells the city’s history through its restaurants, bars, social clubs, theaters and more.

For updates, check the festival website or follow it on Facebook.


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