The results of the 2023 Six-Word Mystery Contest sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America (RMMWA) have been announced.

Overall winner:

Dead bookie: all bets are off.


This entry, written by David Bart of Fort Collins, Colorado, was voted the winner of Ann finalist entries, voted on by RMMWA’s members and announced at the chapter’s Mystery and Mistletoe holiday party held December 8th.


According to legend, the first six-word novel was born in the 1920s when Ernest Hemingway at New York’s Algonquin Hotel or Luchow’s restaurant (depending on whom you ask) won a $10 bet by writing a six-word story. His dark and dramatic submission was: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.” Urban legend or no, memorable, heart-breaking and sublime six-word stories have been penned ever since.


As the top winner from a record 448 entries, Bart won $100 for his winning entry. All finalists will have their six-word stories featured on the RMMWA website and published in both Deadlines, RMMWA’s newsletter, and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.


Read on for the finalists and winners in all five categories. Category winners are indicated in bold:


Conductor arrested; excessive sax and violins. (Twist Phelan)

Dead bookie: all bets are off. (David Bart)

Justice served cold to Icebox Killer. (David Larson)

Musician’s notes held key to murder. (Twist Phelan)

Philatelist’s killer nabbed. “Closed” file stamped. (Chuck Brownman)



Bang! Cancelled the Czech. Got paid. (Debbi Mack)

Peccadillo, doll? Not with six stiffs. (Bruce M. Perrin)

Shadowy alley, blood spatter, vanished dame. (David Larson)

Silk stocking made a fine garrote. (Matthew Porter)

Twenty nicotine patches. He quit… breathing. (Jeffrey Lockwood)



Deepfake AI made them do it. (Sue Hinkin)

I called his widow. He answered. (Denali Hussin)

Ricin: mosh pit becomes Death Valley. (Jeffrey Lockwood)

They always return. Even the dead. (Linda Sands)

Want the codes? Shave his head. (Linda Sands)



Baker was icing on the cake. (Marilyn Saltzman)

Book “falls.” Librarian dies. Novel weapon. (Barb Goffman)

Conductor arrested; excessive sax and violins. (Twist Phelan)

Home is where his hearts are. (Julie Ann Pasquinelli)

Musician’s notes held key to murder. (Twist Phelan)



Cheating polygamist dismembered by sister wives. (Rita A. Popp)

Didn’t fall in love. Was pushed. (Marilyn Saltzman) (Tied for category winner!)

Ear mailed today. Now they’d listen. (Twist Phelan)

Sweetheart, does this smell like chloroform? (K.D. Horton) (Tied for category winner!)

Three weddings and a nail gun. (Sue Hinkin)