Thomas P. Kelley

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Thomas Patrick Kelley
Born 1910 (1910)
Campbellford, Ontario, Canada
Died 1982
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Occupation writer
Nationality Canadian
Genre novels, history, true crime
Notable works The Black Donnellys
Kelley's novel "I Found Cleopatra" was serialized in Weird Tales

Thomas Patrick Kelley (1910 – 1982)[1] was a Canadian author notable for three books on the infamous Black Donnellys of Lucan, Ontario.

Born at Campbellford, Ontario, he journeyed with his father's medicine show, then boxed professionally. In 1937 (age 27) he began his prolific pulp writing career, with a sale to Weird Tales. He wrote many stories for Uncanny Tales, a Canadian pulp magazine. He was the author of some two-dozen paperback books, largely of the true-crime variety.[2] Kelley claimed to be ‘king of the Canadian pulp writers’[3] and ‘the fastest author in the East’. He died in Toronto. [2]

Kelley claimed that when began a novel he had no idea how it would end,[4] and had used 30 pseudonyms.[5]

He is most noted for The Black Donnellys. He later followed with The Curse of the Black Donnellys, a fictionalized account of the vengeful vendetta undertaken by Francis Donnelly, one of the surviving members of the family on those responsible for the massacre of his parents and siblings, and finally, The Donnelly Family Album, which detailed the genealogy of the Donnellys of Crossmaglen, County Armagh, Ireland, their emigration to Canada in the mid-1830s, and subsequent massacre of five of their family members on February 4, 1880.

The Black Donnellys is reputed to be the Harlequin book with the most printings, with 15 printings of two editions between April 1954 and April 1968.[6] Another source states 400,000 copies in 22 editions were sold.[7] However successful the books were, they were denounced as grossly inaccurate. James Reaney, citing Alfred Scott Garrett, states that Kelley "totally misportrayed Mr. and Mrs. James Donnelly”, effectively murdering them again.[8] The book was described as "sensationalistic and not very factual".[9]

Canada's False Prophet is purported to be a biography of Brother XII by his brother Herbert Emmerson Wilson. Citing John Robert Colombo, the tale was likely "concocted" by Kelley and Herbert Emerson (single “m”) Wilson. "Since this Wilson was born in Canada and Edward Arthur Wilson was born in England, there is hardly any likelihood there was a real connection between them."[10][11][12]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Fight over Black Donnellys novels settled". The Globe and Mail. September 25, 2002. Retrieved 2009-04-10. [dead link]
  2. ^ a b " Article". Retrieved January 30, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Canadian Fly-By-Night Blog, quoting John Robert Colombo, "Has Anybody Seen Thomas P. Kelley?", The Globe and Mail, January 9, 1982, p. E13)". Retrieved January 30, 2012. 
  4. ^ Busby, Brian. "The Dusty Bookcase (quoting 8 July 1967 Star Weekly Magazine)". Retrieved January 30, 2012. 
  5. ^ Busby,Brian. "The Dusty Bookcase". Retrieved January 30, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Canadian Fly By Night Blog". Retrieved January 30, 2012. 
  7. ^ Rasky, Frank (March 16, 1974). "So Who Did Kill the Donnellys". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved February 2, 2012. 
  8. ^ James, Deborah (2005). "The Donnellys: Sticks and Stones Study Guide" (PDF). National Arts Centre English Theatre. p. 8. Retrieved February 2, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Canadian Mysteries". Retrieved February 2, 2012. 
  10. ^ Keith, W.J. (1991). An Independent Stance. The Porcupine's Quill. p. 252. Retrieved February 5, 2012. 
  11. ^ Editorial Review - Canadian Book Review Annual of Brother Twelve: The Incredible Story of Canada's False Prophet (extract found on Google). Retrieved February 5, 2012. 
  12. ^ Ruttan, Stephen (August 2009). "Brother XII". Greater Victoria Public Library. Retrieved February 5, 2012.