Thomas P. Kelley

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Thomas Patrick Kelley
Born6 April 1905[1]
Hastings, Ontario, Canada
Died14 February 1982(1982-02-14) (aged 76)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Genrenovels, history, true crime
Notable worksThe Black Donnellys
Kelley's novel I Found Cleopatra was serialized in Weird Tales

Thomas Patrick Kelley Jr. (6 April 1905  – 14 February 1982)[2] was a Canadian writer notable for two books on the infamous Black Donnellys of Lucan, Ontario.

Kelley was born in Hastings, Ontario, the son of Thomas Patrick Kelley Sr. (John Lawrence Monahon) and English-born Nellie Burgess.[3] He journeyed with his father's medicine show until 1931, then boxed professionally. In 1937 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.[4] Kelley claimed to be ‘king of the Canadian pulp writers’[5] and ‘the fastest author in the East’. He died in Toronto. [4]

Kelley claimed that when he began a novel he had no idea how it would end,[6] and had used 30 pseudonyms.[7]

He is most noted for his account of the Donnelly tragedy in The Black Donnellys. He later followed with the sequel Vengeance 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. .

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.[8] Another source states 400,000 copies in 22 editions were sold.[9] 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.[10] The book was described as "sensationalistic and not very factual".[11]

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."[12][13][14] Thomas P. Kelley collaborated with the notorious safecracker Herbert Emerson Wilson to produce his unbelievable autobiography 'King of The Safecrackers', which was later titled, 'I Stole $16,000,000'. Interested in the story, Stanley Kubrick purchased the movie option, and after many years is now in development under the title 'God Fearing Man'.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Thomas Patrick Kelley". Darling Terrace Publishing. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  2. ^ "Fight over Black Donnellys novels settled". The Globe and Mail. September 25, 2002. Retrieved 2009-04-10.
  3. ^ Ontario, Canada Births, 1858-1913 for Thomas Patrick Kelly
  4. ^ a b " Article". Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  5. ^ "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.
  6. ^ Busby, Brian. "The Dusty Bookcase (quoting 8 July 1967 Star Weekly Magazine)". Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  7. ^ Busby,Brian. "The Dusty Bookcase". Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  8. ^ "Canadian Fly By Night Blog". Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  9. ^ Rasky, Frank (March 16, 1974). "So Who Did Kill the Donnellys". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved February 2, 2012.
  10. ^ James, Deborah (2005). "The Donnellys: Sticks and Stones Study Guide" (PDF). National Arts Centre English Theatre. p. 8. Retrieved February 2, 2012.
  11. ^ "Canadian Mysteries". Retrieved February 2, 2012.
  12. ^ Keith, W.J. (1991). An Independent Stance. The Porcupine's Quill. p. 252. ISBN 9780889841215. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
  13. ^ Oliphant, John (September 1992). Editorial Review - Canadian Book Review Annual of Brother Twelve: The Incredible Story of Canada's False Prophet (extract found on Google). ISBN 9780771068492. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
  14. ^ Ruttan, Stephen (August 2009). "Brother XII". Greater Victoria Public Library. Archived from the original on October 11, 2011. Retrieved February 5, 2012.