Thomas P. Kelley

Thomas P. Kelley bigraphy, stories - Historians

Thomas P. Kelley : biography

1910 – 1982

Thomas Patrick Kelley (19101982) 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. Kelley claimed to be ‘king of the Canadian pulp writers’ and ‘the fastest author in the East’. He died in Toronto.

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

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 Crossmeglin Township, Armagh County, 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. Another source states 400,000 copies in 22 editions were sold. 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. The book was described as "sensationalistic and not very factual".

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."