Artist in Residence: Norm Kelly

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Norm Kelly plays tennis frequently, racquetball often and golf at least weekly. Being 80 and retired, he has the time.

But none of those things are his true passion, which is telling stories. He'll regale you verbally or with one of the many novels and short stories he has penned through the years.

All of them center on his hometown of Peoria and Kelly, a retired private investigator, has had no trouble being able to turn real-life cases into fascinating fiction, much of which is self-published and available at area libraries.

"I've been around forever, you know, so I know this town up, down and all around," Kelly said recently. "People around here hunger for stories about Peoria and I try to oblige them when I can. My golf partners always demand I tell them a story while we play. Of course, that may just be their attempt to make me lose my concentration on the golf course," he said, grinning.

The Peorian asked Kelly to allow us to print one of his novels on our website, www.ThePeorian.com, with a new chapter or two to be posted each Friday starting Sept. 16. The first book to be covered is called "The Park Murders" and was Kelly's 11th novel.

Kelly didn't start writing until he was 50, but said he was always a story teller. He said he has tried to keep the same story telling style in his written words as his oral stories.

"I'm just me. If you are looking for a writer with some kind of flamboyant style, read somebody else. I know words and I love words, but I just want to tell stories," he said.

Kelly also has written much about Peoria's crime history, including a book called "Until You Are Dead" that details the cases of Peoria murderers who were executed for their crimes. He has written about Peoria gangsters, including the infamous Shelton Gang of yesteryear.

Many of his stories can be read on the library website, www.peoriapubliclibrary.org.

Kelly also teaches aspiring writers about what it takes to get published and about self-publishing.

Kelly said his knowledge of Peoria started as a child. The youngest of 11 children he said he often roamed the streets looking for something to do and came across interesting characters.

When in the Army in Korea, fellow soldiers would ask him about Peoria and about its reputation as a bawdy town. That's how he learned to be a story teller. "I knew that's what I would do some day," he said. "I enjoy it."

Kelly can be reached at

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