Post-Civil War events occurring in Lafayette County and in Sedalia led Dan Kelly, of Lee’s Summit, to write a book of historical-fiction featuring the trial of a Union Colonel charged with murder; a trial that became the news highlight of The Sedalia Democrat and Sedalia Weekly Bazoo for several weeks in 1871.
Kelly began writing “Soaring with Vultures” while living in Warsaw in 2010. The book, his first, took seven years to complete. Kelly introduced it Aug. 30 at Kelly’s Westport Inn in Kansas City, and Sept. 9 he hosted a book signing at the Lexington Historical Museum in Lexington. This Saturday, he will host another signing at Reader’s World in Sedalia.
Kelly’s website states he was born and raised in Kansas City. He received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia, where he also served for six years on the faculty.
Kelly has reported and edited for the Columbia Daily Tribune, Miami Herald, Reno Gazette-Journal, The Louisville Courier-Journal and now The Kansas City Star.
Usually a newspaper and magazine writer, Kelly said he’d never tried his hand at writing fiction.
“This was really a challenge,” Kelly said while in Sedalia last week. “I wasn’t sure I could sustain something for that long … but it wasn’t as hard as I thought.”
He added that he was surprised with the results.
“In this case the story was already set up,” Kelly said. “I knew the ending of the story, I just had to pick a point to start it. Once I started it, it kind worked itself out. Through research I found out enough of what actually happened, it was a matter of just following the template.”
When Kelly began the book he planned to write it as non-fiction, but his plans changed as he began to read additional material about the post-Civil War era. He took true historical accounts and added fictional elements to the scenario.
“I got into reading about Jesse James, Bill Anderson and Quantrill,” he said. “I came across a file from the Liberty Tribune from the 1860s and ’70s. I had probably 60 or 70 stories from that era of murders and weird deaths and other crimes, they were all interesting. This is one that jumped out at me.”
The true account of Union Col. William A. Warner states he murdered his daughter Sallie Warner Nutter Botsford’s husband Sam Nutter.
“I just started looking into it and started finding out more and more,” Kelly noted. “Everything worked out so well.”
During his research he found that although the murder took place in Lexington, the trial was moved to Sedalia. This prompted Kelly to come to Sedalia to do research for the book.
“I got all the newspaper articles for The Sedalia Democrat and Bazoo’at the library here,” Kelly said. “I knew the dates of the trial so I was able to find them (on microfilm). For two weeks it was the biggest thing in town. It sounded like the whole town was following this.”
A high point for Kelly while writing the book was when he met Georgette Stanley Page, 92, of Kansas City, a descendent of William A. Warner and Sam and Sallie Nutter.
“I looked into seeing if there were any people still alive that were descendents and I came across a woman, who at that time was 88,” he said. “This would have been her great-great-grandfather and her great-grandmother. She did not know that her great-great-grandfather had been killed there, she was little bit leery about it. Her mother never told her about it.”
Kelly said Page was pleased with the book and had purchased 13 copies to give to family members.
“She was so supportive,” he added. “… I gave her a copy months ago to get her blessing on it.”
“Soaring with Vultures” is available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Dan Kelly will host a book signing from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Reader’s World, 1400 S. Limit Ave. He will also speak for the Pettis County Historical Society at 7 p.m. Monday at the Pettis County Museum, 228 Dundee Ave. On Oct. 21, Kelly will be at the Katy Depot, 600 E. Third St., along with other area authors and artists. For more information visit dankellykc.com.