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Springfield author recalls Shelton brothers in Peoria


Taylor Pensoneau may not live in Peoria but he likes talking about the town’s past, specifically that period in the 1930s and 1940s when the notorious Shelton Brothers were present.

That description of the brothers served as the title of Pensoneau's 2002 book, "Brothers Notorious."

Pensoneau recalled that Carl and Bernie Shelton thrived in the “wide open city that was Peoria in that period. “The Sheltons took over the gambling scene in Peoria in the early 40s and it was a big scene,” said Pensoneau, a former Illinois statehouse bureau writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch who later served as president of the Illinois Coal Association.

Bernie Shelton’s murder in 1948 outside the Parkway Tavern on Farmington Road (where a bar called Shelton’s now stands) was never solved. Nor was the murder of Carl Shelton, slain near his farm in southern Illinois in 1947.

Since retiring from his post in the coal industry, Pensoneau has gone back to doing what he did at the beginning of his career: writing. In this case, books—not news stories.

Last year, he published “Devil on the Prairie,” the third in a fictional trilogy featuring a hard-nosed investigative reporter. "Summer of '50" and "Falling Star" were earlier books in the trilogy.

A native of Belleville, Pensoneau spent 12 years on the beat in Springfield, after spending several years at the Post-Dispatch as a general assignment reporter.

After Pensoneau left the Post-Dispatch in 1978, his writing focused on writing biographies on former Illinois governors Dan Walker and Richard Ogilvie.

Steve Tarter retired from the Peoria Journal Star in 2019 after spending 20 years at the paper as both reporter and business editor.