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Peoria chiropractor sets his crime stories in ‘Sin City’

The cover of Dr. Richard Olson's independently published novel, Peoria Nights.
The cover of Dr. Richard Olson's independently published novel, Peoria Nights.

Dr. Richard Olson is a Peoria chiropractor who’s also a pulp magazine fan. Olson has written several books involving Nick Stihl, Private Investigator.

Olson said he came by his love of film noir and detective stories at an early age, watching Humphrey Bogart and Jimmy Cagney along with movies like The Thin Man

Peoria Nights, a trio of short stories that he describes as “a wild, fun rollercoaster ride,” uses Peoria of the 1930s as a backdrop. “I have spent hundreds of hours in research,” said Olson, acknowledging that Peoria’s “Sin City” reputation of that period with the Shelton Gang and the era’s rampant gambling makes it a natural setting for a detective story.

Olson said that references to Caterpillar, Pabst beer, and the Julian Hotel offer a veritable “Candyland” for a writer.

Writing fiction comes easily to Olson, who, after various literary attempts, said he finally decided “to let his imagination go free” to pursue the type of stories he enjoys reading.

Despite the demands of a busy practice and family, Olson said he sets a goal of writing at least two pages daily. “That adds up to 700 pages a year,” he said.

Olson said he had a chance to meet Philip Jose Farmer, the renowned science fiction writer who lived in Peoria, at a book signing in the 1990s. “When I told him I was a chiropractor he told me that both his grandparents were chiropractors. We had a chance to talk a little and discovered we were both Doc Savage fans. He told me an interesting story about growing up in Peoria. He would visit the Smith Drugs store at Knoxville and McClure to buy the latest Doc Savage magazine and then spend the next two to three hours riding the Knoxville trolley reading it,” he said.

Olson refers to the trolley cars that ran up and down Knoxville Avenue in Peoria Nights.

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