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Colchester's “Bootlegger” Comes to the Silver Screen

“Kelly” Wagle lived a charmed life. In the 1920s he had become successful as a bootlegger in Colchester which was “dry” for much of the decade. He had escaped the clutches of the law many times.

He left Brent's Restaurant and started to walk the two blocks to his home. An assassin pulled up in a Ford coupe and fired three shotgun blasts that ended Wagle's charmed life. Wagle died at 9:15 p.m. April 8, 1929.

Documentary filmaker Ryan Walker has been fascinated by Wagle's sordid story.

He says, “It's sensational. There's murder. There's sex. There's betrayal. It's like a small-town gangster movie.”

Walker says he has a treasure trove of information. He is basing the movie “Bootlegger” on the 1999 book by historian John Hallwas titled “The Bootlegger: A Story of Small-Town America.”

Walker chose not to use dramatic re-enactments.

He says, “You'll hear narration telling the stories, pretty much straight from the book. but you'll be looking at Colchester the way it looks now. You'll be looking at Macomb and Galesburg and Quincy and Chicago.”

Walker says many sites in Colchester have changed little since Wagle walked the streets.

He hopes to complete the film by June of 2015. He will submit the film to a number of festivals.