Reader: THE DEAD ROOM is your most popular novel. More writers have ripped off this title than any book I've ever heard of, including the romance writer, Heather Graham, who should have known better. A movie came out last year, a really bad movie, ripping off the title. In my bookstore, THE DEAD ROOM by Robert Ellis, is still the best selling thriller they've ever had on their shelves. Did you expect this kind of success when you wrote this novel?
Robert: If you had asked this question last week or even last month or last year, I would have said that THE DEAD ROOM was definitely my most popular novel. But now, with CITY OF ECHOES and THE LOVE KILLINGS, that's just not true anymore! CITY OF ECHOES and THE LOVE KILLINGS are actually a single story that took two books to tell. Once everybody figured it out, these two novels caught fire and changed everything for me.
Don't get me wrong, the Lena Gamble novels are my most critically acclaimed work to date, and I'm so proud to have created these stories and this wonderful female detective. If I was writing detective fiction like Michael Connelly, I would have continued with Lena's character until the end. But I write thrillers, not detective stories. Thrillers work and move so much differently, and it's just not possible to continue with a single character for very long. Once a character gains experience, they lose vulnerability, which is the key to anyone who writes and reads and loves a great thriller. While I may find a way to work Lena back into a story with Detective Matt Jones or even the defense attorney, Teddy Mack, someday in the future, it's still not on the map.
But getting back to THE DEAD ROOM, I believe that in crime fiction there are only a few writers pushing the genre forward. I dedicated THE DEAD ROOM to my father because he introduced me to one of them, Thomas Harris, and his masterpiece, RED DRAGON. THE DEAD ROOM will always be special for me because it was more or less an attempt to push the ball one step further up the mountain. From the overwhelming response, we succeeded. But even more, the story is set outside Philadelphia in the towns and neighborhoods where I grew up, so it feels very personal. And then, of course, LAPD Detective Matt Jones brings it all back in THE LOVE KILLINGS by returning to Philadelphia for another series of particularly gruesome murders in places I walked as a child and young man.
THE DEAD ROOM will always be special, but right now, everything on the stove has come to a boil because of CITY OF ECHOES and THE LOVE KILLINGS. While some critics believe that the Lena Gamble novels, CITY OF FIRE, THE LOST WITNESS, and MURDER SEASON are my best work, LAPD Detective Matt Jones in CITY OF ECHOES and THE LOVE KILLINGS are my two favorites right now. And yes, I'm working on Matt Jones's third case as we speak and it's going well!
R O B E R T E L L I S W R I T E R S B L O G