Friday, June 30, 2017

Robert Ellis: Taking a Day Off, Revisited

I've just finished writing my sixth thriller a few weeks ago, a novel that will probably remain untitled until we get closer to a publication date. While this is the first of two related novels, I still don't have a feel for how the next book will move. Everything past the first hundred pages remains so sketchy. Instead of hitting it hard, I've decided to take the day off and watch a movie. At this point I can't decide between THE MALTESE FALCON or THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. I love both films, and Dashiell Hammett and Thomas Harris are two of my favorite authors.

Dashiell Hammett
What I admire about both of them is their remarkable grasp of storytelling. In both cases, the films are an exact mirror copy of the novels. John Huston directed THE MALTESE FALCON. But it's his credit as screenwriter that makes up one of my favorite stories in the history of filmmaking. Hammett's novel was so tight, so perfect, that Huston handed the book over to his assistant, asked her to transcribe it into screenplay form, and went fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. If you ever get your hands on a copy of that screenplay, you'll see what I mean. It's Hammett's novel, word for word!


The Love Killings
by Robert Ellis
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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Robert Ellis: Gifts from the Sea, Revisited

My mother lost her third child a few days after she was born. Unfortunately, the sister I never had the chance to meet passed away due to a glitch at the hospital. There was no logical reason to explain her death other than the fact that every member of the medical staff dropped the ball. At the time I was old enough to know something horrible had happened, and that our family would never be the same. The reason I mention this most personal of all experiences is that a close family friend, someone who turned out to be one of my closest advisors through life, gave my mother a book in order to help her cope with the pain. That book was Anne Morrow Lindbergh's GIFT FROM THE SEA.

Rainer Maria Rilke
Years later I was going through the bookshelves in our den looking for something to read. A GIFT FROM THE SEA is extremely thought provoking, and with the modern world stuck in a digital abyss and beginning to leave its humanity behind, probably more relevant now than the year it was written. It's filled with Lindbergh's thoughts and feelings and search for inner peace. After I read the last page and thought it over, I realized that she had given me an extra special gift. She had introduced me to Rainer Maria Rilke's LETTERS TO A YOUNG POET. If reading or writing or any combination of the two makes your day, then LETTERS TO A YOUNG POET is a must read.

The book is comprised of ten letters Rilke wrote to a young man who wanted to make a life in the arts. I don't have to be a fortuneteller to say that this is one of the best books you will ever read in your life. And if you're a writer, your work is about to take a giant step forward.


Letters to a Young Poet
by Rainer Maria Rilke
Available in all formats
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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Robert Ellis: Jimi Hendrix + Detective Matt Jones = Soul Play

I was reading something this week about Jimi Hendrix and his feeling that performing in concert was a spiritual awaking for him, and he hoped, his audience. Yes, yes, yes. The Electric Church.

I feel the same way about each one of my novels; that each one of my heroes, Frank Miles, Teddy Mack, Lena Gamble, and Matt Jones stand out because solving the crime is not their number one priority. Each one of these characters is vulnerable in some fundamental way. Each one of these characters is on a personal journey where self-discovery, their gut instincts and sharp minds, lead them to solving crimes that are bigger than themselves.

I'm working on Matt Jones's third murder case right now. I'm often asked how this wonderful character came to life. Matt came to me in a single moment, a single sentence written by Henry James that I loved so much I opened City of Echoes with it. Curiously, I revisited the quote this weekend when a reader posted it online and sent me a note. Many thanks for the fine memories it conjured up. This truly is the essence of Detective Matt Jones.

"The power to guess the unseen from the seen, to trace the implications of things, to judge the whole piece by the pattern, the condition of feeling life in general so completely that you are well on your way to knowing any particular corner of it—this cluster of gifts may almost be said to constitute experience." -- Henry James

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