Law & Author
You’ve heard of moonlighting? Appellate Court Justice David Ellis, ’90 BUS, “dawnlights” as an Edgar Award–winning crime novelist, whose titles include Jury of One, Life Sentence and In the Company of Liars. He gets up at 3:30 a.m. and writes until 7 a.m., then he changes from his bathrobe to his judicial robes for work in the Illinois First District Appellate Court in Chicago.
Which brings you more satisfaction—working as a judge or writing fiction? They each bring satisfaction in completely different ways. When I feel I’ve gotten the result right as a judge, it’s satisfying that I’ve served justice. But it’s a different part of my brain when I write something creatively very well.
Do you have a personal favorite among your novels and a recommendation for a first-time reader? Look Closer (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2022). I took several years off from my books after I got elected judge. I wrote it during COVID when I had some extra time staying at home, and I felt like I was writing my first book again.
You’ve collaborated with best-selling author James Patterson on several books. How did that come about? Jim really loved my first book, Line of Vision, and he gave it a nice blurb. Several years later, Jim had some co-authors, and my new agent suggested that he work with me.
Illinois has a reputation for political corruption. As a crime novelist, do you feel blessed to live here? It’s certainly believable that people might act in less-than-proper ways. And the big city is a good setting. I don’t do a lot of political corruption in my books—more suspense and psychological thrillers—but Illinois is ripe for the picking.