By Azam Gill
In bestselling novelist Robert Ellis’s third Detective Matt Jones crime thriller, THE GIRL BURIED IN THE WOODS, sinister forces hatch an elaborate plot to frame the detective for multiple murders.
Jones is on medical leave in LA. After hunting down the mass murderer in The Love Killings, he’s asked to investigate reports that a body has been found buried in the woods. Driven by a rising body count, Jones and his partner, Denny Cabrera, soon find themselves in the middle of a turf war between an infamous mobster and the power of Wall Street, also involving big shots in city government.
Everybody wants to pin the murders on Detective Jones—and watch him run for his life.
Ellis’s books have been translated into 10 languages and included in top reads by the New York Times, the Guardian (UK), Booklist, Publishers Weekly, National Public Radio, the Chicago Tribune, the Toronto Sun, People Magazine, and USA Today.
Ellis’s work has also garnered praise from authors as diverse as Janet Evanovich and Michael Connelly.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Ellis moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a writer, producer, and director in film, television, and advertising. He studied writing with Walter Tevis, author of The Hustler, The Man Who Fell to Earth, and The Color of Money, with his friend John Truby, screenwriter and author of The Anatomy of Story.
Ellis’s writing upholds Henry James’s symbiosis of incident and character, enhanced by his choice of settings, especially in THE GIRL BURIED IN THE WOODS.
In this The Big Thrill interview, he explains how a tragic, real-life incident triggered his interest in crime and crime fiction.
“THE GIRL BURIED IN THE WOODS was inspired by the murder of a young girl, Connie Evans, when I was a 10-year-old boy,” he says. “Her body was found in a shallow grave about a mile from my home. It shook me to the bone. While this is not a story about Connie Evans, her murder was where everything began.”
Writing is defiance, and every book rears up its own challenges while opening opportunities for creative articulation.
“THE GIRL BURIED IN THE WOODS is a complex thriller with multiple opponents,” he says. “Detective Matt Jones is under tremendous pressure throughout the entire story. He’s mending his wounds from books one and two. But even more, the relationships he has with other characters is rich and the experience of writing this novel was pitch perfect.”
The thriller genre has a full history, recognized traditions, and an enticing model which, in skilled hands, can help readers to understand the world in which the stories are set. Ellis’s writing has been further redefining the genre, and more so with THE GIRL BURIED IN THE WOODS.
“First and foremost, there’s a theme,” he says. “The story isn’t about the murders as much as it’s about the world the story and characters are living in. Even more, Matt Jones might be the hero, but he’s also a victim and under constant attack from multiple opponents.”
Genre conventions are helpful but putting them at the service of a story can make it great. A convention is available for the plucking, but what happens to it in the plot and how it is served determines its hierarchical positioning.
If a reader asked Ellis if THE GIRL BURIED IN THE WOODS and his overall work have been worth it, he “…would say to that reader that the experience of hitting the point where plot and character become one is heaven sent. The emotions that I go through (while writing) are a mile or two beyond exhilarating. I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to write this novel. To be a true storyteller, rather than a writer, is what it’s all about.”
Ellis thrives on his ongoing polygamous relationship with reading, writing, movies, music, and gourmet cooking.
He can see “terrace boats sail by” from his ground-floor desk chair in his house on Long Island Sound, Connecticut. His study is filled with works of philosophy, poetry, drama, fiction, watercolors, oil paintings, and movie posters from Herzog’s Aguirre and Polanski’s Chinatown.
He loves listening to “most forms of music” with grunge rock and Pink Floyd being his favorites and, “when thinking about the story [he’s] working on or planning something new”—but not when writing. He used to be a teenage rhythm guitarist in garage bands before finding his true vocation.
Ellis inherited his love for and skill at gourmet French cuisine from his sculptress mother, and the ability to work Italian culinary magic from his paternal grandmother. All of which comes together to enthrall family and friends when he does his mean barbecue using self-designed gear. He also used to be a youthful kitchen manager of The Main Point, a small coffeehouse/nightclub in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, where “many legends—from Eric Clapton with Blind Faith to Bruce Springsteen played…
“With the sounds of sailboat masts tapping each other in the breeze, my dog Chevy snoozing under my feet, and a small chime just outside the door, my little writing place has just the right mood to cook up a story or two.”
Robert Ellis is the international bestselling author of Access to Power, The Dead Room, the critically acclaimed Lena Gamble novels, City of Fire, The Lost Witness, and Murder Season, and the Detective Matt Jones Thriller series, City of Echoes, The Love Killings, and THE GIRL BURIED IN THE WOODS (Oct. 2019). His novels have been translated into ten languages and selected as top reads by Booklist, Publishers Weekly, National Public Radio, the Chicago Tribune, the Toronto Sun, the Guardian (UK), People magazine, USA Today, and the New York Times.
Born in Philadelphia, Robert moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a writer, producer, and director in film, television, and advertising. He studied writing with Walter Tevis, author of The Hustler, The Man Who Fell to Earth, and The Color of Money, and with his friend John Truby, screenwriter and author of The Anatomy of Story.
Robert’s books have garnered praise from authors as diverse as Janet Evanovich and Michael Connelly.
To learn more about the author and his work, please visit his website.