'Sometimes it's hard not to be cynical'

By Julia Keller
Saturday, February 19, 2011; 3:59 PM

David Ellis, 43, is the author of "Breach of Trust" (Putnam), his seventh legal thriller and the second to feature Jason Kolarich, a lawyer with a tendency to punch first and ask questions later but who also possesses a tender heart and a rock-solid sense of ethics. Ellis, chief counsel to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, lives in Springfield with his wife and two children. Previously Ellis was an attorney in private practice in Chicago.

Here is an e-mail exchange with the author, edited for space:

Q. Carlton Snow (ethics-challenged governor in "Breach of Trust") equals former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, right? Seriously though, "Breach of Trust" does have analogues to recent events in Illinois politics, yes?

A. I realize that, under the circumstances, everyone will think that Gov. Snow is Blagojevich. But he isn't. It wouldn't be fun for me to write about a real person. To me, that wouldn't be creative writing. Snow is an amalgam of a number of corrupt politicians whose careers were interrupted by scandals owing to greed, lust for power, pure ego, or sex or all of the above. . . . You're right that I factored in recent events in writing the novel.

Q. You have a demanding job and a young family. How in heaven's name do you find time to write novels?

A. The bags you see under my eyes are the answer. I don't sleep very much. Most of my fiction writing occurs in my attic between the hours of midnight and 3 a.m.

Q. As "Breach of Trust" reveals, you know how state government operates. How do you keep from becoming terribly cynical?

A. Sometimes it's hard not to be cynical. But I go to work every day knowing that I work for an honorable man. The speaker is the hardest-working man in the Capitol. He cares about the institution and the independence of the legislative branch. . . . If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't have taken a pay cut and moved my family from Chicago to Springfield to work for the man.

- McClatchy-Tribune

Q. Does Speaker Madigan read your novels? And how about our former governor?

A. The speaker prefers nonfiction, primarily of the historical variety. I'm pretty sure Mr. Blagojevich doesn't read my work, either.

Q. Who would play Jason in the movie?

A. Me, of course. I just need 20 pounds of muscle, 3 inches of height and a face-lift. Seriously, I don't visualize my protagonists. All I could say is that the actor should be someone who is not too pretty and who can play a dark side.

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