Confessions of a Chicago Lawyer – Guest Post from David Ellis, author of Breach of Trust

David Ellis

Author David Ellis

Somebody once asked me where I come up with my ideas for crimes and political scandals in my books. I told him I just open my eyes every day.

I’m kidding. Sort of. I’m a Chicago lawyer, and I work in the political arena, so I tend to see a lot of interesting things. As the lawyer for the Speaker of the Illinois House, I spent two years basically trying to prevent Governor Rod Blagojevich from doing all the goofy and corrupt things he wanted to do. Then I served as the House Prosecutor who tried and convicted him before the Illinois Senate during our historic impeachment trial.

So getting fodder for my plots isn’t the hard part. The hard part is topping reality. My best example concerns our dearly departed governor, Blago. In December of 2008, I was putting the finishing touches on a novel about a governor who becomes corrupt. It had some of your basic pay-to-play scandals, and I thought it would be an interesting character study as well. It wasn’t exactly about Blagojevich, but it’s fair to say that Blago inspired me.

Blago's mug shot

And then he did more than inspire me—he trumped me. Along came December 9, 2008, and “Blagojevich” became a household name with the news of his arrest. Compared to the sensational allegations that followed, my manuscript seemed completely tame. Truth, it so happened, had become far, far stranger than my fiction.

What to do? Well, I had to go back to the drawing board. Even though the manuscript (now my upcoming novel, BREACH OF TRUST) wasn’t precisely about Blagojevich, I knew that everybody would have certain expectations about a novel of political corruption written by Blago’s impeachment prosecutor. So I had to dial up the volume on everything I was doing and spice up the scandals. I had to make my fiction stranger to keep up with reality.

Voting early and often. Buying and selling a U.S. Senate seat. Putting your cronies on the payroll. Shaking down government contractors for campaign contributions. Two consecutive governors with felony convictions. The challenge for a Chicago lawyer isn’t coming up with ideas for crimes and scandal—it’s trying to come up with ones that haven’t already appeared in the headlines!

David Ellis is a graduate of Northwestern Law School and Chief Legal Council to the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives. He is also the author of seven novels the most recent of which, “Breach of Trust,” will be published by Putnam Books in February of 2011. His first novel, “Line of Vision,” won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best First Novel by an American Author. More information about Ellis can be found on his website or his Facebook page.

Note: I am also hosting a giveaway for Ellis’ most recent two books.

10 comments to Confessions of a Chicago Lawyer – Guest Post from David Ellis, author of Breach of Trust

  • Living near Chicago my whole life has made me very used to Chicago politics. So, I love it that David Ellis has to downplay his political/legal experience to make his books more plausible. Love it!

  • Now THAT is cool. The stories I bet this man could tell us. It is pretty sad, though, when you write a book about outrageous crimes, and it is outdone by reality. (He is really quite attractive!)

  • Chicago politics are corrupt? No way!? Just kidding, this city would be a great inspiration for conspiracies, dirty politics, scandals, etc. I agree with Sandy – when your outrageous crimes are happening in real life it’s not only sad, but scary.

  • What’s that saying about “life imitating art”? This is a must-read for me. Growing up 30 miles east of Chicago, I got daily snippets about Mayor Daly (the first one), teamsters, etc. I guess that’s why, despite the allegations against him, Blago wormed his way into my good graces when he was a competitor on Celebrity Apprentice. I’m entering the giveaway!

  • The funny thing is as much as Chicago politics are corrupted, Blago was a state servant, with Chicago ties. Politics are a joke here unfortunately. Can’t wait to see what goes down with this Mayoral election.

    Sounds like Mr. Ellis has an interesting job!

  • Ah, Chicago politics. I’m always amazed at how such a great city could end up harboring such terrible politicians. I guess it is what makes Chicago special, among other things.

    BTW, this post totally makes me want to read his books!! Someone with that much insight into the train wreck that is Blago is definitely worth reading!

  • This was an interesting post, to say the least.
    Politics…it is all around us, never fails to entertain while at the same disgust. I wonder what it would be like to live away from the politics that Chicago and areas surrounding delivers?

  • Hi everyone, it’s been great fun to read the comments. I’m grateful to Jen to let me guest blog here. It’s infectious (and inspirational) to listen to enthusiastic readers. I hope you guys get a chance to read BREACH OF TRUST or my others and whether you do or not, I’d love to keep in touch with you. If you have any interest, my Facebook site is Or email me at Either way, you guys are a lot of fun and I hope I can guest blog again … and count me as a devoted fan of this blog! THANKS AGAIN JEN!

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