Walter Ellis

Novelist and journalist

Walter Ellis was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in September 1948. His best friend at school was his distant cousin Ronnie Bunting, whose malevolent inluence resulted in Ellis’s expulsion from his Protestant secondary school, where he overlapped with the singer/songwriter Van Morrison and the author and sometime Beirut hostage Brian Keenan.

Bunting went on to become Belfast commander of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) and masterminded the bomb attack in the car park of Britain’s House of Commons that killed war hero Airey Neave just before he could take up the post of Northern Ireland Secretary in the first Thatcher government. One year later, Bunting himself was dead, murdered by loyalists. Walter’s account of his disastrous friendship with this clever and most ruthless of terrorists was the subject of his 2006 memoir The Beginning of the End, published by Mainstream/Random House and serialised over two weeks in the Sunday Times.

Proceeding from school to drop out of not one, but two universties – educated, as he put it, to an extent if not to a degree – Ellis finally found his feet as a journalist, working for the Irish Times in Belfast, Dublin and Brussels before moving to Bonn to be with a German girl who promptly dumped him. His career advanced in fits and starts for the next 20 years. He worked for the Financial Times in Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam and Jerusalem, and for three years was chief feature writer of the Sunday Telegraph before moving to the rival Sunday Times as a foreign correspondent and columnist – an arrangement that foundered when he was sued by his own editor Andrew Neil over something he had (not quite) written about Neil while still at the Sunday Telegraph.

Undaunted, he next took up an offer to be features editor of The European, a new weekly paper started up by the tycoon Robert Maxwell. This did not work out as planned. Three months into his new appointment, he was sacked to make way for someone Maxwell had met at a party

It was at this stage that Ellis decided that, in addition to freelancing for a number of Fleet Street papers, he would write books. His first, arising out of his realisation that graduates of Oxford and Cambridge seemed to waltz into top jobs that lesser beings had to fight for, was The Oxbridge Conspiracy (Michael Joseph/ Penguin) which turned into one of the most controversial and excoriated titles of 1994.

Ellis susbsequently concentrated on his freelance career. He and his former wife raised a son, Jamie, who became lead guitarist of the indie band Battle and is now a successful record producer, based in London.

But he continued to write. Last year, his novel The Caravaggio Code was published in Italy by Newton Compton. It rose to number one in the pocket fiction division of the Italian bestseller lists and will come out in Ireland next February, published by the Lilliput Press.

London Eye, about to be re-published as an e-book on Kindle, is the story of three college friends, about to turn 50, whose lives are threatened by a series of mid-life calamities. It has been widely praised, not least for its comic invention.

Ellis is currently working on his next novel, a kind of love story, or not. He now lives in New York with his second wife, Louisa, a graphic designer and college lecturer, but spends his summers in France. He has a variety of ailments, including atrial fibrillation, an enlarged prostate and gout, but is otherwise in excellent health. His car needs a new radiator

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