Stanley Bernard Ellin was born on October 6, 1916, in the Bath Beach section of Brooklyn, New York, the son of Louis Ellin and Rose Mandel Ellin. He was an only child, and his parents were intensely devoted to him and to each other. His childhood was extremely happy, and his parents served as excellent role models, approaching life with simplicity and integrity.
Ellin was a bright and somewhat precocious student. After graduation from New Utrecht High School, he attended Brooklyn College, where he edited and wrote for the school literary magazine. He was graduated, at nineteen, in 1936, during the height of the Depression. Following graduation, he worked as a dairy farm manager, a junior college teacher, a magazine salesperson and distributor, a boilermaker’s apprentice, and a steelworker. In 1937, he married Jeanne Michael, a freelance editor and former classmate. They had one child. Although he tried unsuccessfully to sell his fiction during the difficult years of the Depression, he had, not unhappily, reconciled himself to a career as a shipyard and construction worker.
After a short stint in the Army at the end of World War II, Ellin saw his literary fortunes change. Discharged in 1946, he decided once again to attempt a career as a writer. Combining his veteran’s unemployment allowance with his wife’s editing income, Ellin became a full-time writer. His first published short story, “The Specialty of the House,” appeared in 1948 in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and won the Ellery Queen Award for the best first story of that year. Also in 1948, Simon and Schuster published his first novel, Dreadful Summit. Altogether, Ellin published fourteen novels and four collections of short stories. He was a three-time winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Allan Poe Award, twice for short stories in 1955 and 1957, and in 1959 for his novel The Eighth Circle (1958). In 1974, the French edition of Mirror, Mirror on the Wall (1972) won Le Grand Prix de Littérature Policière. In 1981, Ellin received the Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award. With the exception of some travel abroad and some time spent in Miami Beach, Ellin lived all of his life in Brooklyn, where he died at Kings County Hospital of complications following a stroke, on July 31, 1986.