Interview with Ray Ellis, author of ‘N.H.I.: No Humans Involved’

Ray Ellis began his law enforcement career with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in Orange County, California. After working for a number of years in the maximum security facility, he transferred to patrol working along Orange County’s coast as well as the inner canyons and barrios. After 8 years he moved to Idaho and continued his law enforcement career, serving as an instructor for the Idaho POST Council.

Ray was first ordained into the ministry while living in Orange County and now serves as the Associate Pastor in his home church in Nampa, Idaho. A former United States Marine, he is a public speaker, communicating to groups of all sizes on the topics of community and personal safety. Since 1999 Ray has been a primary instructor for the Idaho POST Academy – Police Training Institution for Idaho- instructing on subjects of Arrest Control, Cultural Diversity and for the last five years exclusively on the topic of Instructor Development, where he teaches other officers to be POST certified instructors. He is currently serving as the lead sex crimes investigator for the agency where he works. He has been married to the same woman for 27 years and has three children; two sons and a daughter. Ray lives with his family in Idaho.

Ray’s debut novel, a work of urban fiction, N.H.I.: No Humans Involved, was released in March of this year.

You can visit Ray online at or connect with him on twitter at or Facebook at!/pages/Ray-Ellis-Author/116322698426928.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Ray. Can you tell us what your latest book, N.H.I.: No Humans Involved, is all about?

NHI is really about one of the prejudices common to law enforcement, the ‘us versus them’ syndrome. The main character, Nate Richards, is
assigned to solve a series of murders, but in the process a new street gang surfaces and Nate’s girlfriend has been kidnapped. The question of who is
a good guy and who is a bad guy is central to the story. The quandary Nate has to wrestle with is will he succumb to his instincts to take matters into his own hands and himself become part of the NHI, No Humans Involved. It’s about how we as police officers view the people in our communities and how we assess value to those people and their representative people groups.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

The main character, Nate Richards, is a conglomerate of many personalities of officers I’ve worked with our twenty years. He is young and ambitious and as the son of a preacher he is wrestling with issues of his faith. Through Nate I explore what it is like to be a police officer and having to deal on a daily basis with the worst of the human experience. What Nate struggles with is how to do his job and at the same time rap that up in a world of faith and how those ends seemingly do not meet.

Nate’s love interest, Amber Coles, is a very complex woman. She and Nate have been friends and confidants since childhood. Having helped each other through the ups and downs of relationships and even a failed engagement, now they are toying with the idea of allowing the relationship between them to develop. Theirs is a relationship, while painfully obvious to everyone else, the two of them are afraid to trust themselves to go forward, not wanting to destroy what has already lasted through the years. Oh yes, and she manages to get entangled with Nate’s investigation which causes him no small amount of trouble.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

No all my characters are based on people or at least parts of people I know. For instance, my main character, Nate Richards, is primarily based on an old partner of mine from Southern California, but then I based the template of his physical appearance on my oldest son; I also took cues from my son’ personality to add depth to the character.

Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

No and yes. I always know how my story begin, usually seeing the scene as if on a screen. And I know generally in what block or neighborhood it is supposed to end. Along the way is where most of the discovery takes place for me. It’s like the old Star Trek episodes, you always know that Kirk, Spock and McCoy would survive you just didn’t know how. It’s kind of like that for me.

Q: Your book is set in the Treasure Valley region of Idaho, which includes Boise, Meridian, and Nampa as its largest cities. Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

I chose Meridian because I worked in that jurisdiction for over 15 years and because it is a growing city with all the problems of a growing city. Imagine a city as a teenager. So with those dynamics and just the beautiful choices of scenery to choose from, it was an

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Yes, especially for those who are familiar with the area. The Boise foothills and of course the “smurf turf” of Boise State are few of the more well known land marks, but it’s the streets and its quasi rural feel of the area that is the true character.

Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?

This is the scene a day after the body of a police officer has been murdered and his set up for display. Nate received a message left outside his apartment the night before and now as he going through his morning calls, he discovers a message, a mechanical voice, warning him about the killer and threatening more death if Nate fails to take action.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

This is the scene where I introduce the antagonist’s character: Israel Vega.

Israel Vega sat on the sofa watching the women moving rhythmically with the music. The heavy bass and the guttural lyrics, unintelligible to the untrained ear, rapped about life on the streets and the rule and value of violence. The women’s long, dark hair flashed over their shoulders as they turned and jerked in counter swing to the bass with the flow of their full, rounded hips. Like a king surveying his court, Israel ruled over his family, his gang, with absolute authority. All his ladies had to have long hair; it was the trademark of the women belonging to the Abyss.

His was a new gang, but he wasn’t new to the streets. At 25, he was an O.G.; an old gangster, having already outlived most of his contemporaries.

One of the women broke away from the larger group dancing toward the raised seat, her eyes locked with Israel’s. She sat near his feet. Looking up at him lustily, she leaned forward, ran her hand up his thigh and kissed his knee. He rewarded her by brushing his hand through her hair; she would be his for the day.

A large black man walked into the gang’s squat, the abandoned building they claimed as their headquarters. Lorenzo James, known as “Lo” on the streets, was Israel’s first; his lieutenant and long time friend. He crossed quickly to where Israel sat and whispered in his ear. Israel closed his eyes and groaned within himself. He slumped back against the cushions then stood in a quick fluid movement without speaking.

Turning to Lo, he lifted his chin with a jerk toward the door at the rear of the large room and the two men left together.

Once in the smaller room with the door sealed behind them, Israel stopped and spoke over his shoulder. “What you saying, man?” he demanded without preamble.

“Half the shipment straight off the top. We gotta put a stop to this, Israel. These fools gotta know they don’t mess with Abyss.” He smacked his fist into his large hand.

Israel turned and looked at his friend. He knew the fire that burned behind those dark eyes. He had felt it on many occasions himself. He smiled. “Yes-s-s,” he said, drawing the word out. He walked over to his friend and placed his brown hand on the darker man’s shoulder. “Yes, we need to make another hit. This time make sure we leave our tag so everyone can see it. By the time we’re done here, Treasure Valley will know that Abyss has arrived. That we own the streets.”

The men laughed together and, after several more minutes in private conversation, returned to the main hall. The women swarmed them like bees drawn to the nectar of a flower.

The music rose in both decibel and intensity. The bass vibrated the walls, lyrics no longer discernable, the dancers worked themselves into a frenzy, writhing in a passion-driven craze.

The woman who had singled herself out earlier, danced sensuously as she approached Israel, her eyes hungry, and began to wrap herself around him seductively.

Grabbing the woman around her waist, Israel jerked her to him and kissed her
roughly. Throwing back his head, he screamed. “ABYSS!”

The crowd of about forty souls answered as in echo. “ABYSS.”

The chant traveled back and forth between the king and his court. Like a wave, the cry rose between the warlord and his army. Between the man and his family the feeling deepened until all thought of anything else was erased. The cry continued, drowning out the music and escalating into a blood-curdling yell issuing deep from the soul of the man.

Israel stood alone in the middle of the hall; his disciples had dropped to their knees as he yelled above their heads. “ABYSS!”

Framed behind him hung the symbol of Abyss, a huge circled ‘A’ with a slash
running the length of it.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Ray. We wish you much success!

Thank you for having me. I hope to have many more occasions to interview with you again. God bless you.

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