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Ellis began his career with two poetry collections published during that era: "Jiving To Gyp" (1959) and "Rave" (1960). In June 1960, he travelled to Liverpool, England to perform a poetry reading at Liverpool University. As he usually read his poetry with backing from jazz musicians, Ellis searched among the locals for suitable musicians to accompany him and met the young group known as The Beatles.
Lennon saw Ellis as "the converging point of rock 'n' roll and literature". Ellis said of the meeting, "I was quite a star for them at that time because I had come up from London and that was a world they didn't really know about".
According to Lennon in the International Times: "The first dope, from a Benzedrine inhaler, was given to the Beatles (John, George, Paul and Stuart) by an English cover version of Allen Ginsberg — one Royston Ellis, known as 'beat poet' ... So, give the saint his due." Ellis also claims that he suggested the re-spelling of Beetles to Beatles.
Ellis's later novel, Myself For Fame (1964), about a fictional pop star, with a chapter set in Liverpool that seems to recount his experiences with The "Beetles" in 1960.
Ellis is one of the people the song "Paperback Writer" was based on, quoting a comment he had made years earlier while in Liverpool, and was also present at a liaison between Lennon and "Polythene Pam" in Guernsey in 1963.
In 1980, John Lennon said the following:
- That was me, remembering a little event with a woman in Jersey, and a man who was England's answer to Allen Ginsberg...I met him when we were on tour and he took me back to his apartment and I had a girl and he had one he wanted me to meet. He said she dressed up in polythene, which she did. She didn't wear jack boots and kilts, I just sort of elaborated. Perverted sex in a polythene bag. Just looking for something to write about."
Ellis now lives in Sri Lanka, writing travel books and fiction, the most recent being Sweet Ebony, which follows the travels of a group of Americans through Kenya, in which these characters echo the Beatniks of generations past.
Ellis is also a frequent traveller to the Maldives and is a good friend of the Maldives former president, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, writing a biography of him entitled A Man for All Islands, which have been heavily criticized by both critics of Gayoom's totalitarian ruling and by foreign journalists with an outside perspective.
A film based on Ellis's novel A Hero In Time is also in the planning stages.
- Sheff, David. All We Are Saying, 2000. St. Martin's Griffin; New York, NY;. 203
- Royston Ellis
- Royston Ellis on Sri Lanka
- Royston Ellis Collection at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin