An American mystery writer, he is particularly known for such short stories as The Specialty of the House (1948) and The House Party (1954). He was the recipient of three Edgar Awards.
He studied at Brooklyn College and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1936.
He was a long-time member and president of the Mystery Writers of America association.
He married Jeanne Michael in 1937; together, they had one daughter.
Ellin's short stories were the inspiration for several episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.