Hello, friends and readers! I’m really excited that my next novel, “Discretion,” launches today! If you’ve enjoyed this blog, please buy the book! It’s a fast-paced story of sex, politics and the secrets we keep, and it draws on my years prosecuting sex-crimes in D.C.
It’s been wonderful to get great reviews from some of my favorite authors:
“Discretion is a first-rate thriller.”
— David Baldacci
“The best legal thriller I’ve read this year, beautifully crafted and frighteningly real. Leotta knows her stuff cold and will bring you into a world of big money, corruption, high-end prostitution and murder. If you’re a fan of Grisham or Richard North Patterson, you simply have to buy this novel.”
— Douglas Preston
“Assured, authentic, and highly entertaining.”
— George Pelecanos
“Fast, fresh, and addictive.”
— Lisa Scottoline
Here’s some of the backstory.
For twelve years, I prosecuted sex crimes, domestic violence, and other crimes as a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C. I saw the cases the press would glamorize – high-end escort services like the “D.C. Madam” and New York’s “Millionaire Madam.” But I also saw that both high-priced call girls and low-rent streetwalkers were among the most vulnerable of women to being raped, assaulted, and murdered. I wanted to understand the lives of these madams and their employees: why so many college girls choose such a high-risk route, the secret lives they have to juggle, the dangers they face every time they meet a client.
The case of the D.C. Madam particularly interested me. She operated a high-end escort service catering to politicians, diplomats, and wealthy businessmen in the nation’s capital. My office prosecuted and convicted her, but before she was sentenced, she committed suicide. There were plenty of people – wealthy, powerful men – with an incentive to shut her up. My sensible prosecutor side dismissed such speculation, but the crime novelist in me wondered if someone might have killed the madam, and how it might have been done.
About the same time, I visited the U.S. Capitol and walked through the Rotunda, where famous oil paintings of America’s birth cover the walls. In the paintings, hundreds of men are portrayed – but I saw only four women. Of the four, two are naked and on their knees. I started thinking about the sexual power dynamics that have surrounded our country from its founding, and which still surround us today. I started formulating the ideas that became DISCRETION: A Novel. Those paintings in the Rotunda became part of my first chapter.
In researching the book, I was able to draw on my experiences working with sex workers within the criminal justice system – and former sex workers who now serve as victims’ advocates, helping others leave the business. I also spoke with additional law enforcement officials and social workers to view different angles of the sex trade. I was gratified by the candor with which people talked to me about the facts, the fantasies, and the fetishes that are serviced, and the methods that are employed in this often cut-throat business. In writing DISCRETION, my challenge wasn’t finding real-life material, but deciding how to explain details that might be shocking for readers to hear.
I hope you like it!