How To Plan a Murder in Washington, D.C.

I had the honor of speaking at the Smithsonian last night, leading a seminar called “How to Plan a Murder in DC.” I didn’t actually teach any deadly moves, but talked about how DC serves as a great setting for thrilling stories in novels and TV. As part of the seminar, the audience helped plot a murder using people, places and motives that are uniquely DC. We took suggestions and voted – winners got copies of my books (of course). The winning plot – and their creators –  are listed here:

Setting:   The Library of Congress (Janice McLean)
Killer:   The Director of the FBI (Charles Leven)
Victims:   The Nationals Relief Pitcher (Charles Cowan) and the CIA Director (Cathy Wiley)
Method:   With a baseball bat (Lisa King)
Motive:   The pitcher is a spy, and the CIA director was covering it up (Jennifer Skidmore)

This was a mishmash of ideas, but all together, I actually think this could be a decent novel. :)

Incidentally, Cathy Wiley, the woman who suggested the CIA director as a victim, was at the seminar with three other women… who were celebrating her bridal shower! I asked if Cathy’s husband-to-be knew that she was having her bachelorette party at a “How to Plan a Murder” seminar, and she said he wasn’t worried.  At least she has an alibi for last night. Congratulations, Cathy, and thanks for making my seminar your last hurrah as a single lady.

While we’re plotting murders in DC, here are a few more suggestions, from friends who helped me brainstorm this on Facebook:

Tim Hepp: “With a fountain pen in the Politics & Prose fiction room.”

Ed Uthman: “Murder in the Ford Theater, then posing the body in the diorama in the Natural History Meusum, leaving the clue, ‘Sic semper Tyrannosaurus.'”

Professor Ross Emmett: “Federal sex crimes prosecutor found dead in the sand at the base of the Smithsonian’s Foucault pendulum.”  (Yikes!)

Kathleen Teller-Stamis: “Someone takes out Boehner in his office, makes it look like over-tanning combined with lung cancer.”

Suzanne Libby: “An associate’s office at any law firm downtown – they’ve been snuffing out people’s souls for years.”

And my favorite, from the brilliant thriller writer Patrick Lee:

“The Supreme Court justices are stealing the Hope Diamond from the National Museum of Natural History. A janitor catches them. They tie him up, then decide 5 to 4 to kill him.”

Review A GOOD KILLING and get a chance to win a signed copy of all my books!

Hi folks!  My newest book, A GOOD KILLING, launches on Tuesday!  To celebrate, I’m doing a giveaway.
A GOOD KILLING

 

Leave an online review of A GOOD KILING, or tweet about it, and you could win a signed set of my books.  I’m giving 5 sets away. Just post a review on AmazonBarnes & Noble, or Goodreads.  Then shoot me the link at allison@allisonleotta.com or sign up here: a Rafflecopter giveaway.

Good luck and thanks for your support!  There’s no greater gift you can give an author than to spread the word about her book.

Happy New Year!

Happy new year!  I hope you had a great time celebrating, hanging with friends, watching the ball drop on TV, or doing whatever makes you happiest.  Every New Year’s Eve, my husband and I sit down and recall our favorite moments of the year.  I won’t bore you with tales of the cute things my kids said, but here are a few of my favorite professional moments of 2014.

In August, I was a featured speaker at the American Bar Association’s annual meeting in Boston.  It was a wonderful honor, but what made it even better was that my father — also a former federal prosecutor — flew into town for the event.  I got to publicly  thank him for inspiring me with his work, his love, and his ideals.

2014 ABA Annual Meeting Speakers, Allison Leotta

Sure, Justice Roberts gave an inspiring speech. But did he make his dad cry?

On the way to Boston, my family and I stopped by Martha’s Vineyard to attend a book signing hosted by the terrific Linda Fairstein.  Linda was Chief of the Sex Crimes Unit of the Manhattan DA’s Office for decades and now writes thrillers drawing on her experience.  As a prosecutor, she’s a personal hero of mine.  As a writer, she rocks.  I was thrilled to appear with Linda and Joseph Finder at the lovely Edgartown Books mystery brunch. My husband, Mike, deserves great credit for somehow making our kids appear to be polite and well-bred citizens of the world during these events.  The kiddos themselves had a blast in Massachusetts, not only practicing how to sit quietly during speeches, but also beachcombing, swimming and learning how to eat lobster.

Edgartown Books manager Susan Mercier, Linda Fairstein, Joseph Finder, Allison Leotta

Edgartown Books manager Susan Mercier, Linda Fairstein, Joseph Finder, yours truly

Cary Elwes and Allison Leotta

With apologies to Princess Buttercup.

 

In May, my publisher, Simon & Schuster, celebrated its 90th anniversary with a party at the beautiful Highline Hotel.  I feel so fortunate to be part of this incredible publishing tradition, working with some of the best editors and business people in the the country.  That night, I met Cary Elwes — yes, Wesley of The Princess Bride! — who recently published a book about making the movie.  He graciously told all the ladies “As you wish,” which elicited more than a few shrieks. He kissed my hand and said it was a pleasure to meet me, and I displayed great dignity by not swooning.

 

 

A Good Killing: A Novel

Best of all: I finished my fourth novel!    I’m so excited about this book — it’s my best one so far.  This is the fourth outing for my series heroine, Anna Curtis.  She goes home to Michigan to defend her sister Jody against a murder charge.  The story tackles issues like the rape-kit backlog, public corruption, and Detroit’s attempt at a comeback.  It’s also the most personal case for Anna yet.  I can’t wait for you to be able to read it.  A GOOD KILLING will come out this May, 2015 (you can pre-order it now).

 

Meanwhile, I hope you’re enjoying the first days of 2015, and that the new year brings you much luck, good health, happiness, success, and love!

 

 

SVU Episode #16-4: Holden’s Manifesto

Tonight’s SVU ripped its story from the headlines of Elliott Rodger, the “virgin killer” who published a deranged manifesto about his misogynist rage and non-existent sex life before going on a killing spree.

Recap:

A creepy young man named Holden Chase uses his phone to film himself lurking around New York while monologuing about how much he hates women who have rejected him, men who are more sexually successful than him, and his own virginity. [Read more…]

Lessons from a Sex-Crimes Prosecutor — by Heide Herrmann

My friend, Heide Herrmann, is a sex-crimes prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia (the same job I held before becoming an author).  She has handled some of the office’s most high-profile sex-crime cases, but is known for bringing incredible diligence, compassion, and good judgement to every case that crosses her desk. Heide is leaving the USAO to work for DOJ’s Consumer Protection Branch.  Her recent Facebook post about the lessons she learned from the job really resonated with me.  In a few lines, she captured a lot of what the job is about.  Her post is reprinted below. Good luck with the new job, Heide, and thanks for making the city a better place: one day  and one person, at a time. — Allison

As I embark upon my last week as an Assistant United States Attorney, below is a list, in no particular order, of a few of the lessons I’ve learned over the last six years or so. Some more trite than others.

1.  You gotta fake it ’til you make it.

2.  Everything about being a prosecutor is scary as hell. And it’s how I now know how brave I am capable of being.

3.  When a person tells you that you can’t possibly understand how she feels, she’s right. But you should still try.

4.  I can’t fix all of the problems for all of the people I meet. But every day, there is at least one thing I can do to make one person’s life a little easier, safer or better.

5.  No means no. Unconscious means no. So drunk that she can’t walk or talk means no. If that seems obvious to you, good. Teach it to your sons anyway, because apparently it’s not obvious to everyone.

6.  If a car runs you down in the middle of a crosswalk, it’s the driver’s fault, not yours. But you still look both ways before crossing. Young women — please think about how much you drink, and whether you’ll still be safe if you have another, and another, and another. If a man assaults you it’s his fault, not yours, but I’d rather you never find yourself in that situation.

7.  Hug your children. Tell them how important they are. Talk to them, listen to them, love them, protect and appreciate them. If you already do that, good. Do it more. You’d be surprised how many children have no one who gives them the most basic care and kindness. I don’t want to tell you more, because then it’ll hurt you, the way it hurts me.

8.  There is no group of people more concerned about doing justice, protecting the vulnerable, and maintaining the highest level of ethical and professional standards than the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. I will always be proud to have practiced alongside these heroic prosecutors, and to have served the citizens of the District of Columbia.

SVU’s Season 15 Finale: “Spring Awakening”

Congratulations, SVU! Not only was the show renewed for a sixteenth season, it delivered one of its best episodes for this season’s finale. “Spring Awakening” showed some admirably authentic police details while provoking the full spectrum of emotions. Earlier this week, showrunner Warren Leight tweeted out a picture of Kleenex, warning fans to prepare. He was right.

Recap:

Nick is hauled to jail for beating up Simon, the child-torture fetishist who was acquitted last episode. Fueled by its recent Twitter #fiasco, NYPD charges Nick with a felony, and he’s locked up on $500,000 bail. Munch returns to bail Nick out and give a fatherly pep talk. Amanda, who often shows serious disregard for the law she’s sworn to upheld, saves her lover by threatening Simon’s wife. If Simon doesn’t drop the charges, Amanda snarls, she’ll make sure he goes to jail forever. Oh, also, Simon is online offering to let men rape his wife if they email him kiddie-torture-porn pictures. Simon promptly says he threw the first punch, and the charges against Nick are dropped.

Let’s hope Nick signs up for some anger management classes, Amanda signs up for some ethics training, and Simon falls down an elevator shaft. [Read more…]

SVU Episode #15-23: Thought Criminal

“Do you want to live in a world where you can be put in prison for what’s in your head?” That’s what the outraged defense attorney asked our ADA in tonight’s episode, and it’s the real-life question raised by the horrifying “Cannibal Cop” case. As technology is increasingly used to explore our most secret desires, it’s an issue that will be debated and litigated for years to come.

Recap:

A photographer named Simon, who specializes in photos of children, secretly fantasizes about torturing and killing little boys. He discusses this extensively in Internet chat rooms, which eventually leads to police attention. Murphy and Amanda go to his showroom for an undercover chat, with Murphy posing as a rich guy who wants to participate in Simon’s activities. After they ditch Amanda, the men discuss kidnaping a boy to torture and kill. Ice-T plays a guy willing to do the kidnapping for a price. Simon is all in, and shows Murphy and Ice the soundproof torture chamber he’s built – across the street from a school – complete with restraints, butchers knives, rotating saws, operating tables, and industrial grade drains and sinks.

[Read more…]

SVU Episode #15-22: “Reasonable Doubts”

In this powerful episode, SVU captured in one hour much of the pain, controversy, and ambiguity of the decades-long Woody Allen / Dylan Farrow child-sex abuse case. The show explored how hard these cases are to prosecute, and how the effects of abuse linger forever in a child’s life.

Verdict: A

Recap:

A director named Frank leaves his middle-aged actress wife, Katherine, and takes up with her barely-legal sister, Rose. In the midst of an acrimonious divorce, Frank and Katherine’s little girl, Chelsea, tells her mother that Frank molested her. Mom takes her to a pediatrician, who loops in the police. Our detectives try to figure out whether Katherine is using Chelsea as a pawn in the divorce, or whether Frank is a serial pedophile. They conclude the latter, and charge him with sexually abusing Chelsea. Frank skips town in the middle of his trial, and, a la Roman Polanski, flies to Paris, where he publicly paws Rose. He is convicted despite his absence. Katherine takes a public victory lap, while Chelsea grimaces at the assembled paparazzi.

This story mirrored the Woody Allen scandal. In 1992, Allen left his wife, Mia Farrow, for Farrow’s 20-year-old daughter Soon-Yi Previn. The same year, Farrow’s 7-year-old daughter, Dylan, reported that Allen molested her. Unlike tonight’s show, Dylan’s charges were never adjudicated in a criminal court. The DA declined to prosecute, noting how hard a trial would be on Dylan.

Allen sued Farrow for custody of Dylan, which he lost. You can read the judge’s scathing condemnation of Allen’s conduct. That judge concluded that “we will probably never know what occurred” that day. [Read more…]