A Sly Project with Judge Jeanine Pirro

I met  Judge Jeanine Pirro several months ago and she told me that she was looking for someone to help her write a novel about her early days as the first female prosecutor in Westchester County,  just outside of New York City. Shortly after Jeanine was hired in 1978, she created one of the first Domestic Violence Units in

the country. She specialized in prosecuting spousal abuse cases at a time when it was not illegal in some states for a husband to beat his wife. After calling attention to domestic violence, Jeanine targeted pedophiles, by creating the first sting operation in the nation to catch sexual predators. (This was decades before NBC’s Dateline Series: To Catch A Predator.)  Jeanine later was elected the first woman judge in Westchester County and eventually ran unsuccessfully for the New York Attorney General’s job. Since leaving the bench and politics, she has been a regular on television, hosting her own FOX prime time program, Justice With Judge Jeanine.

I was hooked the moment I met Jeanine. She is a smart, no-nonsense, tireless legal champion for underdogs. She also has a great sense of humor and smile. I  liked the idea of fictionalizing actual cases and I especially was interested in helping write a novel grounded in the 1970s about a feisty, female prosecutor.

Jeanine and I quickly came up with a main character — Dani Fox — who is (not surprisingly) a lot like Jeanine. The title of the first book is  SLY FOX , which will debut in July and is now available for order. A second novel, CLEVER FOX, will be published later.

This is not a ghostwritten book where a FOX TV News celebrity simply attaches his/her name to a professionally written novel.  Jeanine selected the cases  and we worked collaboratively on the manuscript with her pouring over every word.  Because Jeanine was so involved, SLY FOX gives readers an intimate and insider’s glimpse at what she experienced as a young prosecutor when women were not welcomed in courtrooms.  The reviews (printed below) have been good.

While SLY FOX is the first time that I’ve ever collaborated on a novel, it is not my first foray into fiction.  I’ve published three earlier novels — Lethal Secrets, The Big Secret, and The Apocalypse Stone.  Alan Cheuse of NPR especially liked Lethal Secrets — (click  to hear his review).

My fingers are crossed that Jeanine’s  book will become a summer hit!



Set in 1976, this solid first novel from Emmy-winning TV legal analyst Pirro introduces idealistic Westchester ADA Dani Fox. Dani, who’s been relegated to the appeals unit on account of her sex, makes the most of a chance opportunity to work directly with crime victims. When a veteran White Plains cop, Det. Tommy O’Brien, asks Dani for help with a battered bartender, Mary Margaret Hitchins, Dani visits Mary in the hospital, where she’s recovering from her husband’s latest assault. Since at the time New York law didn’t consider spousal violence a matter for criminal court, Dani must use all her ingenuity and political acumen to persuade her sexist bosses to allow her to pursue the case. Pirro’s experiences as a former DA and county court judge as well as the founder of one of the country’s first domestic violence units help distinguish this from the pack. Fans of the autobiographical legal thrillers of Linda Fairstein and Marcia Clark will find a lot to like. Agent: David Vigliano, Vigliano Associates. (July)


Kirkus Reviews

TV judge Pirro’s first foray into fiction follows a Westchester County Assistant District Attorney through two slam-bang years as she battles rapists, killers and fellow pillars of law enforcement. Since it’s 1976 and she’s a woman, Dani Fox has been shunted into the appeals bureau and kept out of the courtroom. But all that changes when Detective Tommy O’Brien asks her to talk pregnant barmaid Mary Margaret Hitchins, whose common-law husband Rudy beat her within an inch of her life, into leaving town for her own safety. Instead, Dani persuades Mary Margaret to file a complaint that’ll put Rudy away, then refuses to back up the cops’ tale of resisting arrest when they cuff Rudy and knock him around. As Dani’s boss, Westchester District Attorney Carlton Whitaker III, observes, Dani clearly isn’t a team player, and it’s no surprise to anyone but her when the case against Rudy turns ugly. No matter: Her high-profile prosecution, juiced by Whitaker’s pursuit of women’s votes, propels her into heading the county’s new Domestic Violence unit and onto a state task force drafting historic legislation allowing battered wives to take their abusers into criminal court. With her career well under way, Dani can afford to take on the case of Carmen Gonzales, whose father, Carlos, a jeweler and respected community activist, has been selling cocaine for years and raping her since she was 14. Despite unhelpful rulings from a novice judge, Dani gets a conviction, but once again the case doesn’t turn out the way she expects. As absorbing, episodic and self-congratulatory as a season of Mad Men, though with more felonies and inferior costumes and hairdos. A sequel is promised.


About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.