The genesis of the idea for Live Long Day, the fifth novel in the Malone series came from a gritty American crime drama television series The Killing, originally produced by AMC. The series was based on the Danish television series Forbrydelsen (The Crime). Set in Seattle, Washington, The Killing chronicles murder investigations by fictional Seattle homicide detectives Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) and Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman).
While the television series initially focuses on the investigation of the murder of a typical suburban teenager, a peripheral story line is an ongoing investigation of the serialized murders of local underage prostitutes, young girls forced by their individual circumstances to live on the streets. That piqued my curiosity.
During my career as a street cop, child prostitution was something I rarely encountered. While I did encounter prostitutes regularly, they were typically adult women, most of whom it seemed had turned to prostitution to support drug habits. When I watched The Killing, I was curious whether the underage prostitutes depicted in the show was truly realistic or something sensationalized only to create interest in a television series. I started to do some research. What I learned was shocking.
I learned that the child prostitution in cities like Los Angeles, the setting of the Malone Novels, is a real and growing problem. Los Angeles County law enforcement officials and the social services agencies who deal with the problem on a daily basis describe the child prostitution problem in Los Angeles as part of a growing nationwide epidemic. Young girls, some as young as 11-years-old are coerced into a life that will forever leave them emotionally scarred.
Thousands of homeless youth end up participating in prostitution while trying to survive on the streets. While for some child prostitution may entail kids exchanging their bodies for drugs and alcohol, self-preservation is the primary motivation for most. Once on the streets, these children quickly discover that basic necessities like clothing, food, and shelter are far from guaranteed. Without money or the ability to get a job, many are forced to rely on their bodies as the only commodity of exchange they possess that they can use to survive.
Underage prostitutes are exposed not only to emotional damage and the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, but also other types of serious illnesses and diseases. For too many prostitution can cost them their very lives.
In 1979, Dr. Lois Lee, the world’s leading expert in rescuing child sex trafficking victims and president of Children of the Night—founded the privately funded nonprofit organization with the mission to rescue children from child prostitution. It is the only comprehensive program in North America devoted to saving children forced into prostitution.
Dr. Lee found her calling in the darkest of places. She received a tip-off about a young prostitute who was sent to meet a man named Angelo Buono. Buono was one-half of the murderous duo who gained notoriety as the now infamous "Hillside Stranglers." The young prostitute became Hillside Strangler victim number 11.
The lack of a police response when Dr. Lee reported the dire circumstances to them along with the young girl's subsequent rape and murder is what galvanized her to found Children of the Night and to devote her life to rescuing girls from 11-17 from a life of prostitution. Since 1979, Lee's organization has rescued more than 10,000 children from prostitution in the United States. Children of the Night provides children who are sexually exploited and vulnerable to or involved in prostitution and pornography food, shelter referrals, medical services, mental health services, placement in independent living programs, transitional housing, maternity homes, and substance abuse programs.
Understanding child prostitution and sexual victimization starts with understanding why kids become homeless in the first place. Where do child prostitutes and homeless kids, in general, come from? In Los Angeles, the majority of juveniles arrested for prostitution come from the county's foster care system. Many others are runaways, often children escaping physical and sexual abuse and exploitation at home only to find themselves in a homeless adolescent culture where sex is the means of survival, and just a different form of exploitation. The National Runaway Safeline reports that 80 percent of female runaways were physically or sexually abused at home before fleeing to the streets.
Why spotlight such a sad and distasteful subject like child prostitution in a crime novel? I aim to raise awareness among Americans like I once was who perhaps don't even know that child prostitution is a problem in this country, much less understand the scope of the problem. In a time when our national media organizations are singularly focused on their obsession with a president they loathe, an obsession bordering on mental illness, you won't hear much about something like the child prostitution epidemic on the nightly news. It falls to others to expose it for the serious issue it is.
I hope to some degree Live Long Day will raise awareness about this critically important issue. I hope that exposure to child prostitution as depicted in the novel will make readers angry, angry enough to do something about the problem. Not everyone is able to get personally involved at a grassroots level where they live in helping to find a solution to this problem. But everyone can still help by doing something as easy as providing financial support to organizations like Children of the Night and Covenant House California (CHC). Covenant House is another nonprofit youth homeless shelter that provides sanctuary and support for homeless and trafficked youth. They provide shelter, food, clothing, as well as a continuum of other services aimed at meeting the physical, emotional, educational, vocational, and spiritual well-being needs of young people.
In writing Live Long Day, my intent is not to foster a sense of hopelessness–I want us to get angry about a problem that strips hope from our most vulnerable citizens. Children are the future of our nation. If we ignore the unpleasant realities of child prostitution, we do so at our own peril. Isn't it time to turn off the propaganda focused exclusively on partisan political views and conspiracy theories that pass for news in this country, and turn our attention to a real issue that we can all help do something about?
When released this coming winter, a portion of all royalties received from Live Long Day will be donated to Children of the Night.