Former business reporter for CNBC, WFLD publishes first novel

When Jeff Leshay was covering the oil markets during the 1990 Gulf War, the then-CNBC business reporter said he felt a huge responsibility to inform the public accurately about how the war in Iraq was impacting the markets, and to differentiate fact from speculation.

But Leshay, who is now a PR executive and the owner of Leshay Communications, said something else was going on during that time: He was writing a novel in his head. Last month, that novel, “Dangerous Trades,” was released.

“I was down in the oil trading pits in the New York Mercantile Exchange and it was chaotic and fascinating,” said Leshay, who lives in Wilmette with wife Julie and son Austin. “I was amazed by the influence that the business media could have on the financial markets, which is what made me think of the idea for ‘Dangerous Trades.’”

“I think it makes sense — write about what you know, as the saying goes,” said Alec Sirken, who worked with Leshay at CNBC and is now a producer for CBS News in New York. “Jeff certainly knows about the oil industry. He’d always talk about the characters he met who worked in the industry, so it’s not surprising that he remembered some of the tales and embellished them in a novel.”

“Dangerous Trades” is the story of a business reporter who is unwittingly drawn into a fraud scheme in the oil markets and has to return to his passion for investigative reporting to absolve himself of guilt, to save his career and possibly his life.

Written in the vein of two of his favorite authors, Christopher Reich and Stephen Frey, Leshay said completing his 400-page novel was a long process, and he used the notes he took in the ‘90s, going through several drafts before the book was published.

“It sheds light on the excitement of television news rooms and the volatile financial trading world within the context of a page turning thriller that raises real world questions,” said Leshay, who holds a masters degree in journalism from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, spent 10 years in the television news business and whose last business reporting job was at WFLD, Chicago.

Dangerous Trades isn’t Leshay’s first published work. In 1993, he wrote “How to Launch Your Career in TV News,” which was published by VGM Career Books and acclaimed by the academic community.

“Writing a nonfiction book was like being a journalist, and I enjoyed that,” said Leshay, who before launching Leshay Communications in 2011 spent 15 years working for a few large PR firms and corporations in Chicago. “Storytelling is different. It’s a really fun and creative way of channeling my passion around issues in the media and other worldly issues.”

“Novels that sort of have their roots in the person’s experience tend to have more depth and can be richer in detail,” said Gavin Maliska, a former managing editor for WFLD who worked with Leshay and is currently news director at two TV stations in Macon, Georgia. “Jeff was a go-getter reporter who always wanted to find the big story. He’s a good writer and an interesting guy.”

“What I remember is that Jeff was always very enthusiastic about anything he was covering and tenacious about getting all the information he could,” Sirken said. “He drew on what he’d seen and he knows how to tell a story — in two minutes on TV or spinning it all out in a novel.”

“Dangerous Trades” is available on amazon.com.

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