My first books were espionage novels. Since this was an exclusively male field, I wrote as R. A. (rather than Rita Angelica) Scotti and gained a reputation as "one of the best modern writers of intrigue." Neither reviewers nor readers suspected my true identity until I dropped the disguise and turned to non-fiction. My mother was born in New England, my father in Italy, and my books reflect the duality. "Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938" recounts the worst natural disaster in New England history. "Basilica: The Splendor and the Scandal--Building St. Peter's" is a book that I have wanted to write ever since I stumbled into St Peter's Square. I was 19, on my own for the first time, and awestruck. The magnificence of Michelangelo's basilica led me circuitously to the mystery of Leonardo's Mona Lisa. "Vanished Smile" reopens the case of the mysterious theft of Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911.