'The Girl from Home'

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Attorney-turned-author’s fourth novel made its debut last week

By Kurt Anthony Krug
Legal News

Attorney-turned-author Adam Mitzner’s latest novel “The Girl From Home” isn’t a legal thriller per se like his previous three books.

“There are some legal aspects to it, but it doesn’t have any courtroom scenes at all. It’s different than my other books because there isn’t a heavy reliance on a trial in the third act. When I set this story up, it wasn’t that kind of thing where I decided there would be a trial. The tension I saw in the end – I don’t want to give too much away – wasn’t the tension of a trial; it was the tension about the investigation that goes on,” said Mitzner, 51, who lives in New York City .

“Girl” (Gallery Books $26) chronicles the fall from grace of wealthy investment banker Jonathan Caine, Mitzner’s first protagonist who isn’t a lawyer. When the story begins, Jonathan has a trophy wife and a penthouse condo with a view of the Statue of Liberty. Still, it’s not enough for him and he craves more. All that changes when he goes to East Carlisle, N.J. – a fictional version of East Brunswick, N.J., which is where Mitzner grew up – to take care of his ailing father.

He also attends his 25th high school reunion, where he encounters Jackie Williams, the titular character. During their high school days, Jackie – who was the prom queen – didn’t even know Jonathan existed. Nowadays, she’s intrigued by the mover and shaker he’s become. However, their complicated relationship has problems, not the least of which is Jackie’s jealous and abusive husband. Jonathan is determined to learn from his mistakes, but is he capable of such a complete transformation? Or will a shocking temptation test his desire for redemption beyond anything he could’ve imagined?

“Jonathan fits in well with the zeitgeist of what people think about Wall Street (tycoons), a guy who’s accumulated wealth and always wants more, and he’s led his life in that pursuit. The issue with him is if he wants to live a different way – a way that values things besides material possessions – so can he change course after he’s lived his life a certain way for 20-some odd years. Can he change the values he has and the things that are important?” explained Mitzner. “In the (beginning), he might be less sympathetic than the other characters that have anchored my books. In some ways, this makes him interesting because he’s a certain type of a Wall Street shark. But like everybody else, there’s more to him than that; he has an inner struggle about what kind of person he really wants to be.”

Eagle-eyed Mitzner fans will spot two Easter eggs in “Girl.” A unapologetic Batman fan, Mitzner makes a reference about DC Comics’ Dark Knight – something he does in nearly every book. Also, criminal defense attorney Alex Miller from “A Conflict of Interest” – Mitzner’s debut novel – makes an appearance. Alex is an old high school classmate of Jonathan’s.

Besides not doing a lengthy trial sequence, Mitzner stated this is the most complicated book he’s written to date. The beginning half of it has an out-of-order chronology. For instance, the first chapter takes place in March, the second chapter takes place in December of that same year, the third chapter takes place in April, the fourth chapter takes place after the second chapter. The odd chapters move one month at a time. The even chapters are chronological but later in the year. Eventually, everything catches up.

“I like the way that works because there’s a lot of foreshadowing. You see stuff that’s going on but when you’re back in real time, there’s a little bit of a challenge for the reader to say, ‘Why is he like this when he wasn’t exactly like this nine months earlier?’ Writing that was a challenge, but I was very happy with the way it came out, so it’s all good there,” explained Mitzner. “It was a fun book to write. In that regard, I enjoyed it as much as anything I’ve written. At the end, there’s a feeling like, ‘This is how I wanted it to be.’ And it flowed pretty much out of me. There’s a dueling narrative because some of it takes place from the perspective of the title character and some of it takes place from Jonathan’s point of view, so in that regard it was a little bit different for me. All of it made the writing process to be much more enjoyable.”

Another attorney-turned-author Anthony Franze, who’s also an adjunct law professor at the Michigan State University College of Law, complimented Mitzner for stepping out of his comfort zone and not writing a legal thriller.

“(‘Girl’) already has received powerful reviews and should be Mitzner’s breakout novel. It’s great to see him move further away from legal thrillers since he’s a gifted storyteller in any genre,” said Franze, author of “The Advocate’s Daughter.”

Born in Brooklyn, Mitzner grew up in New Jersey. He earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in politics – both from Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. From there, he earned his juris doctor in law from the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville, Va. He has been a practicing attorney since 1989.

“I was always interested in politics, legal issues, and arguing with people,” said Mitzner. “When it came to think about careers, law was a good fit for my skill-set.”

He spent eight years at the prominent law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP in New York City. Currently, he is the head of the litigation department at Pavia & Harcourt, LLP, which is another prominent New York City law firm.

“I’ve always been a litigator. It was the only kind of I law I considered doing. I used to rotate out of litigation departments,” he said. “To me, it seemed to be real lawyering – cases, witnesses, that kind of thing. I’m a civil litigator, who does white-collar criminal litigation.”

It wasn’t until his mid-30s when he seriously thought about creative writing. He wrote a book to see if he could do it. In fact, he penned two legal thrillers that did not get published. Nor are there any plans to, especially since he strip-mined the first one for last year’s “Losing Faith.”

“The books start less with the story and more with the character. Someone who’s reached the pinnacle of success and how fleeting it can be and how hard it is to maintain and the risks they’re willing to take to keep it,” said Mitzner.

Currently, he’s working on his fifth novel, which is slated for a 2017 release. It’s about the disappearance of a woman. Mitzner described it as more “Gone Girl”–ish than a legal thriller. It’s tentatively called “Dead Certain.” However, he’s dead certain that won’t be the final title.

Mitzner stated that “Girl” has generated some interest from Hollywood.

“It’s still a long way from being a movie, but a production company in California called Stone Village Productions optioned it so I’m excited about that,” said Mitzner. “I’m really pleased with the books and I’m excited to see what people think.”

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