'A Matter of Will'


Attorney’s latest novel chronicles temptation of young stockbroker

By Kurt Anthony Krug
Legal News

The protagonists of Adam Mitzner’s thrillers are usually attorneys.

However, Mitzner, 54, a partner at Pavia & Harcourt, LLP in New York City, made an exception with Will Matthews in his latest novel “A Matter of Will” (Thomas & Mercer $15.99).

Will is an ambitious 27-year-old Wall Street stockbroker who’s down on his luck. Things are so bad for Will that he’s dangerously close to being fired from cutthroat brokerage firm Maeve Grant, which would force him to return to his hometown of Cheboygan with his tail between his legs.

However, Will’s circumstances turn around after he befriends a wealthy, influential, enigmatic businessman named Sam Abaddon. Winning Sam’s business is the answer to Will’s prayers. Suddenly, he’s Maeve Grant’s wunderkind who’s living in the lap of luxury. In addition to his career success, he has a new girlfriend, an ambitious young attorney named Gwen Lipton.

Unfortunately for Will, his fast lane lifestyle comes to a screeching halt. Sam isn’t the benevolent person Will believed him to be. To matter things worse, he witnesses a horrifying crime. Suddenly in over his head, Will has but one option – to confront Sam.

“I wanted to write about someone who faces temptation and how far someone’s better instincts can be corrupted – that was the main theme that I was going for,” explained Mitzner, an alumnus of Brandeis University and the University of Virginia Law School. “As I started writing, I put different layers into the story to bring out other aspects. But the initial spark was that idea of what would happen if you were presented with...someone who could make your dreams come true, even if you thought it was less than on the up and up. The original conception in my mind was selling your soul to the devil. I had this idea for a character who wasn’t literally the devil, but someone who was tempting you in that same way.”

He continued: “Will was in my initial conception a generally good person with dreams who thought that hard work and dedication would cause him to succeed, and he then finds out it doesn’t always work that way and he’s on the verge of having all his dreams ended when he meets Sam... (Will’s) actually a good person at heart and wondering if he can succeed if given something of a shortcut. How tempting is that?”

Mitzner spoke about Will’s Michigan roots and why he’s from Cheboygan and not Detroit.

“I have a very good friend from Michigan. I thought Will should be somebody with Midwestern values. I was searching for places on a map that I thought he could be from. Where would he be from? What would his family do? And I settled on Cheboygan. I wanted him to not be from a city, for one thing. My friend had some connection to Cheboygan as well, so that was the other part,” he said.

Mitzner also explained why he made Will a broker and not a lawyer.

“The temptation was easier to illustrate if he was a stockbroker,” he said. “It’s a good question because I did think about him being an attorney at first, but I thought that the problem with being an attorney in the same story would be… you’d almost have to cross lines you knew were being crossed. If you’re an attorney and you’re representing an evil person, there’s nothing inherently problematic about that because that’s part of the job. If you break the rules to represent such a person, then you’re really doing something wrong – and you know that.”

Mitzner continued: “With a stockbroker, I thought it would different because if you’re put in a position where you’re not breaking the rules but you have a sense that (others) may be breaking the rules – and you’re profiting from it – I think it’s easier for people to have that conscious avoidance. ‘Look, I’m doing everything right. I’m executing trade, so I’m doing my job properly; I’m not the one dirtying my hands here and I can’t be responsible for somebody else.’ It’s a little bit cleaner to say you’re compromising ethics without being unethical and that was the distinction I was trying to draw.”

When plotting “Will,” Gwen came into it later. Mitzner created Gwen as a sounding board for Will. 

“I thought about the idea of Gwen having her suspicions but she’s in this new relationship and she doesn’t want to necessarily say to Will, ‘This is just crazy.’ When she does say that to Will and he says, ‘It really isn’t that crazy,’ she’s like ‘okay’ and that emboldens him to go further out on the limb than he otherwise might have. And, of course, ultimately, she plays a role in the final workings of the plot,” said Mitzner.

When conceiving his books, one of the challenges Mitzner must face is determining how many courtroom scenes there will be.

“I knew this would not have a big courtroom scene in the third act,” he said. “There is some courtroom drama, which is one of the reasons why I’m glad how the Gwen storyline progressed... But I knew the ultimate resolution wasn’t going to be a jury verdict. That’s a big departure for me.”

Of all the characters in “Will,” Mitzner had the most fun writing Sam.

“I relied on a lot of different people I know in real life for their general sense of swagger I thought Sam carried himself with. He’s a guy who’s very accustomed to the finer things in life and very self-assured. It was fun to write about a person who always gets the best table in the restaurant and doesn’t need a reservation and has the finest clothing his tailor will make into a suit for him overnight. That always gives you a hint that there’s a certain whiff of criminality to him, just in showing up without a reservation at a restaurant when it’s full and getting a table sometimes suggests criminality. How do you do that? Why are people so beholden to you?” he explained.

Next up for Mitzner is the legal thriller called “The Best Friend,” which debuts April 14, 2020. Clint Broden, the renowned defense attorney who debuted in “Dead Certain,” takes center stage as the novel occurs in the 1980s, the early 21st century, and the present. Broden’s daughter Ella, the protagonist in “Dead Certain” and “Never Goodbye,” also appears.

“I’m very, very excited about it,” said Mitzner. “It follows Clint Broden through three critical periods in his life. You get to see the shaping of him as a young lawyer to becoming the dean of the New York criminal bar that he already is in the other books.”


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