The Boys’ Club by Erica Katz is a compelling legal thriller that, despite its page-turning fun, shines a cautionary light on how sex can be used as power in the world of law. Alex Vogel, an overachiever with a longtime boyfriend sets her goals for success at a big New York City law firm. As a young woman lawyer, she is faced with the gender specific challenges that exist, and soon realizes the importance of her social game amongst men. Running with the big boys, Alex keeps up shot for shot.
“I shoved the feeling that I was somehow betraying my own sex out of my mind. It was all too easily replaced by the sweetness of inclusion.”
With the absence of work life balance, a new love interest that threatens Alex’s relationship, and the drive to succeed in a leadership environment run by the men at the firm, we witness an excess of drug and alcohol use, sexual promiscuity and hidden secrets that fall into the disgraceful category of behavior exposed by the #metoo movement. When Alex learns something dark about the firm, she finally comes to terms with the inequalities amongst the sexes. With everything to lose, will she risk her hard earned success, challenge the complicit culture and speak up? The Boys’ Club is compelling read that hooks you in – I highly recommend this legal thriller!
Author Q & A
Q: The Boys’ Club was a great read, yet, for obvious reasons I found some things disturbing. How much is autobiographical?
A: Thank you! I hope you found much of it disturbing! Almost none of it is autobiographical. I think maybe only the hours Alex works in her first year and the general anxiety she felt entering a firm were very much true to my experience, but not much else.
Q: Why did you choose to use a pseudonym?
A: I think probably the very reason is because of your first question! My life parallels Alex’s in some major ways and I’m aware that the instinct of readers is to look me up and try to figure out who in the book is who in my life, and what in my life is true to the book. But the book is fiction, and doing so would simply detract from the conversation I was attempting to engender when I wrote. Fiction is such a beautiful vehicle, in my opinion, because I think it garners a far more honest conversation than do discussions about real people who we are careful not to offend with our criticisms and judgments. I want people to pick apart the characters and where they went wrong. I don’t want people looking into my own life, worrying if they’re offending me and the people in it.
Also, practically it’s a lot easier to keep my life working in a law firm separate from my work as a writer (for obvious reasons!)
Q: The casual drug use and excessive drinking as a way to release steam after a long day of work became increasingly upsetting and worrisome for me when I thought about how these people have important jobs that impact clients and their wealth etc. Based on your experiences, is this typical behavior for young attorneys in big law firms?
A: Not based on my experience, no. The use of drinking and drugs in the book was a tool for me to show the physical slip into emotional darkness that Alex was going through. She really loses herself in it as well as the world of biglaw. But I’m glad it was upsetting and worrisome. Though, I think you need only open a paper to know that even people with the most important jobs can abuse substances. In fact, I’d argue the more “important” (as you say) jobs are the more high-stress jobs, and stress is directly correlated in almost every study done to substance abuse and depression.
Q: Sexual harassment has been brought to the media spotlight since the #metoo movement began several years ago. In The Boys’ Club, the women didn’t always stand up for themselves or support other women; they played along thinking it would further their careers. Do you think vocal women who choose to stand up for their rights and the rights of all women, are giving up their professional edge?
No, I do not think that—and certainly not post #metoo. But I think women who do the right thing and stand up for themselves immediately (while amazing) is a less interesting problem/story to tackle. I was simply writing to a far more nuanced problem of complicit culture. I think we are all better off when women stand up for themselves—the women, the men, the workplace in general. However, I’m firmly aware that there is a cultural issue in many institutions that encourages silence and complicity, and I was writing to precipitate a conversation about how and where we need to combat that issue.
Q: I was shocked when I learned about the client’s behavior towards women behind closed doors. What inspired you to come up with this violent and disturbing character?
A: My imagination is a wild place, for sure! But also, the newspaper provides great fodder for character building, unfortunately.
Q: Many men, from the security guard to the drivers to the powerful lawyers knew women were being wronged but chose not to speak up about it. Many women knew, too. Why was it important for you to represent this code of silence over and over?
A: As a mentioned earlier, it is the entire cultural emphasis on maintaining the status quo in corporate America that hinders change. I think especially in big business, people do not want to risk their big paychecks. And when they do stand up for themselves, there is the very sticky problem that big business has the funds to buy people off (e.g., Carmen). It’s my opinion that in big money corporate America, things are slow to change because we a) need somebody to speak out, and b) need that person to reject a payout, stick around, and change things (e.g., Alex). Again, I feel like the flip side of the story—a corporate culture that encourages open and honest dialogue about equality—is a far less fascinating story to write. And far less realistic to boot.
Q: With less in person meetings and less socializing after work, do you think working from home due to the Coronavirus situation has impacted the gender inequality issues in the big law firms at all?
A: I have a pretty cynical answer to this: For now, things are great. But I have a feeling that when people are back in the office, behavior will swing the other way after what will be a year of pent-up…”energy.” I hope women continue acting from their positions of strength as we’ve seen in the past few years until this reaches equilibrium.
Q: Many authors are also lawyers (John Grisham, Scott Turow, Lisa Scottoline, Ronald Balson, Wendy Walker, Christina Alger, etc.). Do you think the profession provides such great fodder for storytelling or people who love to write often end up becoming lawyers?
A: I think lawyers, by training, are undaunted by stupid amounts of paper and large tasks . So that’s probably the only reason we are brazen enough to try to write novels. But seriously, I think that lawyers are trained to look honestly at a situation from multiple vantage points. And I think that is perhaps the greatest tool in realistic character development.
Q: What are you working on now? Are you writing another book?
A: I just sold my second book, which should be out in early 2022. It’s set in the art world, which is equally high-octane and sexy and even more bizarre than biglaw!
Q: Congratulations to you…The Boys’ Club has already been optioned for Netflix! I am always curious about the author’s vision for the cast. Who would you like to play Alex Vogel? (and her boyfriend, Sam, her friend Carmen, her co-workers Matt, Jordan, Derrick and Peter, and her client Gary… Have thought about the entire cast!)?
A: Thank you! It’s all been so so wild! Every single time I watch anything great, I see the actors in The Boys’ Club. But in the end, I just hope they’re great actors who can give a lot of side-eye and very nuanced performances because my characters are pretty complicated! Nobody is good or bad (for the most part), and I love it that way.
Q: What genres do you enjoy and what books have you read lately that you recommend?
A: I’m a pretty non-discriminating consumer of the written word, but I do love female-focused fiction. And it would take a HUGE recommendation for me to read non-fiction. I just read Luster by Raven Leilani and I cannot recommend it enough.
About the Author
“Erica Katz” is the pseudonym for a graduate of Columbia Law School who began her career at a major Manhattan law firm. A native of New Jersey, she now lives in New York City, where she’s employed at another large law firm.