A Novel Idea (or Two)

Anthony Perez, author of Second Wind, finds his second wind

Published in 2017 Northern California Super Lawyers — August 2017

Write what you know.

That’s what literary experts tell newbies. Sometimes it works out. John Grisham hasn’t done badly parlaying his legal expertise into best-sellers. Same for other lawyers-turned-writers, including Steve Martini (whose alter ego, Paul Madriani, brings murderers to justice), Scott Turow, Lisa Scottoline, David Baldacci, and Erle Stanley Gardner of Perry Mason fame.

But Sacramento employment and labor attorney Anthony Perez approached writing his first novel the same way he steered his career—by making his own path.

Second Wind, published in 2006, tells the story of a group of men who handle their mid-life crises by chasing a dream of competing in the Olympics in rowing. Central characters include a doctor, a real estate tycoon, a pub owner and a former Olympian. 

Yeah, no lawyers. “What I was looking for at the time was a way to escape,” Perez explains. Writing a novel about friends training for the U.S. rowing team at the 1990 Barcelona games fit the bill.

In his career, he bypassed the usual first step for young lawyers by starting a solo practice shortly after passing the Bar.

Like the hero of many a good novel, Perez has a tendency to take on David-and-Goliath causes—wage-and-hour class actions, sexual harassment, and discrimination involving race, gender, age and disability. Representing whistleblowers, he says, “makes me feel like I’m living in a thriller novel.”

In his first year of practice, he sued a U.S. Air Force medical center over denied medical care for a woman who was once an officer, then left the military but was still a dependent through her husband.

“I had to sell my car to pay for my experts,” he says. The case settled, with a lump sum and annuity for life for his client.

Perhaps his biggest effort was representing state workers who sued the California State Board of Equalization, claiming the 24-story building in downtown Sacramento was a health hazard. More than 2,200 people worked in the building, which was plagued by mold, pipes that burst, windows that fell out of their frames—endangering people passing on the sidewalk—and a heating system so out of whack the employees had to wear coats at their desks.

A lawsuit alleging toxic mold was filed in 2007. After extensive litigation, the state settled confidentially with 31 claimants. Perez’s team designated the leftover $37,784 to go to Sacramento’s CASA, which works with kids in the foster system. There are about 10 remaining cases, which Perez plans to try next year.

In addition to being a lawyer and writer, Perez has played the role of single dad to three daughters. One is now an attorney in Sacramento, one is a software executive in Atlanta, and the youngest is a premed student at the University of Washington.

Perez believes he’s more of a lawyer than a writer.

“It’s a real challenge,” he says of writing. “I have a lot of respect for Baldacci and other prolific guys who turn out all those books.” 

That said, Perez is already at work on a second novel, and this time, the topic is closer to home. It’s a legal/political thriller about a federal attorney whose client discloses confidential information and is later killed. The attorney pursues the disclosures all the way to the White House. 

“None of the characters are anybody I know,” he says. He hopes to publish by the end of next year. 

Either way, it won’t usurp his day job. “I still honestly love practicing law,” he says. “I still look forward to Mondays.” 

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