A 'Devil Wears Prada' Take on the Wall Street Boy's Club
Like many people working on Wall Street, Erin Duffy was laid off during the recession.
"I guess I saw it coming," Duffy says of her August 2008 pink slip from Merrill Lynch, "in that they were obviously firing lots of people, so no one had any job security at that point."
But there was an unexpected upside to the layoff: Unemployment gave Duffy time to write a novel. She churned out 700 pages in eight months. "It was like really cheap therapy," she says. "I did it to keep myself sane."
Her years working in the boys' club of Wall Street (she was in fixed-income sales) left Duffy plenty of fodder to fill those pages. "I had all this material -- these people-wouldn't-believe-this-if-I-told-them stories. Like the time I saw a guy eat the entire contents of a vending machine, on a bet. For several thousand dollars. Which he won."
Duffy kept writing and revising the novel even after finding another bond-sales job, this time with Bank of Nova Scotia. The result is Bond Girl, a fun and seemingly highly autobiographical recounting of one young woman's adventures in love and bond sales on Wall Street.
'I work in a giant adult sandbox from hell'
Duffy says her job was like "working in a fishbowl with 700 men." But, having been raised with three brothers, she was comfortable with being one of the very few women in her department.
"The camaraderie is amazing ... but there's not a lot of coddling," says Duffy, who graduated with a degree in English from Georgetown University in 2000. On the job, Duffy witnessed her share of shenanigans. The vending machine episode seems like child's play compared to other workplace incidents.
She recalls one coworker who was punished for a mistake by being made to go to the Bronx to purchase -- out-of-pocket -- a $1,000 50-pound cheese wheel. ("He deserved it," she says.) Then there was the time when someone in the office said he was hung over and wanted a cheesesteak. This led to the order to send an intern to drive round-trip before lunch to Philadelphia to get cheesesteaks for the office.
"I used to tell myself, 'I work in a giant adult sandbox from hell.'"
Just before her book was published, Duffy climbed out of the Wall Street sandbox: Jan. 19 was her last day selling T-bills before leaving the bond desk to become a full-time writer. Bond Girl, which came out on Jan. 24, is now selling briskly.
From trading desk to writing desk
"It's The Devil Wears Prada on Wall Street," writes one Amazon.com reviewer. "Bond Girl," according to Entertainment Weekly, "is a sparkling debut, smart and snappy but never weighed down by financial terminology."
"So, uh, now I'm a full-time writer," Duffy says, interrupting herself to exclaim: "Oh my gosh. That sounds so weird."