Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ex-D.A. Type Now Prosecutes Imaginary Criminals

Raffi Yesseyan, a 1991 U.Mass. Boston alumnus, worked as the District Attorney's office of Suffolk County from 1995 to 2006. He consorted with detectives, visited crime scenes and interrogated innumerable Boston miscreants. He used to come home from work every day with vivid stories to tell. One day his wife told him that he should start writing it all down. And his wife wasn't his only inspiration. It appears that the Boston law enforcement community was infused with a particular literary sensibility - "As a young assistant district attorney, I was in court one day talking with another ADA and a Boston cop. The two of them were carrying on about a certain author who they thought was the best 'serial killer' writer. The conversation piqued my curiosity, so I borrowed a book by this author from one of them and read it. As I read the novel I kept telling my wife that I could write a book like this. Being a writer herself, my wife encouraged me to do it."

Raffi has published at least two well-received books - 8 In The Box and 2 In The Hat. (I know, some guys do colors, Erle Gardner in his Perry Mason series did alliterations - "The Case of The Vindictive Violinist" or whatever - but this guy apparently does numbers. Good luck to him when he gets to 13. Nonetheless, if serial killers are his thing, a scorecard fixation on numbers would reflect the mindset of his antagonists and would therefore be quite apt.)

He doesn't believe he'll ever run out of material. His acquaintance with the world of crime is deep and authentic. Moreover, Boston fascinates him. "'It’s hard not to want to make Boston a character,' he says. 'I don’t think you ever run out of things to write about in Boston. There’s just so much to tell about the city.'" We expect that he'll be contributing to Boston crime fiction for a long time to come.

As for the formula he's using, he cites his influences here: "Thomas Harris created the best depiction of a serial killer as well as the psychology of the killer. George V. Higgins influenced me with his ability to create 'real' dialogue. One trick in fiction is that dialogue has to approximate the way we speak. If dialogue were truly real, it would be boring and repetitive. James Patterson provided the structure and the use of third person multiple point of view."

I don't know about you, but it is difficult for me to imagine a synthesis of Thomas Harris and George V. Higgins. I mean, I can't picture Hannibal Lecter trying to stand still while some George V. Higgins character expounds profanely in his face for twenty pages of monologue. There would be Boston-accented body parts on the good doctor's supper plate by the day's end, I'll tell you. But that combination of influences could generate a potent hybrid. I look forward to reading him.

Criminal Minds (Boston Globe)
Mystery Writers of America (Raffi Yasseyan)
Author Interviews (Raffi Yasseyan)
On "2 in the Hat" and Raffi Yessayan... (Jungle Red Writers)

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