"Graham had been a poor child, following his father from the boatyards in Biloxi and Greenville to the lake boats on Erie. Always the new boy at school, always the stranger. He had a half-buried grudge against the rich."
Will Graham worked in the homicide division of the New Orleans police department, a post he left to attend graduate school in forensics at George Washington University. Following that started to work in the FBI crime laboratory and served as a "special investigator".
He wrote the standard monograph on determining time of death by insect activity.
"Graham has never been an FBI agent. Veteran observers attribute this to the Bureau's strict screening procedures, designed to detect instability."
Six years ago Graham shot and killed Garrett Jacob Hobbs, the "Minnesota Shrike," ending Hobbs's eight-month reign of terror in Minneapolis (this is based on statements in the novel that Hobbs was shot in 1975, and assuming the novel is set in 1981). Graham was admitted to the psychiatric wing of Bethesda Naval Hospital soon after suffering from depression. "Graham was withdrawn and refused to eat or speak during the first weeks of his stay."
Following this Graham was assigned teaching duties, but returned to field duties and three years ago he began to investigate a series of killings that would lead him to his first encounter with Dr. Hannibal Lecter. The sixth murder victim in a series of serial killings had scars from when he was bow hunting and stuck an arrow through his own leg five years previously. Dr. Lecter was on duty in the emergency room and treated him, Will interviewed Dr. Lecter, now practicing psychiatry, and observed some medical text books from the Middle Ages on Dr. Lecter's bookshelves. Will realised that the position and wounds of the sixth victim were a close match to an illustration which commonly appears in European surgical texts in the Middle Ages (The Wound Man) and deduced that Dr. Lecter was the killer. Lecter stabbed him with a linoleum knife, but Will defended himself and managed to apprehend Lecter.
Following his recovery from the stabbing Will resigned from the FBI and found a job as a diesel mechanic in the boatyard at Marathon in the Florida Keys He slept in a trailer at the boatyard for about a year, then he met Molly Foster and moved into her house on Sugarloaf Key.
"Jack Crawford heard the rhythm and syntax of his own speech in Graham's voice. He had heard Graham do that before, with other people. Often in intense conversation Graham took on the other person's speech patterns. At first, Crawford had thought he was doing it deliberately, that it was a gimmick to get the back-and-forth rhythm going. Later Crawford realized that Graham did it involuntarily, that sometimes he tried to stop and couldn't."
"Graham had a lot of trouble with taste. Often his thoughts were not tasty. There were no effective partitions in his mind. What he saw and learned touched everything else he knew. Some of the combinations were hard to live with. But he could not anticipate them, could not block and repress. His learned values of decency and propriety tagged along, shocked at his associations, appalled at his dreams; sorry that in the bone arena of his skull there were no forts for what he loved. His associations came at the speed of light. His value judgments were at the pace of a responsive reading. They could never keep up and direct his thinking. He viewed his own mentality as grotesque but useful, like a chair made of antlers. There was nothing he could do about it."
“What he has in addition is pure empathy and projection,” Dr. Bloom said. “He can assume your point of view, or mine – and maybe some other points of view that scare and sicken him. It’s an uncomfortable gift, Jack. Perception’s a tool that’s pointed on both ends.”
"HANNIBAL" (Four years before)
In Season one of "Hannibal" Will Graham is still recovering from the depression he suffered after the shooting of Garrett Jacob Hobbs two years previously, and he's teaching at Quantico, when he is approached by special agent Jack Crawford, of the behavioural science unit, about doing some field work.