Will (presumably William) Graham is the main character in the first of the Hannibal Lecter Novels, Red Dragon. It was he who captured the psychopathic psychiatric doctor. He is mentioned in the later novels, but by then Harris (and Lecter) have become distracted by Clarice Starling, Section Chief Jack Crawford’s latest protégée. I personally found Graham to be a more interesting character than Starling, a match for Lecter, rather than a pupil. Even in the films, (Red Dragon and Manhunter), Graham’s intelligence and empathy comes across as tangible, in the same way Starling’s vulnerability, and self-consciousness do.
Graham’s appearance is given as unremarkable, a medium height man, presumably around five foot eleven, five o’clock shadow, no matter what the time, brown hair, and brown, deep eyes. He rarely smiles, and drinks more than is good for him. He lives on a like in Florida with his wife, Molly and stepchild, Willie. His wife is supportive, but frustrated with Graham’s inability to detach himself from the FBI (he is a former special agent from behavioural sciences). Mollie is hostile towards Graham’s mentor Jack Crawford because she sees him as taking her husband away from her.
According to Harris, Graham met Mollie just after he left the FBI. At that time he was feeling very cut up about shooting a serial killer he had been tracking. This, apparently was due to his ability to assume the killer’s point of view “even though is may scare or sicken him.” It was through Mollie that Graham got his new career in mechanics, or “mending fucking boat motors” as Crawford puts it.
Will Graham is described as hitting middle age, this puts him probably at about thirty five, since his stressful life will likely have caused him to age a little beyond his years. Although not as world-weary as Section Chief Crawford, Will comes across as the sort of man who never sleeps, and thus is always tired. However, I should point out that I read the book after watching Red Dragon, and so this impression may be related to having first seen Edward Norton playing the insomniac narrator in Fight Club. However, I believe it is reasonable to assume this was part of the reason he was cast in the role, and so the statement still stands.
The main reason I prefer Graham to Starling is that he is more Lecter’s equal. Where Lecter reportedly has a highly developed sense of smell, and olfactory memory, Graham’s visual skills and memory are equally developed, as Crawford (or in the film, Lecter) says, he is an eideteker. In some ways this may put him ahead of Lecter, for, as Harris says in Hannibal, the sense of smell is the one most linked to memory in most humans. It could be argued, however, that Lecter is more advanced, since while Graham was born with an astounding visual memory, Lecter has cultivated his sence of smell, and, to a lesser extent, his visual memory, as shown in Hannibal, where Harris takes you on a tour of the cannibal’s Memory Palace.
I feel that Graham is a super-hero to Lecter’s Super-Villian. Although he admits to not being smarter than the doctor, and does seek his help, in the book at least, Graham only visits the Doctor once, and the information garnered does not really amount to much. It was Graham who realised that there might be a print on Mrs Leeds’s eye, and it was Graham who knew to bait the Killer, Dollarhyde with a provocative article in the National Tattler. Harris, however, seems to dislike his character, forever putting problems in front of him.. At one point he nearly loses his wife to his job, and in Silence of the Lambs, he is described as being a “drunk in Florida, with a face that’s hard to look at!”
Unlike Starling, Graham is seriously effected when he shoots someone. This may be to do with his empathy, but it cuts him up. He will never shoot unless he really has to, even taking a fishhook to the face because he was hesitant in shooting the serial killer known as the Tooth Fairy, and in the end it was in fact his wife that shot the killer.
Graham is a strong character whom I would be pleased to see return, possibly returned to the case of Lecter, if that stream has not run dry, or, if it has, maybe on the trail of a new, and even more fascinating character, perhaps even more of an equal to Graham himself.