Novel Written by Former Legislator Has Some Faint Echoes in the Hernandez Case

Friday, June 28, 2013

Everyone I saw this week was trying to get their arms around the idea that a New England Patriots star, a young receiver abruptly dropped from the team, could possibly be a multiple murderer.
The Aaron Hernandez story is the kind that stops you cold and runs off with your imagination. Even if you sincerely pause to think about the victims, you can’t resist talking about it. 
“Can you believe it?  I can’t believe it.”
I wish I bumped into Tim O’Leary, a former state representative, this week.  Based on a crime novel he wrote, O’Leary can definitely believe it, I’d say.
O’Leary’s book, “The Day Job,” published by Troy Book Makers (New York) in 2010, is entirely fictional.  It concerns the aptly named Tommy Hands, a former stand-out receiver for the Clemson Tigers.  Hands is drafted high up by the Patriots and goes on to star for New England over five seasons.  When he retires from the game, he settles in Massachusetts and remains in the public eye by capitalizing on his athletic fame, good looks, charisma and charm.  Eventually, he runs for governor and wins.
Beneath the attractive exterior, Hands is a dark, twisted, repulsive excuse for a human being.  Before the college all-star game in Hawaii, he murders a transsexual prostitute in a rage; next day, he plays the best game of his life.  His girlfriend tells him afterwards, “The people around me said they’ve never seen anyone play better.  You were amazing.  If I didn’t know better I’d think you scored some drugs.”
Murder becomes a performance-enhancing routine for Hands when he’s on the road with the Patriots.  Saturday nights he trolls skid row alleyways, deserted parks, and red light districts for random victims, men and women smaller and weaker than he is.  He pounces on them from behind and kills with his signature move, a single knife thrust to the heart.  Sunday afternoons, Hands is a demon on the field, making nearly impossible catches and game-saving runs.
As “The Day Job” begins, Hands is gearing up for re-election as governor.  The other main character in the book, Connor McNeill, is hired by an operative for the governor’s opponent, Moses Brady, to dig up some dirt on Hands.  McNeill turns to a bookie named Freddy for help in his opposition research.  This initiative spooks Hands and causes him to murder again and again in the hope of avoiding exposure.
A serial killer as governor? 
Yes, it’s not the most plausible premise.  But O’Leary, who writes by night and works by day as Deputy Director of the Beacon Hill-based Massachusetts Association for Mental Health, largely pulls it off.  He’s a witty, polished writer who makes it easy for a reader to suspend disbelief and stay with the story to its suspenseful, convincing end.  O’Leary writes some great lines, for example:
“Politics is one of the two professions where inexperience is considered a plus.  Prostitution is the other.”
“You know, campaigns would be more fun if we didn’t have to deal with candidates.”
“Professional football is the perfect betting game.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say gamblers invented it.”
“Doyle’s is a neighborhood bar that existed before neighborhoods became fashionable.”
“I think the human psyche is such that fear only consumes us for limited periods of time.  Eventually, something has to take its place.  That night, for Freddy and me, the something was a case of Budweiser.”
It’s doubtful a serial killer could ever become governor of Massachusetts, or even Florida.  But, by reminding us that it’s stupid to think a good athlete (or a good anything) must be a good human being, “The Day Job” is an excursion worth taking.
When considering a person blessed with rare athletic skill, wonderment and envy are natural reactions, and invariable corruptors of judgment.
NOTE: Tim O’Leary’s “The Day Job” is available at for as little as $14.


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