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Gary Kassay

Retired police detective Gary Kassay poses with his new crime thriller novel "He Who Laughs Last" and his Duke Becker series last week at his home. The local author will sign copies March 19 at the YMCA. 

Elysia Conner, Star-Tribune

Gary Kassay started reading draft chapters of his newest book to his wife as he continued to write it. The contents of the crime novel made her joke that Kassay must be psychotic.

The newly-released novel delves into the life of a serial killer as detective Warren Temple tries to solve the case of “the laughing man” who leaves a recording of laughter at his murder scenes. Temple was considering retiring when he began investigating the killings, the most horrific he’d ever seen, Kassay said. The murderer is trying to please his father, who was a great hunter.

“So he figures if he hunts humans, that would make him a greater hunter,” Kassay said.

Kassay, a retired Casper police detective, draws from his career in law enforcement that’s taken him from being a New York City police officer to a hostage negotiator, polygraphist and investigator specializing in child sexual assault cases. He peppers his books with true stories he’s experienced and heard along the way. The new book is the start of the author’s second series, “The Detective Warren Temple Series.” He’ll sign copies of the first installment from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. on March 19 at the YMCA in Casper.

Kassay’s wife asked where his ideas come from. But he doesn’t know. Often they come to him at night and he jots them down. This is one that might keep the readers up at night.

“A lot of people are going to be sleeping with the lights on,” Kassay said.

Inspiration from experience

Though he writes fiction, Kasay draws from his career to create realistic scenarios in his novels.

He uses real police procedures and often incorporates actual locations and true stories in his novels, which include his first series about an investigator named Duke Becker. He’s incorporated his own stories, like when he heard ricochet sounds as he was turning on lights at an elevated train station ringed by tall, windowed buildings. He realized someone was shooting at him from one of the windows, ducked and called on the radio. The lieutenant told him to turn off the light so the person would stop shooting at him.

“They’re all true. They’ve either happened to me or people I know,” Kassay said. “That’s part of the fun when people ask me: Did that really happen?”

“He Who Laughs Last” features two of Kassay’s former colleagues in the Casper Police Department who asked to be included in the book. The characters aren’t based on their real personalities, but their names and physical descriptions are from life, he said.

Another book he’s working on takes place in a fictional Wyoming town called Eagle, based on Casper.

Kassay started his law enforcement career in New York City, where his experience included foot patrol and the K-9 unit of the New York City Transit Police, he said.

When his wife of 25 years suddenly died of a heart attack, he moved to North Carolina where his daughter lived. He worked there as a lieutenant providing security for the Department of Social Services building and met his second wife, Raella.

Kassay kept writing when he moved to Casper in 2008 for a job with the Casper Police Department. As a detective there, most of the cases he worked on involved sexual assault of children. It was difficult work, he said.

“But when you get to put the guy away, and you get to make the victim feel safe again, it’s all worth it,” he said.

He’s also worked as a hostage negotiator, including during a 2012 standoff when he talked with a suspect holding hostages at a Casper motel. He’s also worked as a polyographer and a DARE teacher for the local department. Before becoming a police officer, his jobs included X-ray technician at the Brooklyn Hospital and baking bagels.

The latest book focuses on the dark side of humanity he’s seen over the course of his career.

“There have been some people I have met in my career that just there’s no other explanation for what they do than they’re just evil people. That’s it, that’s what they are,” he said. “I think it’s a culmination of a lot of different people.”

Becoming an author

Kassay started his first novel, “Murder in Silence,” not long after moving to North Carolina. It’s based on a colleague’s traumatic experience in 1982 that the officer nearly didn’t survive, he said. Kassay always knew it would make a good book.

“So, I thought about it for 22 years, and in 2004 I finally put pen to paper,” he said.

He won’t give away what happened, though, it would spoil it for new readers of Duke Becker series, he said.

Kassay wrote that first book by hand and sent it to his sister who transcribed it. He never planned on publishing it.

“I wrote it because it was in my head,” he said. “I just wanted to put it down.”

His sister told him it was a great book and he should get it published.

“It’s my sister. Sure it’s a great book, you know,” he recalled thinking at the time. Then her friends read it. They too suggested having it published and asked Kassay about a sequel. The book was released about eight years ago, and now the fifth Duke Becker book is slated for release this spring.

Other than scrawling ideas at his bedside or anywhere else they come to him, Kassay doesn’t make outlines for his books. He just sits down and writes one chapter after another, he said. His books tend to feature several separate storylines that tie in at the end.

“I’m not even sure how I do that, because like I said, I don’t make notes or anything like that,” Kassay said. “I just write one chapter after the other, and it just comes together.”

Besides books, Kassay also writes poems for the American Police Bulletin. Three have been published and two more have been chosen for upcoming issues of the national magazine, he said.

Now that he’s retired, he has more time for writing, spending time with grandchildren and working out at the YMCA with his wife, Raella.

Kassay also enjoys their three dachshunds and collecting Batman and John Wayne memorabilia as well as tattoos. His ink so far includes James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, his parents, shields, a John Wayne quote and an image of a police officer and a child – which he used to show to children in assault cases if they were scared.

Kassay reads a variety of books in every genre, and he’s a fan of crime and horror novels. Among his favorite authors are Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Lee Child and Robert Ludlum.

“You can’t be a writer unless you read; there’s no way,” Kassay said. “You have to be able to read a lot of other people to get a feel for writing. Then you have your own style, but you have to get it from somewhere, you can’t just from nowhere.”

Although his writing doesn’t make him money, it’s a craft he enjoys, he said.

“And I think my grandkids and family and stuff, they kind of like it and they’re proud of it or whatever,” he said. “It’s fun to hand them a book that says your name on it.”

Follow reporter Elysia Conner on Twitter @erconner


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