On the eighth floor of the Labor Department's building on 6th Street NW sits a burly, balding, bearded man who has been the spokesman for the government's job training programs for more than 25 years.
When you want some statistics on unemployment insurance or job training, everyone in town knows that the thing to do is to "call Jack."
But what they often don't know is that Jack Hashian is also a novelist: of history, blood and intrigue.
For years the undercover writer of a well-known mystery series, which by contract he is still forbidden to identify, Hashian went public last fall and wrote his first novel under his own name.
The head of public affairs for the Employment and Training Administration was born in Boston, but as a youth he listened to his father's tales of the Turkish violence against Armenians in the early part of the century.
Now he has distilled those stories, backed up by his readings of British Foreign Office reports on Turkey written by historian Arnold J. Toynbee, into a historical novel, "Mamigon."
Opening in an Armenian village in Anatolia in July, 1915, the novel details the struggles and adventures of Mamigon, a giant Armenian warrior who sees 23 members of his family killed in a Turkish raid on his village.
It ends on the streets of Boston, where the hero has settled and pursued his quest for revenge in this country.
"The theme of the book is that hate is a waste of time," said Hashian, referring to recent acts of Armenian counterterrorism that he regards as fruitless. "The terrorists are killing Turks today that are as innocent as the Mamigon's Armenian family was in 1915."
The former Boston newspaperman is the chief press spokesman for a cluster of programs, including the giant unemployment insurance program and the U.S. job service, a network of public employment offices all over the country, as well as the government's job training programs, including the old Comprehensive Employment and Training Act program, the Job Corps and the new Job Training Partnership Act program.
During the days when the public service jobs program was being criticized for alleged mismanagement, Hashian had to take a lot of heat from reporters. But he handles such confrontations with good spirits and gives as well as he gets.
People around his office have known he was a novelist for about 10 years, but they have never revealed the name under which he has written and sold millions of books.
How does someone who is usually in his office by 6 a.m. combine novels with government flackery?
Self-discipline is the answer, he says, learned from William Saroyan, a distant cousin, who told him, "The only way to write, kid, is to sit down and plant your rear on a chair in front of a typewriter and keep working and don't move."
So Hashian goes home each night, eats and watches TV from 6 to 9, then writes until midnight six nights a week. That determination has produced 21 novels, the first 17 of which--about the American Indian wars and the War of 1812-- never were published.
Since then, he's done better. Two mysteries and a manhunt novel sold well and made quite a bit of money for him.
He could retire on his earnings from his books, but he doesn't plan to for a while. He's only 57, and besides, "I need a structured existence," he says, recalling how he worked on two New England papers, one in the morning, the other in the afternoon, simultaneously, as a young man.
But eventually, he says he wants to go to Maine and spend the rest of his life writing more novels. Right now he's writing another thriller under his own name, this one about the Panama Canal. It's due out next spring.