Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the February edition of Park Cities People.
Harry Hunsicker’s latest book, The Contractors, opens in Dallas and quickly takes readers on a tour of the seamier side of the Texas Hill Country. And while the thriller’s tangle of drug traffickers, police, and government officials certainly required extensive research, there’s one thing Hunsicker wants to make clear:
“I’ve never been into a Korean massage parlor. Please put that down,” Hunsicker quipped.
The same can’t be said for Hunsicker’s newest protagonist, a “disgraced ex-cop” turned contracted DEA Agent named Jon Cantrell — although it should be noted that Cantrell’s appearance at a fictional Dallas brothel is strictly business-related.
“Dallas is so fascinating because there are so many different areas, and it’s incredibly diverse if you really think about it,” said Hunsicker, a fourth-generation Dallasite who lives in Highland Park. “As a commercial real estate appraiser, I’m always driving around to obscure parts of town that most people in North Dallas and the Park Cities don’t get to.”
Those “obscure parts” show up often in The Contractors, like in that aforementioned scene when Cantrell and his sometimes-girlfriend spring a doped-up 14-year-old from a life of prostitution on Harry Hines. But Hunsicker’s day job wasn’t always a source of literary inspiration.
“It was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to be a writer, but things happen at their own pace,” he said.
Twelve years ago, Hunsicker decided to pick up the pace by enrolling in a creative writing course at SMU.
“I thought about writing about a hit man named Tom Landry,” he said of an early story-plotting attempt, “but I figured they’d run me out of town.”
Instead, he based his first book, 2005’s Still River, on a private investigator saddled with the name Lee Henry — no, not Harvey — Oswald. By 2007, two sequels had been published.
Said literary agent David Hale Smith: “There hadn’t been a really well-written commercial P.I. novel set in Dallas in quite a while, so I took notice of [the Lee Henry series] right away.”
Perhaps that’s why, when Smith was tapped to edit Dallas Noir, an anthology released in 2013, “Harry was literally the first or second writer I thought of on my hit list of people I wanted to get.”
It’s no wonder. Since beginning his writing career, Hunsicker’s work has been short-listed for the Shamus and Thriller Awards. The Contractors recently received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. And whether Hunsicker is writing short stories or novels, he’s known for fast-paced storytelling, plenty of action, and highlighting the sights, smells, and sounds of a different side of Texas.
In part, “it’s a ‘write what you know’ thing,” Hunsicker said of his rooted references.
Except for those Korean massage parlors, of course. He doesn’t know anything about those.