Monday, February 24, 2014

The Landscape in Harry Hunsicker's THE CONTRACTORS

Today's we have a special guest post from Harry Hunsicker, author of the new thriller, THE CONTRACTORS. 

Here's a description of THE CONTRACTORS:

Private military contractors. They’re not just for foreign wars anymore. Jon Cantrell, a disgraced ex-cop, works for one such company. He’s a DEA agent paid on a commission basis, patrolling one of the busiest drug-hubs in the country: Dallas, Texas.  When Cantrell and his partner and sometimes lover confiscate the wrong shipment of drugs, they find themselves in possession of a star witness in an upcoming cartel trial that could destroy the largest criminal organization in the hemisphere.   To turn a profit, all they have to do is safely deliver the witness to the US Attorney on the other side of the state. An easy trip, except the witness doesn’t want to go and a group of competing DEA contractors and a corrupt Dallas police officer want everybody involved dead.  This heart-stopping thriller takes readers deep into a strange underworld where the lines between government officials and mercenaries blur. In this complex network of drug traffickers, cartels, politicians, and police, no one’s hands are clean.

And now Harry Hunsicker will tell us about the landscape featured in his novel. 

The land is desolate yet hauntingly beautiful.  Emptiness is everywhere, the road devoid of traffic, a sky whose vastness defies description, its very scope a cliché.

The earth appears flat but it is not, instead an undulating sheet cut by dry creek beds, dotted with cactus and scrub grass, bracketed in the distance by the low mountains of the Chihuahuan Desert.

You are on Highway 90, an empty stretch of asphalt between Marfa and Alpine in far West Texas, near the Big Bend National Park.

The Marfa Lights Viewing Center is just up ahead, on the south side of the highway.

You are going to see the lights because that’s what you do when you visit this remote region.  You want to see for yourself, to try and understand.  People have been talking about the Marfa Lights for over a hundred years now.  Are they reflected headlights from a non-existent road?  A temperature inversion?  Some weird gas expulsion from the earth?

You’ve had dinner at Reata in Alpine, 20 miles to the east, a steak as thick as a Michner novel, juicy and rare.  Your hotel is in Marfa, the Paisano, where the cast and crew of Giant stayed when they were filming in the area nearly sixty years ago.  (You chose the Rock Hudson Suite because of the rooftop balcony overlooking Main Street.  And it costs less than a broom closet in Manhattan.)

But sleep will come later.  For now, you are going to see the lights.

The viewing center feels like some sort of a practical joke, an elaborate reststop a few miles past the cutoff for the middle of nowhere.  Soft drink machines and travel brochures.  Marble and Mexican tile and wheelchair-accessible bathrooms.  A long stone patio oriented toward the south, where the lights appear.

As dusk deepens into night and the air grows cool, you wait.

Maybe a half hour later, you realize the inky blackness in the distance has changed.

Where there was nothing, a series of dots have appeared.

Three in a row with a fourth atop the one on the left.

To call them lights is not really accurate.  They are more like disturbances in the dark, tiny holes in the night.  You try to guess how far away they are.  A hundred yards or a thousand?  A mile or ten?  Or the other side of the Rio Grande, nearly an hour south by car?  If there was a road.

The lights dance and shimmer, moving like tethered butterflies buffeted by a gentle wind.

You realize they are not the reflections of an errant headlight or a temperature inversion.  They are unexplainable and instead of being frightening, this gives you a sense of peace.  Perhaps a little mystery is good for the soul.
After a few minutes, they go away and you can’t figure out if they disappeared or if your eyes grew tired.  Or if they were ever there at all.

There’s nothing left to do or see, so you head west to Marfa, the night encompassing you like an old friend.

Harry Hunsicker is the former executive vice president of the Mystery Writers of America.  His new thriller, The Contractors, is about two law enforcement contractors who in order to stay alive must transport a witness in a cartel trial to the courthouse in Marfa.  Unfortunately, they didn’t have time to stop and see the Marfa Lights.  Visit Harry at


  1. New subscriber from the book tour. Yeah, West Texas is pretty desolate. Been there. Done that. Glad to be in Kentucky now. My total knowledge of PMC's comes from watching NCIS, but I will try not to let that color my opinion of the characters. :O) TBR'd on GoodReads.

  2. This sounds fbulous! Adding another one to my pile :)