Monday, April 2, 2012

A Tribute to Harvey Honsinger by Jessica Ferguson

January 14, 1934 - March 29, 2012.  

Our friend and BWG member Harvey Honsinger lived an interesting life. He directed live TV for 22 years, ran the lives of a criminal caseload as well as a probation and parole district covering three parishes. That included 3,000 convicted felons, a work-release center with an average 100 inmates, and an office of 50 persons, some of whom drove a fleet of over 20 state cars, all of which were Harvey’s responsibility.

 Harvey had a wealth of experience at his fingertips--many books and stories still to write.

For the longest time, Harvey and I weren't friends, just acquaintances that stared at each other curiously across the tables at the BWG meetings. I was in awe of him, his knowledge and the fact that he had so many completed books that he wasn't mailing out for publication. It was only when I became president of BWG and asked him for input that we began talking with each other, emailing now and then. I wanted to know why he wasn't striving for publication when he had all those completed books and short stories, and I made it my own personal goal to encourage him.

When I became president, our relationship changed. I depended on Harvey for feedback and he was quick to give it. Blunt and to the point. I learned that no one loved BWG more than Harvey did. But when I asked him to hold an office with our group, to get involved in a leadership position, his response brought tears to my eyes. He wrote:

“I love the associations and relationships I have with the members of our group, I enjoy the conferences, both local and the ones some of us attend elsewhere, but at 75 years of age, I have decided to decline your invitation, in spite of the honor of trust and respect you have shown me. Please have the kindness to accept my refusal without any degree of rancor. You have no idea how difficult it was for me to give you the kindest "no" in my heart. HH”

As some of you know, I became Harvey’s agent. I believed in his work, but in my mind, I was practicing on him, trying to learn ‘the business’ of representing authors; he knew that and gleefully handed over six novels to me. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know what I was doing. What mattered was that I was trying on his behalf, and he gave me his ultimate respect. He wrote:

“The Man From Salt Hill is the one I really would like to see in print. However, I'll take what I can get. Once again, I thank you more than I can express for your help, and appreciate your confidence in doing business with me on just a "handshake" basis. It means a lot to me. It was how I was raised. HH”

When the editor from Kensington came to our conference, Harvey and I teamed up to waylay the guy and talk westerns. I sent Harvey this picture and he wrote to me:

“If I ever show up at something important in a white shirt again, send me home to change.

 We thought our plan worked when editor Gary Goldstein requested the complete manuscript. We both walked on air for awhile, but months passed and nothing happened. I suggested Harvey consider POD/epublishing; he was agreeable. You don't know how much I regret that I didn't suggest it years earlier so he could have had more joy in seeing his books in print.

When I think of Harvey, I remember the conversations and emails we shared. The encouragement and respect he gave me. I remember his friendship. When I think of Harvey Honsinger, I can’t help but think of some of the heroes of yesterday, because in my mind, that’s how I see Harvey. A real hero-type, one of the greats. He was a big guy with easy laughter and lots of stories, sage advice and wisdom. He was a big guy in a thousand wonderful ways.

Fire Hair by Harvey Honsinger: When Rebecca's mother dies in 1870 rural Tennessee, the 18 year old red-headed free spirit finds herself with no land, little money, no husband, and no prospects. In answer to an advertisement for a “mail order” bride, she sets out for the frontier--Verde Valley, Arizona. Traveling west with a cavalry wagon train, Rebecca encounters Indian raids, fends off dishonorable advances, makes unexpected friends, and begins to learn to survive in a new, harsher environment. When she arrives in Arizona, her adventures intensify, as she strives to make a life in the wilderness and comes face to face with her new husband's deadly secret.

Fire Hair is an exciting, heart-felt, and realistic human adventure set in the vastness of the American West. Life-long Western scholar Harvey Honsinger captures the details of daily life in the 1870's: what people ate and wore and used and shot, as well as how they talked and what they felt. He brings to life the men and women of that age: the brave and the cowardly, the honorable and the dishonorable, the good and the evil. With enough horse-sweat and gunsmoke to satisfy readers of traditional Westerns, Fire Hair also has the authenticity of a well-researched historical novel, and the grandeur of an epic.


  1. What a fitting tribute, Ms. Jess. Mr. Harvey will be so missed. I'll always treasure his smile. I still remember being surprised at his knowledge of John Donne when I recited my poems from Poetry Out Loud at a meeting.

    He was, as one of my favorite books says, "Such a person." I wish I had known him better.


  2. Great tribute, Jess. Harvey would've loved it.

  3. Nice remembrance, Jessica.

  4. Glad you put the tribute to Mr. Hunsinger on this site because I was out of town and didn't see the newspaper about his death. He had a welcoming smile which he shared with everyone and as a new member this practice made me feel at home from the start. I will miss seeing him.

  5. Thanks so much for writing this, Jess. No one could have said it all better. Harvey truly was an amazing man. I, too, was in awe of his knowledge and his story-telling ability. And his sincere kindness. He befriended me from the first day we met.

  6. I never got to know Harvey that well, but based on what people have said about him, he was pure gold. May God Bless you, Harvey. RIP

  7. Thanks everyone. I know there will definitely be a big hole in BWG and your critique group.

    And I miss ya'll. The Oklahoma sky sure looks different. :(

  8. Ya done good, gal. What a lovely tribute. Another precious person gone from us. Gone but never forgotten.

  9. I open this up and read it every six months or so as I process my own grief at his passing. He worked so long and so hard to get published, and it almost breaks my heart that--so shortly after he passed--I picked up my own pen as a novelist, found success in self-publication, and then was contacted by a publisher interested in publishing my whole series of novels. I would have loved to have cracked a champagne bottle with him when my first book came out. I would have loved it even more if he had found the kind of success I am now enjoying. Right now, I'm toying with finding a way to merge one of his projects with my own writing so that we can publish together as co-authors even though he is gone. He loved your group so much--it was such a huge part of his life. He communicated so much of what he learned there to me over the years and I think some of it shows up in my own novels. Thank you for this tribute. When he passed, he left a big space to fill.