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David Hale Smith Leads Authors into Big D's Underbelly with Dallas Noir

Not since Kristin shot JR have there been such twists and turns like those in the soon-to-be released Dallas Noir -- a crime anthology featuring the fictional escapades of detective Betty, Texas Ranger Jeremiah Spur and more set in Dallas and certain seedy suburbs.

David Hale Smith is a literary agent and editor of Noir. I caught up with him at the Texas Book Festival to find out more about Noir and why he thinks people still buy books.

What inspired you to be a literary agent? I was kid who always had my nose in a book. Always loved reading, always loved writing stories. I was an English major in college and my favorite professor had an agent who he talked about; he called his agent his business partner and his creative partner all rolled into one. I immediately said that's the kind of person I'd like to have in my life as a writer and also sounds like an awesome career.

How has DHS Literary Inc. evolved? From 1994 until 2010, I was on my own. I had a few people working for me over the years, but I grew the company, client list, and in 2010 I just decided I was a little past 40 years old and I'd done really well on my own. But, I just thought do I want to be a sole proprietor and operator for the rest of my career? Or would I like the chance to work with some partners and some colleagues in a bigger shop.

One of my mentors in the business, Michael Carlisle, is one of the three founding members of InkWell Management in New York. Michael and I had a few conversations over the years about getting together in some way and we got serious. It's been a very productive almost three years now because I don't have to worry about all that other stuff of running a business, and can focus on the work and finding clients.

Do you make a concentrated effort to represent Texas authors? I do try to find Texas projects, largely because I live here and I think there's so much great talent and so many great stories coming out of here. In the early days of having my own agency, I did not want to be seen as a regional Texas guy. So I made more of an effort to not be Texas specific. Now that I'm with InkWell, I don't have to worry so much about people perceiving me as a regional specialist.

What makes you specifically champion crime fiction? I represent all kinds of books, but most of my fiction that I represent is crime and thriller and mystery. My dream was to have an agency that represented only books I read for fun. The reason Johnny Temple asked me to edit Dallas Noir is because I've done a lot of work in that arena. I've had 15 or so clients' works that have been nominated for the Edgar Award. I love to work on books that I would read for fun, and reading noir, crime fiction, mystery thrillers, is what I do for fun to relax.

How long has it taken to put Dallas Noir together? It took about a year to collect all the stories. The deadline to turn everything in was spring of this year because you want to have books out early to promote and to put the book sellers on notice. We were really lucky because we had it in time for [Texas Book Festival].

There are dozens of noir anthologies, why Dallas? Dallas is a complex town. It's real shiny and glitzy and there's a lot of money there and there's a lot of stuff of course in the seedy underbelly, and there's stuff that you wouldn't expect to be happening in various suburbs. Noir is a way to explore the city, do it through dark avenues and it becomes a new way to reexamine the city.


Dallas Noir came out today, and David Hale Smith and various contributors will be at Barnes & Noble on West Northwest Highway at 7 p.m. to discuss it.

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Katharine Heim
Contact: Katharine Heim