Suspect’s Viewpoint: CS DeWildt

CS (Chris) DeWildt is a crime writer from Arizona and like most crime writers, his sense of humor is a bit off. He’s written four books and one short story collection, all of which are still in print. His recent book, published by Shotgun Honey, is Suburban Dick, an aptly titled book that covers the protagonist and the author.

David: My wife was on vacation with her sister and her sister was talking about “me mes”. It took a while for my wife to understand what her sister was talking about, and my wife said, “Do you mean memes?” You’re a bit prolific reposting memes on your Facebook account as well as the Weird Uncle Pete Facebook page. What is it that attracts you to memes? Do memes have anything to tell us?

Chris: First, thank you so much for having me. And thanks for the book review. But Memes, yeah, I’m pretty prolific but I don’t think that’s anything to be proud of. I’m a shit poster, that’s it. But I do love the little bastards and it’s simply because they make me laugh, especially when people get mad. I used to make a lot of original memes until I was banned from the UUUM (Useless, Unsuccessful, and/or Unpopular Memes) Facebook group. I think my best one received about 5000 likes pretty quickly. Sometimes I’ll see a meme I made still making the rounds on various pages, but I never watermark them or anything so no one will ever know, and that’s fine because memes are for the people! Can they tell us anything? Sure, I think they’re powerful communication tools. They tell you which of your friends are sensitive dumb asses. And in the case of the 4kb of Feces Posting FB page (and about a million similar pages), the memes tell me that younger millennials and whatever generation is following them are fucking insane.

David: What’s Facebook jail like?

Chris: It’s like being grounded and watching out the window while your friends play outside. Mark Zuckerberg is like my dad, which is good because my biological dad died last year and I’m in the market for a new father figure.

David: Gus Harris, the protagonist of Suburban Dick, is a divorced father of two but he’s still heavily involved in his kids’ lives. His two kids aren’t just wallflowers in the book, they’re fleshed out characters, even the youngest who spends most of his time playing video games with headphones on. You “get” kids. Much of this probably has to do with you being a middle-school teacher and a father. It’s easy for older generations to dismiss kids. You could have easily just pushed the kids to the background in Suburban Dick, but you didn’t. Why?

Chris: The kids are an important part of the story, both for the plot and to help develop Gus’s character. His devotion to them is really his saving grace since he makes pretty bad decisions most of the time, I mean the reason he’s estranged from them is bad decisions. But I didn’t want him to come off as a total asshole; I wanted a sympathetic protagonist and his love for his children is the keystone of that sympathy. Sure Gus is funny, he’s fun to laugh at, and he has an interest in justice, but overall he’s not that likable otherwise. He’s a dick! The only way I could tap into any kind of sympathy was by making the whole family as real as I could, the kids included. Fleshing them created that much more tension since we care not only about Gus solving the case, but the kids’ welfare.

David: What are some of the things parents and those that don’t have kids really just do understand about kids today?

Chris: They truly are less innocent than they used to be. Of course there’s always been a cohort of kids who knew more about the world, but in general, what these kids know about the dark side of life amazes me. It’s a consequence of the digital age I think, access to information. But there’s a positive to this too, and that’s the level of acceptance kids today have for people who are different than them. Tolerance seems to be the rule generally speaking, not the exception. Kids truly give me hope for the future.

David: Being a father, husband and a teacher is a lot to do. Throw writing four novels and a collection of short stories on top of that. How do you carve out the time between writing, your job, the school work you do after hours, and being a family man? Along with that, writing novels and short stories are quite different beasts. I would have thought short stories might have fit better in any time you have left to write.

Chris: Discipline is all it is. I haven’t felt very productive lately, but when I’m in the groove with a project I’m up before everyone in the house and that’s my time to write. It’s safe to say that the majority of everything I’ve had published was written between 4 and 6 AM. It’s like anything else, if you really want to do it, you make time. As for novel versus shorts, a daily word count is a daily word count whether it’s a 2000 word chapter or 2000 word short. That said, I am now trying to work on more short fiction. I neglected it once I started finding publishers for the longer stuff, but short stories are my first love.

David: Give me five books or writers to read. Genre doesn’t matter.

Chris: The Mosquito Coast– crazy father sets up dystopian nightmare in Honduras
The Killer Inside Me– crazy cop kills a mess of people because of his “sickness”
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest– pretend crazy liberates the spirits of the mentally ill
Raymond Carver- crazy drunk writing about domesticity and the human condition
Irvine Welsh- crazy Scot writing about drugs and criminals


Suburban Dick by CS DeWildt

Suburban Dick by CS DeWildtThe book opens with private investigator Gus Harris sitting in his car outside of a school looking for a particular kid to be let out. With picture in hand, Harris waits. The kid peaks out of the school gate and runs forcing Harris to make a U-turn amidst the hustle and bustle of school getting out and give chase. And thus begins CS DeWildt’s Suburban Dick.

The use of dick in the title is in reference to Harris job and how he plays with others – or should I say how he doesn’t play well with others. When I say others, I mean everybody. Harris and his daughter, Jessie,  go to a high school disciplinary hearing run by the school’s dean of discipline, Willis, because Jessie, as much as she would deny it, is much like her father.

Willis banged his gavel and called the hearing to order.

“Is that necessary?” Gus asked.

“Excuse me?” Willis said.

“The pageantry? Let’s just talk about my kid. What do you say she did?”

“Formality is nothing to be—.”

“Fuck formality,” Gus said. “I’m missing my stories for this.” Out of the corner of his eye he saw Jessie slink down in the seat.

Jessie might not give her dad a “Best Dad Ever” coffee mug for his birthday, but Harris is a family man, okay, rather an ex-husband with two kids, and maybe not the best dad either, but he’s there or attempts to be. As his ex-wife Lucy tells him, “I know you are. And that’s great I suppose. But you’re always ‘trying’. When’s the last time you ‘did?’”

Harris is hired by a distraught husband and wife to find their high school son, Albie Hughes, who has run away from home. The son was also friends with another high school student and wrestler who killed himself weeks before. As we follow Harris on the trail of finding the missing wrestler, and like all PI books, one mystery leads to another which is wrapped in a third and maybe a fourth. But the mysteries behind Suburban Dick are not too difficult to fess out and that’s okay as real-life mysteries in the suburbs never are. There are some twists and surprises peppered throughout Suburban Dick, but this book is not one to rely on “You’ll never guess the ending.” One of the staples of private investigator novels are the climatic scenes and DeWildt has got this and not in, “Here hold my beer” got this, the end of Suburban Dick is fast paced and flows smoothly.

DeWildt’s book stands on the strength and realness of his characters. These aren’t cardboard cutouts going through private investigator tropes. Harris acts like a total ass to his ex-wife’s boyfriend and though the boyfriend might not like Harris, he doesn’t get all peacocky towards Harris, instead his response is . . . . well . . . mature and reasonable. DeWildt shines in writing great kid characters from Harris’ young son Ernie, a kid soon in need of braces, or his teenage daughter Jessie, whose teenage-hate toward her father fills the pages with eye-rolls and door slams.

CS DeWildt’s Suburban Dick is a damn fine private eye book that embraces American suburbia and doesn’t apologize for doing so. This isn’t a suburban noir – is that even a thing? – and even though there is darkness in places, Suburban Dick is more a look at the engines that propel suburbia: families, mistakes, and always-present need to have a steady paycheck.

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