Dead Animals by C.S. DeWildt

Hear them shriek.
See them live.
Watch them love / die.

Pay your
Come one / come all.
They’re on parade today.

I might’ve been crying wolf in a few of my other reviews. It’s just that I can’t bring myself to give fewer than five stars in an Amazon review because we self-published or indie authors just try so damn hard. But it might’ve tarnished my credibility. So when a book like Dead Animals comes along, and I start shouting about how freakishly awesome it is, I guess a few people might say “whatever, that’s what you said about that last book which was just okay.” That sucks ass. So if ever you take one of my reviews seriously, please let it be this one: Dead Animals by C.S. DeWildt is the best indie-published collection of noir short-stories ever written.


I bet it’s frustrating to live inside DeWildt’s skull. You see, his writing is perfect, but it’s dark. It’s the antithesis of mainstream because he doesn’t pull punches when he writes. If his thoughts are profane, they go on the paper; if the story is dark, he writes it instead of going a route more readers might follow. His writing is simply honesty in art.

DeWildt has had countless stories published here and there. His novella (which I wrote about here: was a success with the critics. His most recent book, Dead Animals, also seems to be doing well. But he has to know that he could rule it all if he wrote something flowery that’s full of bullshit and artifice. He could go the sparkly vampire route while keeping his prose as is, and then boom: we’d all be lining up to see some watered-down PG-13 version of his writing.

That has to suck. Personally, I’d sell out for about seventeen dollars and a half-ass publicized book signing at The Salvation Army. But then again, maybe DeWildt’s writing would lose whatever it is that makes it so rad if he toned it down. I don’t know. But I do know that he is an instant cult-classic author, and that I’m a die-hard fan.

Lastly, DeWildt asked me to write a short review for the back of Dead Animals and of course I said yes. I just received my signed copy in the mail and it felt incredible to see my name on the back; it’s an honor to be taken that seriously.  I’m in his debt, and I hope you’ll take my advice and buy Dead Animals here:

Dead Animals

The Durango Diner

My daughter will marry any man who brings her bacon. It’s disappointing. I was hoping that she’d require something more, something deeper. Maybe she’d fall for a brilliant romantic or the quintessential baller who’d keep me comfortable in imported cars just to please my daughter. But it didn’t happen that way. And what makes it worse is the fact that my daughter is five, and her fiancé is well into his fifties. But to be fair, I guess I should mention that he didn’t mean to propose; he simply slid a piece of bacon across the counter after he heard my daughter complain about the wait. She took one bite of that cured pork and said “Daddy, is that man married? Because I want to marry him.” His name was Gary, and he owns The Durango Diner.


It was one of those odd weekend mornings where everything slows down and colors change under a lazy sun. The wife and I took our five year old monster out to breakfast. And I call it “breakfast” because that’s what we ate. A punctual man would’ve called it lunch. We parked on Main amongst the motorcycles and tourists and walked into the Durango Diner. It’s one of those no frills places with a few tables in the back and a counter that faces a dully reflective grill. Everything is covered with a deep patina of time and tradition. The people are rooted in reality and the food is simple and cheap; simple and cheap, but ridiculously good. There’s even a white storm trooper helmet hidden amongst the décor, and if you’re a fan of “I spy with my little eye,” it makes the perfect target.


They make a green chili sauce, and I can’t prove it, but I think the main ingredient is heroin. The stuff is addictive, plain and simple, and I buy it by the jar just so I can take it home and slather it on everything like a true junkie. And I mean everything. I once considered freezing it in popsicle molds. Who knows; maybe it’d work as a desert? Whatever. The wife ordered bacon and eggs with hash browns. I had huevos rancheros with an extra-large side of green chili sauce. Our monster wanted bacon covered with bacon and a side of bacon. We sat and waited for our breakfast as the restaurant breathed around us. Flatware and thick white porcelain plates made their noises in the background as the staff bussed here and there. The air smelled like food and steam and humanity.


Our monster became impatient because her bacon didn’t spontaneously generate in front of her as soon as she ordered. She demanded food, with a miniature fist upon the counter, and Gary heard her before we could pacify her with a game of “I-spy.” He took a single strip of bacon, steaming and crispy, from the cooling rack and handed it to her with a smile. Her frown turned upside-down and she gave him one of those little girl smiles that can melt hearts. He smiled back and I knew at that moment that he was a father too; you simply can’t fake a smile like that. My daughter shook his hand and they exchanged pleasantries. He turned back to the grill and that’s when she asked me if he was married. Gary heard her and laughed. He looked over his shoulder, told her he was taken, and that he already had full grown daughters of his own. My monster was genuinely disappointed but it didn’t last; Gary gave her another piece of bacon and distraction took over. His service was quick and the rest of our food came within a few minutes.


We gorged, paid, and left as Gary and his staff sang out a chorus of farewells. We ambled along the streets of Durango slowly as a carbohydrate high dulled our senses. We were stuffed and sweating. That Saturday morning was perfect. The Durango Diner is the type of place that pops the bubble of personal space to which you cling anywhere else. You sit at the counter and laugh with strangers you’d avoid on the sidewalk. Waitresses brush up against you with an “excuse me hun” but you don’t mind because this is where you want to be; comfortable with the rest of your species breaking your fast as the weekend winds down outside. I remember smiling as these thoughts came and went. We got into my truck and headed home.


Durango is an odd little island of culinary awesomeness nestled in the mountains. If you wanted, you could walk across the street from The Durango Diner and pay fifty bucks for oak roasted lamb with a white truffle sauce. There are plenty of restaurants on main that’d hold their own anywhere in New York and they’ve got all the reviews to prove it. And to be honest, when I took the Durango Diner at face value with its simple fare and limited space, I wasn’t quite sure how the place was able to stay afloat given the neighbors’ reputations. But after eating there, after truly experiencing the place and meeting Gary, I know for a fact that it’ll be there forever (or at least I hope it will because I’m not looking forward to the withdrawal symptoms that’re sure to pop up if I’m ever denied their green chili sauce).


The wife and I have vowed to become regulars at The Durango Diner and I can’t strongly enough recommend that you make the trip down to 957 Main Avenue in Durango Colorado to experience the place for yourself.  I’m sure my new son-in-law would appreciate the support.


The Durango Diner


I write and sell books and they never cost more than a dollar. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: