David West, the creation of novelist Dennis Wise, is a jailed felon serving a double life sentence and tagged an "ongoing public safety threat" by the authorities, who is nevertheless suspected of still wielding tremendous power — and making a lot of money — from his jail cell in one of America's "most dangerous prisons."
Doubt Wise's bona-fides? The character of Cutty on David Simon's HBO show "The Wire" was named for him. Cutty, played by Chad L. Coleman, was a cutthroat soldier in the city drug trade of near mythic standing, who turns his life around after being released from prison and opens a boxing gym to try and help young men resist the lure of the streets.
Cutty's real name on the show? Dennis Wise. Clearly, the real Dennis Wise knows whereof he speaks.
"Most of the stuff in the book is stuff I've seen, experiences," says Wise, 67, living today in Anne Arundel County after being released from prison in July 2017, following a state court ruling that juries may have been instructed unfairly in trials before 1980. Wise had been convicted in the 1979 shooting death of 38-year-old James Reid.
Wise admits aspects of the book, his third but the first since his release from prison, are "autobiographical," but stops short of labeling it any sort of memoir. That, he says, is still in the works, as is a documentary on his life he hopes to have ready later this year.
"The book is fiction," he says. But clearly inspired by reality. "It's pretty much the kind of life I've lived," he says. "People who have been [in prison], guys who have been here, either guards or inmates who have been there, will recognize the stories. So many things happened there for real, you don't have to make anything up."
As for parallels with the fictional Cutty? "The Last Stop," which was published in February, perhaps deepens the character's story, Wise says. After all, "The Wire" dealt largely with what happened to Cutty after he was released from prison. Wise's book talks about David West's experiences inside.
Dennis D. Wise, an alleged hitman and convicted murderer from Baltimore who was shipped to an Arizona prison nearly two decades ago after state officials accused him of running a largescale criminal enterprise out of the former Maryland House of Correction, has been released after striking a deal with prosecutors in his decades-old murder case.