Back in the driver’s seat again, the cabbie who made readers laugh out loud in the first six installments of the posthumously published Asphalt Warrior series returns for another ride in Pick Up At Union Station. This time, cab driver Murph picks up a shady character at Union Station on a rainy night in Denver. The passenger’s name is Zelner and he’s worried that the police might be following him. When Murph reaches his passenger’s destination, Zelner is dead. Now it’s not just the police who are interested. Murph, who never wants to get involved int he lives – or deaths – of his fares, is about to be swept up in international intrigue.
Who is Gary Reilly? Tell us a little about him!
Gary Reilly was a writer. Pure and simple, through and through, that’s who he was. He left 25 novels behind when he passed away—11 books in The Asphalt Warrior series and 14 others in a variety of genres from mystery to science fiction. He was a warm-hearted, generous man who loved stories and storytelling like no other person I’ve ever met. He served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam, worked briefly in corporate America, and drove a cab for 14 years. But more than anything, he was a writer. And also a reader. And a big fan of movies, from B-movie sci-fi to anything on late at night. He loved the beat poets and beat writers. He loved classic noir and pulp fiction. He loved thinking about stories.
How did you get involved in publishing his books?
Before Gary passed away, we approached him and urged him to leave permission for his works to be published. By “we” I mean me and my friend Mike Keefe. Mike was the editorial cartoonist for the Denver Post for most of the 20th century and until his recent retirement (having won the Pulitzer Prize before he did). Mike had met Gary back in the 1970’s and they had been longtime friends. Mike and I were cohorts at the Denver Post and Mike knew how much I cared about fiction and writing so he introduced me to Gary in 2004. Gary and I hit it off—in fact, Gary was an enormous help to me in terms of improving my works. And he helped me find a path to publication in 2007. But Gary never found the right agent or publisher and Mike and I both knew we wanted to do something with his works, that we couldn’t let them remain hidden away in some closet or steamer trunk. They deserved readers.
Are you also a writer, or involved in the literary industry somehow?
Yes, I write the Allison Coil Mystery Series—Antler Dust, Buried by the Roan, Trapline and the fourth book comes out in September, 2015. It’s called Lake of Fire. Trapline, by the way, just won the 2015 Colorado Book Award for best mystery. It also was named the winner in the genre fiction category from the Colorado Authors League. The mysteries are set in Western Colorado and focus on a female hunting guide in the Flat Tops Wilderness and the communities around it, both Glenwood Springs and Meeker primarily.
Can you tell us a little bit about Pick Up at Union Station?
First, it’s the seventh book in The Asphalt Warrior series (the series that National Public Radio declared is “huge fun.”) The books all feature Brendan Murphy, a.k.a. Murph, The Asphalt Warrior. Murph has two goals in life. One is to earn as little money as possible—that is, just enough to keep his bohemian life afloat. The second goal is to never get involved in the lives of his passengers. He’s pretty good at the first goal—he has a whole bunch of tricks to ensure he doesn’t earn too much—but he’s fairly lousy at the second goal. In Pick Up at Union Station he picks up a fare at Denver’s train station on a rainy night and gives him a ride to an office building not too far away. By the time Murph arrives at the destination, his passenger is dead and the next thing you know Murph is scooped up until a case of international intrigue.
This is part of a series, yes? Can you tell us a little bit more about Murph and the story around him?
Yes, part of a series. Murph is unforgettable. I’ve never encountered a point of view about the world like Murph’s. Murph thinks through everything he does. He has complicated relationships with just about every human organization he encounters, as well as just about every other human being he encounters. He spends time thinking about his service in the Army, his schooling, the nuns, his family, his upbringing and his lost love, Mary Margaret Flaherty. He loves Gilligan’s Island (especially Mary Ann). And Murph is also an unpublished novelist. He keeps a steamer trunk full of his unpublished works. He keeps a simple life. He eats one burger for dinner. To clean up, he does “the dish.” He once went undercover to a hippie commune in Boulder looking for two girls who went missing after he dropped them off at a concert at Red Rocks (Doctor Lovebeads). He once accidentally gave a ride to a bank robber (Dark Night of the Soul) and he’s been grilled so many times by the police that he’s on familiar terms with many of the investigators.
What inspires you to carry on the legacy of Gary and his books?
Easy—the books are so good! And they are one of a kind. Nothing else like it. Nothing. A one-of-a-kind flair for humor, insight and story.
What’s the most impactful thing you’ve seen come out of sharing Gary’s stories with readers?
Humor, with The Asphalt Warrior series. And recognition for Gary’s talents and dedication. I would say 99 out of 100 people who have read Gary’s work recognize that he was something special and really had a fresh point of view to offer the world. We are also beginning to publish works based on Gary’s experiences in Vietnam. The Enlisted Men’s Club came out in 2014 and we will soon publish The Detachment, which I happen to think will go down as Gary’s masterpiece. These are entirely different books, of course, but you can recognize some of the same issues in terms of “individual versus organization” and “individual against the rules.” The response to The Enlisted Men’s Club is extremely favorable and I’m expecting even more from The Detachment.
Being involved in such an inspirational project, what advice would you offer to other aspiring authors out there in regards to their writing?
Take a lesson from Gary—look within yourself and then write, write, write and write some more. Gary thought about writing and story structure and dialogue and plot because he loved it so much. He really wanted to get good at it—and he did. He never stopped. He could have quit a thousand times but he kept right on writing. I mean, 25 novels! I’ve read them all and the vast majority succeed at a very high level. He wrote because he loved to write. End of story.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Take a peek at The Asphalt Warrior series—you won’t be sorry. And you can follow “Murph” on Facebook and Twitter for daily doses of Murph insights. www.facebook.com/theasphaltwarrior or @Asphalt_Warrior.
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