By David Millward
A couple of months ago I received one of the many e-mails in my ?inbox? sent by a guy called Mike Keefe asking me do we do book reviews; Mike picked up on taxitalk Magazine on his Twitter feed. After further e-mail correspondence with Mike, a paperback arrived at our office all the way from Denver, Colorado (!!) called the ?The Asphalt Warrior?…. Just a minute I thought I?m not too sure about this one: ?The Asphalt Warrior?? Stories about laying tarmacadam on the highways and byways of the United States of America aren?t really what this magazine is all about!
However, after browsing through the forward, I realised that the book was about a fictional Denverite cabbie called Brendan Murphy Murph and his many exploits as he cruised the streets of Denver….Further to reading the book, which was an intriguing and interesting read (well once you get used to the American grammar and punctuation that is) no matter where one operates in the world as a taxi driver, the job is uncannily similar.
Murph?s pledge was not to get personally involved with the punters that climbed in and out of his cab, but between the Rocky Mountain Cab Co, Gilligan?s island, his Joe?s and twinkies, burgers and manuscripts, Murph got kinda mixed up with the Bombalini family and Gino?s Barbershop.
More than a year after Gary Reilly passed away at the age of 61 following a two-year struggle with colon cancer, the Asphalt Warrior? was published. Gary left a will ? only three lines long ? and 20 unpublished books, his friend Mike Keefe, a retired political cartoonist at The Denver Post and Pulitzer Prize winner, said, In his will, Reilly granted Keefe and another friend, Mark Stevens, the rights to publish his works. They have led the effort to bring Reilly?s books to publication.
?For years, we were trying to get him to be more aggressive about getting his stuff out to publishers and agents,? Keefe said. ?He was always reticent to do that. He was always polishing his work.? Keefe, who met Reilly in 1977 in a University of Colorado at Denver remembers some jobs that Reilly held through the years, such as working a stint as a cab driver and for a short while at ReMax writing an in-house newsletter. He quit working and lived a frugal life with his long-time partner, Sherry Peterson.
?He didn?t fit in the corporate world,? Keefe said. ?He stopped working all together and all he did was writing.? Reilly wrote 11 novels centred on Murph?s ?misadventures and mishaps.? ?The Asphalt Warrior? is the first of that series of books released which actually made Denver?s best seller list rising to number 3 in June! It?s a bittersweet moment for Reilly?s friends and his family.
?One of the most difficult things about losing Gary when he was only 61,? his sister Joanne Krieg said, ?was that each and every one of us believed that some day, he would be published and everyone would know what a talented writer he was. But he died without achieving what we had all hoped for. It?s nothing short of a miracle that his friends, Mike Keefe and Mark Stevens, loved him and valued his work enough that they fulfilled the promise they made at his funeral ? that they were determined to get him published. They did, and we are so grateful to them and so proud of Gary.?
Reilly generously helped other writers during his lifetime, including his friend Mark Stevens. Keefe said Reilly helped Stevens re-shape his first novel, reading the book at least 12 times and spending hundreds of hours in a coffee shop, talking to him about the book. He also helped Stevens with a second book that has been published and provided insights into a third that is under way. ?He was always interested in helping other people,? he said. ?He was continually working on his own stuff, but he always made time for other writers. He was really encouraging.?
Children loved Reilly, including Keefe?s own children, and the neighbour children that he watched ?SpongeBob SquarePants? on a regular basis. Though bringing Reilly?s book to publication ?has been a lot more work than I thought it would be,? Keefe said he believes that Reilly would be proud of the book. Stevens and Keefe?s own company, Running Meter Press, in partnership with Big Earth Publishing in Boulder, printed the book.
The book is available via The Tattered Cover?s website and the Amazon website.
More information about Reilly?s and his book are also available at http://theasphaltwarrior.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/theasphaltwarrior?and on Twitter, @Asphalt_Warrior.
Mike Keefe would love to gain more than a few readers in England! ?Meanwhile, the second Murph novel in the series, ?Ticket to Hollywood?, launches on December 3rd and the third in the series, ?The Heart of Darkness Club?, will debut in March, 2013.