The books about a Denver cabbie, that is. I came home from the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference in September with a copy of The Asphalt Warrior, by the late Gary Reilly. Made the mistake of cracking it open late at night at the end of a grueling day, thinking I’d read a couple of pages before dozing off. Alas—and thankfully—there’s no dozing off when reading Reilly.
Within a day, I’d finished the first in a series of tales about Murph, a cabbie who frequently wonders “Why would anyone want to DO anything?” and “Why would anybody go anywhere?” Reilly’s story is as good as his character’s, albeit considerably more bittersweet.
Reilly (at left), a Denver cab driver, wrote fiction for years, winning a Pushcart Prize in 1979. He moved on to novels, although never saw them published. Upon his death in 2011, his manuscripts went to close friends Mark Stevens, a novelist, and Mike Keefe, who formerly worked together at the Denver Post. The two took it upon themselves, successfully, to see the 11 Murph novels published. Running Meter Press, an imprint of Big Earth Publishing, has published three so far – The Asphalt Warrior, Ticket to Hollywood, and Heart of Darkness Club. Two more – Home for the Holidays, and Doctor Lovebeads – are to be released Nov. 21. Seeing the novels published is a labor of love for Keefe and Stevens.
Keefe, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his editorial cartoons, is retired. But Stevens has a day job, in addition to writing his mystery novels featuring western Colorado hunting guide Allison Coil. (Antler Dust was released in 2007 and Buried by the Roan in 2011. Midnight Ink will publish Trapline next fall, and also the fourth novel in the Allison Coil series.)
I posed the obvious question to Stevens: Why take on such a time-consuming project?
His answer: Here’s the deal on Gary: he was a) a writing machine and b) incredibly generous of his time to me. He edited and re-edited and thought and re-thought Antler Dust many, many times. He would “live” with my novels for months and months and help me shape them. He’d send me emails late at night; he would call me. No writing pal was more generous or giving. He did the same for three other books that are still on my shelf – so much better for the role he played. He planted the seed for the idea for Trapline, too, by the way. I wish to hell he was here to help me with it now. I posted some sample emails here to give people a flavor.
That;s class. And friendship. All writers should be so lucky.