Asphalt Warrior Series by Gary Reilly

I recommend that you buy the five novels that make up Gary Reilly’s Asphalt Warrior series on Kindle and read them in order of publication. I didn’t do it that way. I first read books three, four and five, which we received from the publisher, Running Meter Press, in paperback. I enjoyed them so much I bought books one and two to read on my Kindle.

Gary Reilly died two years ago of cancer with a large steamer trunk full of unpublished novels. He had only published a short story during his decades of working hard at the craft of writing while working as a Denver cab driver. After his death, Running Meter Press undertook the project of publishing Reilly’s eleven Asphalt Warrior series. Five of the eleven are now available.

Reilly was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and served two years, one of which was in Vietnam as an MP. The Asphalt Warrior series is not set in Vietnam. The five books contain many references to the Army, but no direct Vietnam War references.

Reilly’s Army references focus on his hero, Brendan Murphy, who remained a private for two years due to his inability to follow orders. No surprise there. Murphy also mentions screaming sergeants, mopping floors, and endless KP duties. He is unable to figure out how to operate the machine that peeled potatoes, a shortcoming I share with Murphy and which drove the cooks nuts when I served endless KP duties.

The series title is tongue in cheek. Our hero, called “Murph” by everyone,  is no dystopian, apocalyptic guy. He is a quiet, unassuming Denver cab driver. a self-described nosy parker, driven by his Catholic guilt to get involved in the problems of his fares. He lives a solitary life cooking burgers for his meals and watching endless reruns of Gilligan’s Island, mainly to check out Mary Ann in her short shorts. He reaches his third-floor apartment by the fire escape to avoid getting acquainted with his neighbors.

The late Gary Reilly

The first book, Asphalt Warrior (200 pp., $14.95), is basically an introduction to the world of Murph, and the dry observational humor that propels the books to come.  Just about every page has something worth being amused by. Often there is a laugh-aloud moment. When my wife asked me what I was laughing about, I’d read a sentence to her and she’d just stare at me. That led me to believe that the context is necessary for complete pleasure in the mild adventures that Murph has in Denver and on his occasional field trips elsewhere.

Book two, Ticket to Hollywood (216 pp., $14.95), is just what the title promises. Murph is just as funny in La La Land as he is in Denver—that is, very funny, and his comments about that special American place are always on the mark. Murph goes to Hollywood to retrieve a teen-aged girl who thinks she is going to be a big movie star.

In Book Three, The Heart of Darkness Club (200 pp., $14.95), Murph gets involved in the life of a suicidal homeless man, and the Denver police become convinced that Murph has murdered the guy. As a result, Murph loses the best job in the world, driving a cab in Denver. So he has to find the guy and prove he didn’t kill him.

Book Four, Home for the Holidays (192 pp., $14.95), is my favorite of the five. I read it in the days right before Christmas, and enjoyed Reilly (and Murph’s) take on the pleasures of spending the holiday season with family. I took three pages of notes on the stuff that struck me as funny in this book, but space does not allow me to share them here.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a very funny read about this subject. You can enjoy it without reading the other books and make perfect sense of it.

The fifth book, Doctor Lovebeads 304 pp., $16.95), features Murph trying to rescue a couple of teen-aged girls from a cult they fall in with, mostly due to Murph’s meddling. At least his Catholic guilt leads him to think so.

It is a shame that Gary Reilly died with these fine novels still in his steamer trunk. He would have enjoyed reading all the positive reviews that are sure to come.

I also feel badly that his two Vietnam War novels have not been published, as I suspect they must be as good as these excellent five novels are. I’m guessing they also contain Reilly’s dry, sardonic observations on the nature of modern war.

I hope that Running Meter Press publishes them sometime soon. Meanwhile, I highly recommend these five books. I read them in less than a week, and enjoyed every page. I was sad when I finished, and will eagerly buy the rest of the series as soon as they are released.

The publisher’s website it:

—David Willson