Dark Night of the Soul by Gary Reilly


Dark Night of the Soul (Running Meter Press, 226 pp., $14.95, paper) is the sixth book in Gary Reilly’s Asphalt Warrior series. 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.

Gary Reilly died of colon cancer in 2011. I’ll always suspect that Agent Orange is the culprit that did him in.

He left twenty-five unpublished books. The ones I have read, all of the Asphalt Warrior series published so far—along with the first novel in his Vietnam War-related series—support the contention of the Denver Post that Reilly is a master wordsmith. All of Reilly’s books provoke me to laugh out loud—and I am not easily provoked.

The hero of this book (and of all those that preceded it in this series), is Murph, a Denver cab driver who grapples with a world that always challenges him. Very soon in this novel, Murph informs the reader that it has been twenty-five years since he had dashed around in the Army in a panic due to sergeants and bugles.

“My two years in the Army alone would fill the Encyclopedia of Goldbricking,’ Murph confesses. Another of Murph’s pronouncements: “The only benefit to hard work is money.” I won’t argue with the wisdom of that.

He also says: “I was the living embodiment of pure evil.”

That was one of the Murphy’s lines that made me laugh out loud. A little old lady was in the hospital with cardiac arrest accusing Murph of threatening to hit her for trying to pay him with a pan full of pennies. We know he did no such thing, but the police do not.

I am already looking forward to reading Book Seven in this series: Pickup at Union Station. Chapter one of Pickup is included at the end of Dark Night of the Soul. The noire-ish title is supported by this chapter, which provides Murph and us with a European corpse in the backseat of his cab. Murph knows he will be blamed and once again subjected to the scrutiny of the Denver police.

I highly recommend the new Murph book, but I suggest you buy and read all the others first. Is that necessary to enjoy and appreciate this book?  Not at all, but you’ll be a better and a happier person if you do so.

Laughter is rare in this age of Ebola, so take it where you find it.  I wish Reilly were still alive to write about that subject. He’d extract many laughs from it. As his biggest fan, I have no doubt.

The publisher’s website for Reilly’s books is http://theasphaltwarrior.com

—David Willson