Pick Up at Union Station by Gary Reilly

Pick Up at Union Station (Running Meter Press, 274 pp., $16.95, paper) is the seventh book in The Asphalt Warrior Series. Murph, the Denver cabdriver featured in the first six books of this unique and totally fun series by Gary Reilly, is back.

It’s a Seattle sort of a night in Denver.  “It was April, and it was raining buckets.” After Murph says that, he then discourses on clichés as is his inclination, having spent seven years on the G. I. Bill earning a degree in English.

Murph has a party to pick up at Union Station, as the title warns. The party’s name is Zelner, and so it begins. What ensues is another Madcap Murph book, in which our hero gets involved with the problems of one of his fares. The problem Zelner has is death, which happens in the back seat of Murph’s cab.

The novel is filled with Murph’s usual ruminations about the nature of existence. “When you drive a taxi for a living,” he says, “you rarely get the opportunity to feel ecstatic.”

Very soon the reader is given the first clue that Murph is an Army veteran: “I’ve often wondered whether ‘Army joke’ is an oxymoron, but let’s move on.”

Murph’s creator, Gary Reilly, was an Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War. The next Gary Reilly book will be out later this year or early next year. It’s called The Detachment and ninety-five per cent of it takes place in Vietnam. It’s written in the voice of an MP Private named Palmer.

You could say that Gary Reilly is doing his best work—now that he’s been dead a few years. All of his novels have been published posthumously. By the way, Reilly was an MP in Vietnam.

I kept track of the references to Army service in Pick Up at Union Station. There are more than two dozen, and they tend to be funny as is most of the book. The threat in the book is a serious one—foreign spies attempting to destroy America. But Murph’s muddling and meddling with American heroes who work to defeat dangerous foreigners provides humor. Spoiler alert: his meddling does not lead to the downfall of America. That was a relief.

Murph descends into near madness and questions his own sanity late in the book. But without ruining the suspense, I will say that I expect to see Murph back in another Asphalt Warrior book in a year or so. I eagerly await him. He is a survivor and a hero unlike any other in modern fiction.

For more info on the late Gary Reilly, go to theasphaltwarrior.com

—David Willson