I still have not managed to put my hands on The Asphalt Warrior, the first book in the series, yet, but you can see my review of Ticket to Hollywood, the second book, here. You can also see my book feature on the same book here. Today I'll also be posting a book feature for this book, and a giveaway, so be sure to check those out!
Today I have a guest post written by the folks who have been publishing these excellent books, a sort of retrospective on Gary Reilly, who he was. It's wonderful.
Without further ado...
Who was Gary Reilly?
Gary Reilly was an inspiring mentor, a sharp-eyed editor, a book club pal (in our own little two-member club), a voracious reader, a lover of movies, a devoted fan of stories in any form and a guy who always wanted to know, as much as anything else, how you’re doing.
Gary was the kind of guy who would email you in the middle of the night when a new idea for a scene came to him. That is, a new idea for a scene in one of your stories (not his).
Gary was the kind of guy who would show up for coffee and pull out a well-thumbed draft of your novel and humbly say: “Well, I was looking through your book again and a couple more things occurred to me.” The “again,” in this case, might mean the fifth or sixth run-through.
Gary Reilly was the kind of guy who would show up for coffee with a backpack or briefcase jammed with books he thought you might want to read. Or a novel he had just written. Or an older novel of his he had just re-written. Again.
Gary loved Georges Simenon—and was impressed by Simenon’s productivity.
But Gary also liked Proust and Dickens—and Elmore Leonard and Patricia Highsmith. He’d prowl the used paperback stores along South Broadway in Denver. He liked pulp fiction covers. He got a kick out of the noir titles and (of course) the stories inside.
When I casually mentioned one day that a childhood friend had written his first novel, Gary was the kind of guy who said, “I want to read it.” And of course Gary not only read the book but provided thoughtful, detailed feedback and commentary—for someone he had never met. Because he enjoyed stories.
Gary was the kind of guy who wrote a treatise about novel structure. He was fascinated by the arc of a story and how to build tension into a plot. He called the middle section of novels “the part where everyone is running around and shooting at one another.”
Gary Reilly had a self-starting laugh—a gentle, rolling, dry kind of laugh. His voice would hit a higher pitch and he would smile broadly. He was tall and barrel-chested. When I knew him, late in life, he had white hair. He moved slowly, even before he got sick and started on chemo. He listened carefully. He loved a good iced latte.
He loved being amused. And he enjoyed amusing others. He wrote 11 novels about Brendan Murphy, a.k.a. “Murph,” a Denver cab driver based on the 14 years Gary spent driving a cab.
They are packed with amusing lines and insights about life. In spots, the novels are wickedly funny. Murph is endlessly self-effacing. Here’s one quick line, right after Murph is given a five-dollar tip. “I tried to put the fiver out of my mind as I drove the remainder of my shift, but that was like trying to forget my first kiss. With a girl, I mean, not ‘of death.’”
Gary also wrote another 10 novels in all varieties, including two of the best Vietnam-era novels I’ve ever read.
Gary was the kind of friend who made you believe you could be a writer. He believed, you believed. If you ever had any doubts, Gary boosted your confidence, found a way to shine a light on your strengths. Gary read all the novels I had written, some plucked from dusty bottom drawers, and found passages and parts he liked. He put a spotlight and what worked in such a way that he didn’t need to tell you about the parts that weren’t so strong.
Gary was the kind of friend who didn’t complain when cancer slowed him down even more, when his face changed and his hair went from shaggy white to short and cropped. But the smile was still there.
Before he died, Gary wrote a three-sentence will that gave me and my pal Mike Keefe permission to publish his books. Just “permission.” If we wanted to, we could.
The first book in the Murph series came out in June of 2012—and with “The Heart of Darkness Club,” the first three “Murphs” are out. There are eight more “Murphs” and many more Gary Reilly novels to go.
Murph lives. And so does Gary Reilly—and his never-ending affection for the power of a good story.
I truly believe that with the loss of Gary Reilly, the world lost a brilliant writer. I want to thank his friends for publishing these books, and sharing his brilliance with the world! For the book information, see the separate post, also put up today.