Editor’s note: Telluride Inside… and Out’s monthly column, Tall Tales, is so named because contributor Mark Stevens is one long drink of water. He is also long on talent. Mark is the author of “Antler Dust” and “Buried by the Roan,” both on the shelves of Telluride’s own Between the Covers Bookstore, 224 West Colorado Ave, Box 2129. He is also a former reporter (Denver Post, Christian Science Monitor, Rocky Mountain News) and television producer (MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour) now working in public relations – and occasionally publishing books. See below and if you are in Denver, be at the Tattered Covered, Monday, December 3 for the reading….

A week after it was released six months ago, Gary Reilly’s “The Asphalt Warrior” landed on The Denver Post best-seller list.

Murph, the cab-driving narrator of  “The Asphalt Warrior” and nine more comic novels to come, has drawn a wide following, including a blogging London cab driver and a writer with Taxi Talk Magazine, based in the Australian city of Victoria. Murph has over 1100 followers on Twitter and a stack of glowing reviews.

Wrote Milwaukee’s Barry Wightman, author of the forthcoming novel “Pepperland”:

“What if the gloomy 19th century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer drove a cab in Denver? What if Schopenhauer, crossed with Maynard G Krebbs (You do know who that is, don’t you?) by way of comedian Steven Wright, chased fares in the Mile High City? You’d have this book. And you need to read it.

Said The Denver Post:

“Reilly is a master wordsmith.”

Even in late November, “The Asphalt Warrior” remains on the “Recommended Reads” shelf at The Tattered Cover.

The reaction, to put it simply, has been terrific.

Gary Reilly

Gary Reilly

I helped start Running Meter Press, the company publishing Reilly’s works. Gary, a good friend, passed away in March of 2011. In addition to the 20 novels he left behind— including the 10 about Murph — he also left a three-sentence will giving me and my pal Mike Keefe, the longtime and Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist with The Denver Post, permission to publish his books. Proceeds are going to Gary’s longtime companion, Sherry Peterson. (Read the earlier Telluride Inside…And Out column here.)

And now the second book is ready to launch.

“Ticket to Hollywood” is scheduled to be released Monday, December 3, 7:30 p.m., at Tattered Cover in Lower Downtown Denver (1628 16th St.). Denver City Auditor Dennis Gallagher, whose brother Tim was a good friend of Reilly’s, will read from the new novel.

Said Gallagher:

“Murph is such a likable and interesting character—a cab driver you’ll never forget—and it’s clear that Gary Reilly was a master storyteller with a witty, charming touch.”

The quality the prose, without question, is high. Running Meter Press was immediately picked up as an imprint of Boulder’s Big Earth Publishing — and thereby afforded national distribution — and a major book publicity firm based in Chicago, JKS Communications, donated a national publicity campaign.

In “Ticket to Hollywood,” a young woman on the way to a showing of “The Great Gatsby” leaves her purse behind in Murph’s Rocky Mountain Taxi Cab #127 — and then goes missing. Murph finds himself confronted by police and loses his job. He becomes entangled with filmmakers and makes his way to Los Angeles in search of the lost woman and in desperate need to restore his reputation and regain normalcy, which in Murph’s case means doing as little as possible.

Along the way, Murph faces his biggest demon — his steamer trunk full of unpublished novels. Murph is a frustrated writer and, in many ways, Reilly’s alter ego. His entanglement with the Denver filmmakers gives him ample opportunity to express his feelings about novelists, screenwriters, books and movies. Murph’s lack of success is a source of frustration and amusement — but mostly amusement.

Here, Murph provides an overview of how he keeps past works organized:

“I keep my unsold screenplays on the right side of the trunk, and my unfinished novels on the left side. Then there’s my unpublishable novels which act as ballast at the bottom. I never look at the unpublishable novels anymore. Some of them are both uncompleted as well as unpublishable, which is like the red-hot core of magma at the center of the earth. I never descend to that level anymore — I almost died of asphyxiation one night reading a bottom manuscript that I had written in college. It was during my John Barth period.”

Throughout “Ticket to Hollywood,” Murph name-checks an eclectic mix of actors, movies, books and authors. They are all a relative source of anguish and consternation about his writing career — or lack thereof.

“… I majored in English and subsequently got sidetracked into trying to become a novelist because my Maw once told me that novelists got paid to do what most people learned to do in grade school, which was to write sentences. I have since read a lot of how-to books trying to find out what the ‘trick’ to writing novels is. It took me ten years to learn that the trick is getting paid.”

Unfortunately, Gary Reilly never got paid. But he left a legacy— pure art, in my humble opinion. And readers of Murph are that much richer.

The third Murph novel, “The Heart of Darkness Club,” will be released in Spring of 2013.

Follow Murph on Twitter @Asphalt_Warrior and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/theasphaltwarrior.  More at the web site: www.theasphaltwarrior.com

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