Denver writer and part-time cab driver Gary Reilly was more interested in writing novels -- many of which had to do with a cabbie named Murph who also wrote novels -- than publishing them. But since Reilly's death last year from cancer at 61, his Murph sagas are rolling out with the regularity of hacks lining up for fares at DIA. The second of eleven novels featuring the work-allergic driver hits bookstores next week, and Running Meter Press and Big Earth Publishing have announced plans to release the rest over the next few years.
Murph's first adventure, The Asphalt Warrior, made its posthumous debut last June, introducing readers to Brendan Murphy and to Reilly, a reclusive but prolific writer who made only sporadic efforts to publish. His will gave two longtime friends, former Denver Post staffers Mark Stevens and Mike Keefe, permission to publish his stuff, and fans can now expect a new Murph every six months or so.
The second in the series, Ticket to Hollywood, finds Murph getting involved in the aspirations of a young actress who leaves her purse in his cab while grabbing a ride to the "Flicker" theater (obviously the old Flick) in downtown Denver. As in the previous book, the narrative is slight, the humor mild, the focus chiefly on Murph gradually sinking into the morass of his customers' problems while trying to keep life simple and full of reruns of Gilligan's Island.
Part of the fun of the Murph books is catching glimpses of Denver scenes and subcultures from a few years back, although the editing could be a bit sharper. At one point Murph refers to Molly Brown as the wife of Horace Tabor, a history blooper no self-respecting Denver cabbie would commit; and Reilly's vision of Hollywood, where Murph must go to try to resolve things, is certainly one of the most benign ever found in popular fiction. But fans of Reilly's quips and jabs and his evident love of classic movies will find much to enjoy here.
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Reilly friend and admirer (and Denver auditor) Dennis Gallagher certainly did. He will read from Ticket to Hollywood at 7:30 p.m. Monday, December 3, at the Tattered Cover LoDo, 1628 16th Street. For more information, call 303-436-1070 or visit the Tattered Cover website.