Two local authors will be celebrating their just-published novels at the LoDo Tattered Cover tonight -- one in the flesh, one in spirit. And since the authors have an intertwined history and the novels involve the latest exploits of series characters, it's important to keep things straight.
Former Denver Post reporter Mark Stevens will be on hand to introduce Trapline, the third in his series of mysteries featuring intrepid hunting guide Allison Coil. But the gathering will also certainly include some reminiscences about Stevens's buddy Gary Reilly, an incredibly prolific novelist who never made much of an effort to publish any of his work before his death from cancer in 2011, at the age of 61.
Mark Stevens and retired editorial cartoonist Mike Keefe have made it their mission to get Reilly's work out in the world. The latest, Dark Night of the Soul, is the sixth in a series of comic adventures involving a Denver cab driver, Brendan Murphy, who keeps getting dragged into the personal crises of his fares despite his best efforts to remain out of life's fray. (Reilly also wrote in several other genres, including a Vietnam trilogy; the first volume of that venture was published last spring.)
The latest Murph adventure is a bit more suspenseful than some of its predecessors, as the self-proclaimed Asphalt Warrior finds himself sidewise with the cops after a bank robber chooses to use his cab as a getaway vehicle -- and the stolen cash abruptly disappears. It's a genuine mystery, though not one beyond Murph's often-faulted powers of elucidation.
The Allison Coil novels are a different kind of ride altogether, with more complex plots and some dark brooding on environmental predations in the Colorado high country. Stevens weaves an array of ripped-from-the-headlines nagging issues into his Coil novels, and the third installment concerns a political assassination, immigration, private detention centers, fracking and more. There's some nicely observed local scenery (Glenwood Springs gets its close-up here) and Coil's keen sense of outrage to carry things along, even amid the occasionally clunky writing. (One character "glowed with woodsy charm," "exuded quiet confidence" and has eyes "that are insanely white where they aren't creamy brown," and makes another character think of "life as a vitamin vacuum," whatever that is -- and that's all in just one paragraph.)
What happens when mysteries converge -- one light, one dark? Perhaps you get a creamy brown. Find out at 7 p..m. tonight, November 21, at the LoDo Tattered Cover, when Stevens will read from and sign Trapline, and be joined by Keefe for a discussion of Dark Night of the Soul. For more information, call 303-436-1070.