Reviewer Gordon Osmond : Gordon is a produced and award-winning playwright and author of: So You Think You Know English--A Guide to English for Those Who Think They Don't Need One, Wet Firecrackers--The Unauthorized Autobiography of Gordon Osmond and his debut novel Slipping on Stardust.
He has reviewed books and stageplays for http://CurtainUp.com and for the Bertha Klausner International Literary Agency. He is a graduate of Columbia College and Columbia Law School and practiced law on Wall Street for many years before concentrating on writing fiction and non-fiction. You can find out more about Gordon by clicking HERE
Publisher:Running Meter Press
Publisher:Running Meter Press
The Asphalt Warrior is said to be the first of ten (sic) posthumously published novels about a veteran Denver cabbie, Murph, who is actually the alter ego of author Gary Reilly.
If your image of a long-time cabbie is that of a rather dreary motorist whose life is enlivened mostly by vicarious and temporary participation in whatever circumstantial crumbs passengers are willing to toss forward ahead of the fare, there is little in The Asphalt Warrior that will dislodge that impression. Murph may be an asphalt warrior, but he is a warrior without a war.
Murph lives alone, accesses his apartment via its fire escape, survives on a repetitious rotation of hamburgers, Twinkies, beer, and coffee (there is no Susan lazier than Murph’s), cuts his own hair, and checks his teeth for moths. Murph exists in the arid territory between minimalism and nihilism.
The reason for reading Murph’s story is the style in which it is told. Murph’s BA degree in English and his pre-cabbie life experiences have conspired to produce a personality who expresses himself in a way that is iconoclastic, quirky, and, for the most part, delightful. The writing technique follows a pattern, a typical paragraph ending with an unexpected, humorous, and often hyperbolic twist. For example, “Skiing baffles me even more than golf. I deliberately avoid all activities that involve standing up.” At its best, the author’s style conjures up the ghosts of Will Rogers and hippie stand-up comics.
Murph/Reilly has a love/hate relationship with writing. Both men do it compulsively, yet almost begrudgingly, and expect nothing to come from it. They are both concerned, bordering on obsession, with the matter of plot. The Asphalt Warrior reflects this because the only story (other than the account of how the warrior spends a typical day) that manages to survive the conclusion of chapters is a rather tepid tale of how Murph is engaged to assist a husband and wife in each spying on the other. To call Murph a kind of double agent is to promise more excitement than is actually delivered.
Because Murph is a devout loner, who expresses terror when a telephone rings, there is much about his story that has the sound of one hand clapping. His trade relationships are sketchy at best and, perhaps more seriously, he seems able to survive solely on food and fares, neither providing much in the way of long-term sustenance. Having a long-lost girlfriend named Mary Margaret may explain his apparently monastic existence during the course of the novel. He routinely sleeps ten hours a night, but always alone. Lest the reader conclude that Murph is a bit of a eunuch, the author does admit to occasional perusals of soft-core pornography.
A couple of literary conceits outstay their welcome. There are more than a few instances when the author refers to a story and then explicitly refuses to tell it. He also teases that he is exploring an issue but is yet to reach a conclusion. There are no fewer than four places where the author states that a gesture is like wiping off a milk mustache. My experience is that anyone old enough to sport a mustache drinks very little milk. And in a work that depends on unexpected freshness to sustain it, references to “pig heaven” and “the trip from Hell” seem out of place. Also, the author’s BA in English doesn’t prevent him from confusing “its” and “it’s” and from starting a sentence with the double subject, “Me and a black clerk . . . ”
On the other hand, there are wonderful expressions of mal de siècle, e.g., “Happy Hour executives leaving for the Unhappy Hour at home.” I also liked his statement that he avoided a particular issue because he had “smaller fish to fry.”
Although it’s only a guess, I suspect that most urban cabbies do more with their lives with less talent than this particular Asphalt Warrior. On the other hand, the next nine novels may prove me wrong. In any event, Reilly’s voice is certainly more creative and entertaining than any I’ve ever heard from a hired back seat.