June 25, 2014 by I SNIFF BOOKS - Beth
synopsis: Introducing Denverite Brendan Murphy or Murph as he is known to the rest of the world. He lives alone in his crows nest apartment, fries a hamburger for every meal, does his dish, then channel surfs for reruns of Gilligan’s Island. He is a radical minimalist. He strives to earn no more money as a driver for Rocky Mountain Taxi Company than his needs require. He is determined to stay out of the lives of those he transports. He struggles with one issue and is spectacularly bad with the other. The Asphalt Warrior is the first of eleven adventures. Come prowl the mean streets of Denver with Murph and ponder the meaning of the world and all sorts of deep questions, such as: Why would anyone want to DO anything?
What I noticed right way about The Asphalt Warrior is how brilliant Reilly’s writing is. It’s modern, fresh, and real. You feel like Murph is speaking directly to you. I had to restrain myself from jotting down lines and passages that I liked otherwise I would have ended up transcribing the whole book into my notebook — because yes, the writing is just that darn good. The entire book is quote-worthy. (As a side note the bit about Murphy frying a pre-shaped hamburger patty on pages 12 – 13 is so spot on but way too long to transcribe here!!!) It’s hard to narrow down my list of faves to a manageable size to share but here are a few:
“Then I caught a look at myself in the reflection of my toaster. I sighed, and walked over to the cork bulletin board hanging on the wall. I pinned the card next to a free pass to Putt-Putt Golf that I had been hauling around since I was fourteen years old. Some dreams never die.” [page 12]
“My inability to interpret reality correctly has stood me in good stead over the years.” [page 15]
“So the strain of becoming twenty different people a day is bad enough without trying to keep track of who I was last week. I’m sure the abnormal psychology textbooks have a technical term for this phenomenon, but I just refer to it as ‘being me.'” [page 40]
“I reached out and slapped the radio off and sat up rubbing the asphalt out of my eyes. The clock said 11:30. It felt like tomorrow but I was still stuck in yesterday.” [page 101]
“Most of my driving in the past few years had been day shifts. You rarely get drunks while pulling days. Drunks are one of the reasons I don’t like to do nights. Drunks like to talk, and talking to drunks is worse that talking to sober people. Talking to sober people is the drawback of days.” [page 102]
The Asphalt Warrior is classified as fiction but it feels like non-fiction — Murph and everything and everyone in his world seem real. As you read, you feel like you are sitting next to Murph at some dive bar as he tells you his life story — which is an honor and privilege since Murph is pretty aloof yet, in my opinion, completely likable as a character/person.
In Reilly’s hands, the ordinary life of Murph becomes extraordinary. The plot is not driven by dialogue; instead it is driven by events and Murph’s observations and reactions to them. As the story progresses, details about Murph’s private life are shared with the readers. Little facets are shared early on, but it isn’t until later we get the full scoop. For example, it isn’t until chapter 11 that we learn where Murph lives or what his job was at Dyna-Plex (a white collar job he had before he became a cab driver) — both of which were mentioned in chapter 2. This lack of full personal disclosure initially on Murph’s part is right in sync with his persona, but when Murph does spill the beans later it only enhances the connection between Murph and the reader — you feel like Murphy’s true buddy and confidant.
Without a doubt, this is a 5-star book. The Asphalt Warrior is one of those books that you want to shove in to the hands of everyone you know and make them sit down and read it. They will thank you for it.
The Asphalt Warrior is the first book in an eleven-book series. Five have been published so far and they are available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at the Tattered Cover Bookstore if you are local to the Denver, CO area. The Asphalt Warrior also is on Facebook.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy from Running Meter Press. The opinions are my own.