By Mark Stevens
I hopped in the car and flipped on the radio.
Scott Simon (rock star reporter and host on National Public Radio) was wrapping up a Weekend Edition interview with a guy reviewing books.
I only caught the tail end of the chat, but Simon said something like: “...and that was our London cab driver so-and-so who occasionally reviews books for us…"
I’m not sure I remember the rest.
Cab driver? Book reviewer? National Public Radio?
As you may or may not know, my friend Mike Keefe and I are in the process of publishing the works of the late Gary Reilly, who left behind 25 novels when he passed away in 2011.
Of the 25 novels, 11 are very humorous books that feature Denver cab driver Brendan Murphy, a.k.a. Murph, The Asphalt Warrior. To date, six of those 11 have been published, along with the first of Gary’s books based on his experiences in Vietnam.
Gary’s posthumous works have received great reviews—and two of the titles were named finalists for the Colorado Book Award.
But as a publisher (and also as a writer, unless you’re in the stratosphere of high visibility) there’s a never-ending search for reviews and, well, mentions.
Mere mentions of your book can make your day— Amazon, Goodreads, Shelfari, bring it!
So why not roll the dice with the cab driver from London? Indeed, why not?
Our company, Running Meter Press, has been lucky to have time and support donated by a major book publicity firm, JKS Communications. I contacted JKS and an energetic member of their team found a way to contact the cab driver, an apparently cheerful and well-read guy named Will Grozier. Soon, via Twitter (!), we had the green light: send 'em!
I packed five “Murph” titles up in newspaper, shoved them in a box and shipped them off at some cost ($55 if I remember right). In a couple weeks, I received an email from Will saying they had arrived safe and sound and that he was also enjoying the newspaper articles I’d use to wrap the books.
That was December, 2013.
Twelve months later, on Dec. 20, 2014, I’m pumping gas and my phone chimes. Shunning all risks for using your electronic device around gas fumes, I answer it.
A friend of mine is going nuts. “Gary Reilly…NPR…right now…they are talking about Gary Reilly…”
Later, I listened to the whole piece (transcript and audio here) and there was Will Grozier singing the praises of my late writer pal and mentor, Gary Reilly, on National Public Radio.
“Huge fun,” said Grozier of the series, citing the books as his favorite fiction reads of the year before mentioning a long list of other books.
So what happened?
First, we got emails from all over. A dedicated book reader and book reviewer from Michigan named Tim Bazzett (a guy who has written books about the books he has read) did some digging on Gary Reilly, having heard the NPR piece, and asked for Gary’s Vietnam novel, The Enlisted Men’s Club. A few days later, Bazzett had consumed the book and wrote one of the best, and most insightful, reviews to date.
Sales went nuts.
In fact, the publishing company we work with in Boulder emailed a few days later to say Amazon had ordered 165 copies of the first title. We needed to hit the "reprint" button; we were running out.
I’d like to think that Gary has a whole new legion of fans being built based on that first book. I know readers of The Asphalt Warrior (Book #1) will recognize they have their hands on a one-of-a-kind writer with a unique and engaging style.
In thanking Will Grozier (via Twitter) he asked if he could read the new Gary Reilly titles that had been published (The Enlisted Men’s Club and Murph #6, Dark Night of the Soul) since we first set him the shipment.
Of course, I happily obliged.
It was a long shot. It was a random radio-publicist-Twitter-email connection.
Cheers to cab drivers, book lovers, book reviewers, National Public Radio, Scott Simon, Will Grozier and readers everywhere.