That article points to two reviews of her book, Nerves of Steel, one of which is actually John Greenfield’s 2001 Chicago Reader article reviewing another messenger book released the same year, Travis Culley’s The Immortal Class. While Reilly’s was 8 years in the making, self-published, and had a run of only 1,000 copies, Culley’s book was written in only a year or so and was backed by a major publisher – hence, in the intervening years, his book has gotten considerably more press than hers (though it doesn’t sound as though she was trying to make any money off the book.)
The end of Buffalo Bill’s article also mentions that Reilly joined the Marines in 2001, and a 2004 Military.com article by Fred Zimmerman provides less of an insider’s view of Reilly’s book, but retains the admiration so evident in the other reviews I’ve found. Zimmerman traces her courier career from DC to Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and New York as she pursued her two goals of collecting material for her book and travelling around the country. He quotes Reilly saying that “I could have been a secretary, but if it’s a girl’s job I don’t want it,” and that, because she was one of the few couriers who travelled the country, they called her the “messenger for the messengers.” It’s an interesting article, with more personal information than inside scoop, but I still wanted to know: what kind of woman travels around the country doing a ridiculously hard job at least as good as a man, makes friends everywhere she goes, and writes a book about her culture not to profit but to document her own and her friends’ lives so that readers will understand who they are? Who is she?
Also, both Greenfield and Zimmerman mention that Reilly got her start in DC, and since she would have been riding in DC in the early or mid-nineties, I texted a friend who also started messengering in DC around then. “You ever heard of a messenger called Rebecca Reilly or lambchop?” I asked. “Yeah,” came the reply, “Lambchop is old school original gangsta fixed gear queen!” A few weeks later, over beers, he said he still talks to her occasionally, and that she’s still in the military and is somewhere near DC – which, since the most recent thing I could find on her was from 2007, was a relief to hear. That settled it. I went to Amazon to see if her book was available for sale, and sure enough it was – from Reilly herself, at a third of the price other dealers were asking. Of course. I’m looking forward to reading it when it gets here. 🙂