Thank you so much to Celadon Books for the free advanced copy of Last Call in exchange for a. Honest review! All opinions are my own!
I am coming to love the true crime genre, except this book reads more like a history/biography. The author focuses on the victims and the history of, and violence in queer New York City, paying little eventual attention to the trial and investigation of the murderer himself. On that front I am staying neutral on rating and recommending as a true crime!
- Title: Last Call
- Author: Elon Green
- Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, 3/9/12
- Genre: true crime, history
- Length: 260 pg
- Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 & neutral, check it out if the content sparks interest
Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:
The Townhouse Bar, midtown, July 1992: The piano player seems to know every song ever written, the crowd belts out the lyrics to their favorites, and a man standing nearby is drinking a Scotch and water. The man strikes the piano player as forgettable.
He looks bland and inconspicuous. Not at all what you think a serial killer looks like. But that’s what he is, and tonight, he has his sights set on a gray haired man. He will not be his first victim.
Nor will he be his last.
The Last Call Killer preyed upon gay men in New York in the ‘80s and ‘90s and had all the hallmarks of the most notorious serial killers. Yet because of the sexuality of his victims, the skyhigh murder rates, and the AIDS epidemic, his murders have been almost entirely forgotten.
This gripping true-crime narrative tells the story of the Last Call Killer and the decades-long chase to find him. And at the same time, it paints a portrait of his victims and a vibrant community navigating threat and resilience.
Overall this is not a bad read at all. I am left to assume that there’s either not a ton of info available on the trial and murderer, his motives or interviews, or that’s just not what the author was primarily getting at. I think the murders themselves were well described and covered as well as the investigation, but the trial and post apprehension of the killer was practically nonexistent so my curiosity is only amplified now.
The odd part is that the book was SO painfully detailed up to that point that the ending felt bizarre. There are pages and pages on unrelated things like where the victims’ parents’ went to high school, and a whole chapter on a piano player who was not even involved in the killings except as someone that played in the bars and spotted the killer once. I just frankly don’t care about that guy’s time on a cruise ship or where the murder victims parents grew up. For all those minute details, the trial consisted of about… Heck I don’t know, one or two pages?
The book offers a fairly comprehensive history of certain gay bars and queer violence in New York City, among other towns, but the majority of the book is about the victims more than the crimes. Some parts of their lives were actually interesting, and other parts, like sex life details and queer metro life such as “subway sammies” made me cringe a little bit as a healthcare worker.
Tracking the history of law enforcement and queer violence was probably where the book shined most. Some parts seemed to have some organizational issues (for example, one random paragraph mentions another serial killer spotted in a bar, and he was never mentioned again), but the history of the bars and violence, right up through Cuomo Sr and Giuliani were well organized and presented in interesting ways.
The killer was portrayed in the final section of the book with a brief look at his college years and professional career, not in any kind of chronological order. It doesn’t seem like a huge effort was made to find where he did the killings or even why, as no true motive was established. The only part of the trial consisted of one family member’s statement so I guess it was all based on the victims families? Where is the detail for this part of the story? I’m guessing sealed court documents or something but this is just not mentioned.
Overall: I know the author wasn’t focused on the killer, but he could have trimmed some of the inane details and had plenty of page space to at least talk about the post apprehension and trial period.
Last but not least: I think it’s time for a good old fashioned @OneReadingNurse medical digression! Right at the end, an interviewee mentions PReP on the last page of the book. I guess I don’t think about AIDS much in healthcare these days unless it is noted that a patient is HIV or AIDS+, but the piano player from above asserts that the Queer community assumes undetected HIV is the same thing as uninfected, which seems scary to me. PReP is covered by most insurances and asserts between 74-99% effectiveness based on the goal of use, according to the CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/prep.html It seems affordable and/but I didn’t realize people even in 2020 are just turning to drugs vs safe sex practices? What about other STDs? I guess that guy’s statement would require more research but it seems like the last thing the author wants readers to think about is how there are still extremely unsafe sexual practices occuring, which is something these people definitely need to be aware of. I didn’t know it, anyway.
Thank you again to Celadon Books for my copy!! I am stating neutral on the rating and again say check it out, releasing 3/9, if it sounds up your alley!