Genre: Adult Nonfiction
Year Release: 2021
Source: Library Audiobook
Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: murder, sexual assault, blood gore, homophobia, racism (n-word used in Chapter 7), police violence, discrimination
I don’t talk about it too often, but I grew in New York City in Chelsea, a short walk’s away from establishments mentioned in this book like Duplex and the historic Stonewall Inn. So, naturally, I picked this one up to learn a little bit about queer history and the history of my neighborhood. Amid the AIDS epidemic, the high murder rate, and city politics of the 80’s and 90’s, the Last Call Killer committed a string of serial murders that went largely un-reported until the release of this book.
Author Green uses the pages within this book to talk about queer culture, attitudes of society at large, and shining a spotlight on the lives lost to a killer who didn’t come to justice until modern technology
The history presented in this book is at once familiar (based on other readings about New York in the 80’s) and completely new territory. The picture Green paints of the city in this time period is at once vibrant but also deeply painful.
Green presents the stories of the victims with such thorough empathy. He spends each chapter contextualizing the men they were, the things they did for work and for leisure, the kinds of choices and cultural contexts informing their partnerships, and, most relevantly, what led them to the bars where they were last seen alive. It’s so moving, especially given the context that so many of the victims’ families haven’t heard from any kind of reporter or historian in the decades since the murders. It’s unsurprising, but disappointing nonetheless.
In an interview that came at the end of the audiobook, he was both surprised that this string of murders didn’t get more attention and also not. The book leans into a conception in true crime of “the less dead,” and, in the minds of many of the officers working these cases, the men who were killed fell into this category. It is also a mess of jurisdictional politics that is at once easy to comprehend but also rage-inducing when it comes to the lack of care to the communities affected.
Eye-opening, empathetic, but also deeply infuriating as far as recognizing how little has changed, this is a must-read for those interested in New York City and true crime alike.