Book Review

“Last Call”

Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York, by Elon Green
c. 2021, Celadon Books
$27

There’s time for one last round.

One for the road, as they say.  A tip for the barkeep, a final toast before you go, one more clink before you drink, and, as in the new book “Last Call” by Elon Green, be careful on your way out the door.

The roadside maintenance worker had worked the area for a while; long enough to know when something seemed unusual. It was May 1991, and the last trash bag the Lancaster County Pennsylvania worker hefted seemed extra heavy. When he poked the bag, he saw freckles. Then he called the state police.

He hadn’t touched anything in the bag, but he was ordered to take an AIDS test because the corpse was Peter Stickney Anderson of Philadelphia – a gay father.

Slightly more than a year later, on an otherwise-lonely stretch of road in New Jersey, two Transportation Department workers discovered another pile of trash bags that seemed “not quite right.” Inside the bags were the meticulously dismembered body of Thomas Mulcahy, a detail they knew instantly because the killer left Tom’s ID behind

In May of 1993, a street worker named Anthony Marrero was found dismembered in a series of plastic bags identical to Mulcahy. Officials homed in on a few facts, including the bags had been from a certain store in Staten Island. Also, they had been tied and mutilated in a specific way. Attention seemed low to those outside the gay community.

In his afterword, author Elon Green explains why this story captured his fancy. Who were these four men? Were there others? Most importantly, why didn’t this murder spree get the regional attention it deserved?

Green answers his own questions in this book but there’s more. There are biographical sketches of four good men here, each rounded out so well that you may wish you’d known these guys. None of them fit a mold – Green captures that clearly – and he subtly, kindly reminds readers that they were someone’s son, friend, or father.

 And then, just as it seems like there’s no conclusion to this tale, Green brings in the killer, whom he tantalizingly doesn’t immediately name. In those pages lie someone of the edgiest, most shoulder-clenching, the most psychologically taught chapter you’ll read this year. So lock the doors. Pour a strong one for your “last call.”

Terri Schlichenmeyer

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a prairie in Wisconsin with two dogs, one man, and 17,000 books.

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