Rather than focus on the killer—who has all the allure of a wet cocktail napkin—he foregrounds the lives and milieus of the victims. It’s a reparative act that doubles as an extended elegy for the decades of closeted or bullied queers who encountered similar demons in schoolyards, across dinner tables, in pews, or in the browser histories they desperately erased ... Green, who identifies as straight, never explains why the victims obsessed him ... a salvage operation not only for individual lives, but for a whole bleak chapter of underground queer life ... Such offbeat details compensate for Green’s smooth but bland prose ... preserves the poignant irony that the trust and vulnerability that once made gay bars synonymous with gay community were also vectors of death, both in the form of murder and, later, HIV/AIDS ... Most true-crime writers favor the crime half of the equation. But there’s also the imperative of truth—not just the factual tally of names, dates, and numbers, but the existential question of why such horror happened at all.
... a stunning addition to the gay corner of the true-crime genre ... Green does a superb job describing how this dark force invaded the one place where gay men sought solace in song and drink, where they could finally let their guard down. Some drank too much and, looking for love or just a trick, never returned ... As an investigative crime writer Elon puts in the work, with a sense of sensitivity and compassion ... The care, the research, the investment on display in...Last Call signals to me, at least, that Elon Green rises above the function of a dispassionate observer. He writes like a communal friend.
Last Call is Green’s first book, and it admirably demonstrates his commitment to sidestepping easy sensationalism for the far grittier work of checking sources, poring over police reports and reinterviewing witnesses ... Instead of focusing on the killer, Green opts to humanize his victims ... With great compassion, he widens his scope to explore the social value of gay bars to the queer community and the vital work of grass-roots groups ... Green proves a conscientious crime writer. He provides an adrenalized police-procedural plot without ever losing sight of the fact that these were innocent human beings who were duped, butchered and discarded. We are never allowed a moment of perverse awe for the murderer. Ultimately, that strength is also the book’s weakness ... Green acknowledges that Rogers, who is serving two consecutive life terms in prison, declined his attempts to interview him. That missing confrontation creates a fissure in his otherwise impressive reporting ... More than once in the abrupt final chapters, in the midst of reading about him, I forgot the murderer’s name. But it is to Green’s credit that I never forgot the names of the four known victims.
Weaving together multiple histories and jumping back and forth in time can be hit-or-miss as a narrative structure, but Last Call does it well, thanks to Green’s original reporting conducted with law enforcement, politicians, victims’ families and patrons at gay bars where Rogers lurked ... True crime too often focuses on the 'bad guys,' as if repeatedly mulling over their motives may eventually explain evil. In Last Call, Green instead foregrounds Rogers’ known victims. He shows us the people they were and the lives they left behind. Their lives mattered, and Last Call is a testament to how homophobia shaped these men’s lives and, eventually, their deaths ... Regular readers of true crime may not find the violence unexpected, but the cultural context of the AIDS panic adds additional weight to this brutality. To his credit, Green never lets us forget the amplified threats that existed for gay men during this era. However, because Last Call shows how the passage of time often changes culture for the better, it’s ultimately uplifting—if a book about a serial killer could, in any way, be called 'uplifting.'
While Last Call is about Rogers’ crimes, the heart of the book belongs to the victims, as Elon Green takes special care to maintain their humanity and dignity in this true-crime outing. Green’s writing is sensitive and powerful, and the tale he tells is compelling and tragic. The victims deserve to be remembered for who they were and not just how they died, and Green takes care to see that this is done...[and] provides a broad view of why homophobia continues to be a real and persistent threat. Overall, this is a fascinating addition to the genre, written with a literary style and uncommon tenderness.
Right from the beginning, Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York by Elon Green reads like the hardboiled true crime book that it is. 'John Doe' is the opening chapter's title, and on its first page readers are already treated to the stranger-than-fiction language of real people finding themselves in the middle of a horror show they never signed up for ... Last Call is journalist Elon Green's first book, but he is not new to the genre of true crime, nor is he a stranger to the problems that lie within it ... the killers often become the focus, the object of fascination.This is not true in Last Call, which puts the victims first, and which, when it does reveal the discovery of the killer, doesn't attempt to make him seem like an anti-hero.
... this is more than a run of the mill account true crime account of a cunningly elusive serial killer. The author’s stated purpose for wanting to write the book is so that the victims would be remembered for who they were before they became one more statistic in a voyeuristic psychological profile of a deranged murderer .... The observations from family members particularly moving, as they express their loss and understanding of what these men endured emotionally in having to live a secret life ... Green’s profile of Rogers is objective and gripping as he pieces together his movements, tactics, and behavior to commit and cover up any traces of his contact with the victims ... The book is a page turner as the different investigations in various locations remained sketchy, and the crime spree could have continued if it were not by accidental discovery of evidence by people who came across key bits of evidence by accident and contacted the police, which eventually led to Roger’s arrest ... Inevitably, the book also reveals the methods of a merciless and disturbed man, but admirably Green does not dwell on the gruesome details more than is necessary to tell the full story.
The book spends much of its time telling the backstories of the victims, putting them at the center of the story rather than the killer ... In the epilogue to his book, Green says that, as a straight man, he had to ponder whether this was his story to tell. Eventually, he concluded that 'when you’re talking about the history of queer people in America, or black people in America, you’re talking about the history of America. I think it’s a wonderful challenge to situate these stories in the larger history,' he said.
... the author treats the victims, gay men murdered in the early 1990s, who were picked up at gay bars in New York City, with respect, describing how they shared an identity that left them vulnerable not only to a sadistic criminal but also to indifference and sometimes open hostility from those charged with solving their murders. These crimes have been covered before, but Green sets his work apart by offering nuanced portraits of the victims and exploring how they navigated lives that led them to the bars that might have seemed like safe spaces but turned out to be anything but ... Reflecting both its author’s compassion and journalistic chops, this gripping narrative also focuses on forensic innovation and jurisdictional intrigue ... A stellar tale of justice eluded, to add to the growing queer true crime genre justice.
more than just a standard true crime exploration of these killings. Using meticulous research and engaging prose, The Last Call tells the complete stories of the men who died in these killings, giving them dignity after death and shining a light on the issues queer people faced several decades ago that still ring true today. Green creates a detailed, sometimes sobering picture of both queer New York in the time period of the killings and the places throughout the country where the men lived before, highlighting the lengths they went to gain acceptance and, often, the sad consequences of never receiving it. Green uses the same detailed approach in his retelling of the crimes, which may prove too gory for some squeamish readers; however, the book never veers into the purely salacious, and every detail feels necessary. This captivating and thought-provoking read is a humanity-filled twist on the true crime genre.
... gripping ... In addition to bestowing humanity and dignity on the victims, Green demonstrates impressive reporting chops. For example, he unearthed Rogers’ earliest killing in Maine even though the trial ended in an expunged record. The author also provides substantive documentation of the New York media’s and New York Police Department’s callous neglect of the murders. Only occasionally is the text marred by insipid writing ... A deeply researched reclamation of a series of unfairly forgotten, gruesome crimes.
... ambitious if flawed ... Green’s at his best in analyzing how the crimes were handled at the time, when the victims’ sexual orientation led to the murders being treated less seriously. The author did his homework, spending over three years reviewing records and interviewing those who knew the victims, but his methodology can be spotty. At one point, he quotes then NYPD commissioner Bernard Kerik about the handling of Rogers’s case, noting in a footnote, without elaboration, 'Off the record, Kerik said something different,' leaving readers to wonder what that was and its significance. Green deserves credit for reviving awareness of the killings, but this won’t stand out amid the current true crime boom.