Written by John Skipp
Published by Leisure Books
John Skipp is a badass.
I have to admit I’ve had my doubts over the years as to whether he could continue to be a badass while away from former writing partner Craig Specter. And though his solo work has been strong to date, nothing’s come anywhere near the badassness that is The Long Last Call, one of the most kinetic, fist-to-the jaw reads I’ve experienced in a long, long while.
The story begins with a lone man, traveling too fast, drinking too much, and with an excessive amount of pain coursing through his veins thanks to recently loosing the love of his life. He decides a run-down, out of the way titty bar is the best cure for what ails him, but has no idea what he’s in for when he sets foot in the hole in the wall joint, just looking to drown his sorrows in drink and paid-for attention.
For you see, shortly after he arrives, so does another man. Except this man arrives in a limo, dressed to the nines, handsome as hell and carrying a briefcase full of money. His very presence in the joint causes all manner of excitement, these girls have never seen this kind of high roller before, and it only gets worse when he starts throwing out hundreds instead of the standard dollars. But this is no ordinary man and he’s not throwing out ordinary money; there’s a thing layer of slime on both him and anything he touches, and when the slime gets on the bar’s denizens their deepest, darkest, truest selves come screaming to the surface.
And that’s just the beginning.
Written in a kinetic, fast paced style, reading The Long Last Call is equivalent to watching a movie that was filmed in one long take, as the camera swoops from one bar fly to the next, laying out all the characters before hell breaks loose in such a way that you feel like you never stop moving. I’ve never seen anything written this way before and it really gives the tale an extra kick in the teeth that wouldn’t have been there if it was laid out in a traditional format.
The story itself is very original, as well, and Skipp avoids laying out all the facts for readers, instead allowing us to discover what the hell is going on and what’s really at stake in this out of the way sleaze pit in our own time. Even by the end there aren’t any easy answers, but suffice it to say the conclusion is satisfying as hell.
Also included in The Long Last Call is Skipp’s highly praised short story “Conscience”, for the first time released in a mass-market manner. Though it’d be nice to get a full length novel from the man, “Conscience” is so good you can forgive them reprinting it here for a wider appeal; this is a story that should be read by many and serves as a great companion piece to The Long Last Call.
“Conscience” is about a ruthless hit man getting what is, unbeknownst to him, his last job. We meet the disgusting people he has to deal with on a daily basis and get a long hard look at the inner workings of his brain; what allows him to kill for money and still sleep at night.
Basically, it’s a lack of the titular feeling; no remorse, no regret, just a cold indifference to what he does to get by in this world. But when his conscience decides to make itself known again, things get very complicated and very, very messy.
This is also a story that starts off pitch black and ends with a shinning ray of hope, but does so in such a way so as not to come off as cheesy or desperate. The growth is organic and natural, a testament to Skipp’s writing skills, not to mention a welcome change from the usual fare that comes out of Leisure these days.
So to make a long review just a bit shorter, I’ll say this; get The Long Last Call. Welcome Skipp back to the world of horror with open arms and realize, once and for all, that the man is still a consummate badass.
4 1/2 out of 5