The Long Last Call
by John Skipp
Review by Drew Bittner
Leisure Mass Market ISBN/ITEM#: 084395843X
Date: 28 August 2007 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
In the 1980s, the new movement in horror was splatterpunk. One of the founders of that movement was a young gun named John Skipp. With books like The Light at the End, written with Craig Spector, Skipp established himself as a powerful new voice in horror.
Time hasn't dulled his edge. He's back with The Long Last Call, two stories in one volume. In the first, a bereft and possibly schizophrenic kid named Hank stumbles into a strip club called the Sweet Thang. Hank's lost his gal Pam and is suffering... but he's about to see a whole new level of pain when a fellow known only as the Dark Stranger comes to see the show.
In the course of two hours, all those who accept the Stranger's slimy money find their impulses surging out of control. Resentment flares into hate, jealousy becomes a need to destroy, lust becomes... well, it gets bad. Who will make it out? Ambrosia, the top stripper (and club owner Eddie's coke-sniffing buddy)? Kristal or Daisy, Lily or Darnell, all of whom work at the club but wish they were somewhere else?
And why does the Stranger have an interest in Eddie's protective older sister, known around the club as "Mom"?
Suffice to say, it's a night in the club the survivors will never forget. When Eddie accepts the stranger's offer and keeps the club open an extra hour--to "see what happens"-- you know it won't be anything good. In fact, it's an express ride into hell for everyone trapped inside, with the reader dragged along by the eyeballs.
In the second story, a young man named Charley Weber takes a little business trip--one that involves some bloodshed and a few realizations, including visions of souls and how the past never really stays where you left it.
Skipp is a master of high octane horror, with the pace building as the blood starts to splatter. The scenes are visceral and little is left to the imagination; readers can see what's happening with cinematic precision. It's a trademark of the subgenre, the belief that everything should be on the page, and Skipp is one heck of a practitioner.
The characters are sharply drawn and jump off the page. The emotion and atmosphere he brings are likewise portraits etched in blood; the Sweet Thang becomes a real place, with all the fakery and deep well of despair and anguish common to strip clubs. The Dark Stranger is a cipher through most of the story, until his purpose is clear, but he's the one calling the shots practically from the start. It's a strong display of how to wring a lot of villainy from very limited, highly focused characterization.
Readers looking for one heck of a horror show should check out The Long Last Call. Skipp's a terrific writer-- one that more people should be reading.