Last Call for the Living
by Peter Farris
Cover Artist: Getty Images
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Forge Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765330079
Date: 22 May 2012 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
In Peter Farris's excellently plotted slice of Georgia noir, Last Call for the Living, Charlie Colquitt feels that the lonely desperation. one feels when they wake up one morning and realize they are nearing fifty, or over fifty, and their dreams haven't come true. Life hasnít turned out the way they had hoped it would.
Life is cruel in Last Call for the Living. It unabashedly, unapologetically depicts the lives of damaged people. Life is frail, easily ruined and destroyed. We lose an eye or an arm. We are raised by a single mom. We make bad choices that affect the rest of our lives. In this novel, there are people we call red necks, dirty white boys, trailer trash, hicks, county bumpkins, cons, thugs, etc., but they are all humans. Perhaps bad asses such as Hebo Hicklin are created in a society that isn't as forgiving or understanding as it should be--a society that doesn't practice what is preached from its pulpits.
Peter Farris may be the John Steinbeck of the twenty-first century. Farris graphically depicts the plight of the downtrodden during the current recession. Businesses are closing everywhere, turning small communities into ghost towns. Meth labs are the fastest growing industry. In desperate times, impoverished citizens resort to illegal activities in order to survive. In Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, the entire Joad family, including Tom Joad, an ex-con, must travel to California after the bank has foreclosed on their farm due to the Dustbowl. When I read this classic in high school, the snob in me didn't care much about those "poor white trash" Joads, but their plight tore at my heart. I experienced the same emotions upon reading Last Call for the Living. However, since the passage of over thirty years, I hope I've grown less judgmental.
Last Call for the Living is a violent, often raunchy, novel with plenty of blood and foul language. A few torture scenes made my stomach churn. Indeed, this novel isn't for everyone. My preacher wouldn't read it. I'd die from shock if I found Mom reading it. My Sunday School teacher might read it; he likes mysteries and action thrillers.
When I learned that Farris and David J. Schow (author of the ultra-violent Internecine and Upgunned) are gun buddies, I knew that Last Call for the Living would be a blood-drenched noir. However, what I never suspected was that I'd develop an attachment toward Charlie Colquitt and Sheriff Tommy Lang. I even felt some sympathy towards the cold-blooded murderer Hebo Hicklin. One trait they all shared was their desperate need to have a family. Hebo had found one in prison with the Aryan Brotherhood but they weren't the same as having flesh-and-blood relatives.
Fans of gritty, realistic noir will want to read Peter Farrisís provocative Last Call for the Living. If you enjoyed David R. Ellis's film Snakes on a Plane, then you will like my favorite scene in the novel; it takes place inside the Church of the Holy Lamb where the parishioners love to handle rattlers. Bullets and fangs--an ingenious combination. Readers also obtain brief glimpses of prison life that reminded me of the HBO series, Oz. They serve to convince readers the extent of Hicklin's burning desire to belong to the Aryan Brotherhood.
Having grown up in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, I can attest that the author is very accurate in his descriptions of plant and animal life and the customs of the people who live there. He is also clever when naming his main characters. For example, Hebo Hicklin makes me think of a wandering, lost hobo or a country hick, which Hicklin resembles in several respects. Charlie Colquitt reminds me of poor Charlie Bucket of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Bucket could never give up on his dreams. Neither could Charlie Colquitt who "can't quit". And Iíll never quit hoping that Peter Farris writes another bloody, action-packed noir.