Fans of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs will love Peter Farris’s blistering hot debut thriller, Last Call for the Living. Though the F-bomb doesn’t drop with the frequency of Tarantino’s flick, there is enough brutal violence in Last Call for the Living to satisfy the most jaded aficionado of the genre. In the novel, about a bank robbery that almost goes off without a hitch—unless you count one of the tellers, a black woman, being shot in the head for attempting to press a button to signal the cops. Oh, and the other teller, Charlie Colquitt, being kidnapped. It’s a searing examination of the psychology behind the robber’s life in prison, and Hobe Hicklin’s initiation into the Aryan Brotherhood. It’s a story of survival, of the terror of being kidnapped, and it’s one of the greatest bank heist novels ever written.
Last Call for the Living is written with the style and substance of authors like Stephen Hunter and Cormac McCarthy. It’s also the story of the aftermath of the robbery, of Hicklin being pursued by both the police and two totally pissed-off ex-cons who had planned the robbery with him. It’s not only Hicklin’s story but also Charlie Colquitt’s, a brilliant guy and social misfit who loves rockets and finds his life inextricably entangled with that of Hobe Hicklin.
Though Hicklin planned the robbery with two other extremely violent members of the Aryan Brotherhood while in prison, he figures he’ll get the jump on them, rob the bank himself, and not have to split his ill-gotten gains. Instead, they follow him and track him down, not taking kindly him going ahead and pulling off the robbery without them. At least a portion of the loot was supposed to go to funding operations of the Brotherhood, and their success was supposed to be the start of their being hired to pull off further heists.
FBI Special Agent Sallie Crews and hard-drinking Sheriff Tommy Lang are two more fascinating characters who will live with you long after you finish reading the book. Crews learns some very disquieting facts in her investigation—like how Lucy Colquitt, Charlie’s mother, refers to him as “Coma,” because he’s so difficult to wake up, and how Lucy was once intimate with Hicklin. Lucy seems to be one of the most un-motherly and self-centered people ever. She is one of the many unlikable characters in the novel.
Yet author Peter Farris makes us care about these criminals, social misfits, and self-centered people he writes about. Hicklin is far from being a saint, having murdered and tortured many people, among other crimes. But we somehow find ourselves wanting to see him evade capture by the police, and avoid the retribution the two ex-cons trailing him want to enact upon him. We want to read about Charlie getting rescued, but Hicklin becomes the antihero of the novel, a sort of modern-day Jesse James.
Last Call for the Living is a stark literary version of a Sam Peckinpah or Tarantino movie, a violent, page-turning read that will have your adrenalin pumping overtime. Fans of thrillers will love this excellent debut.