The Last Victim has already been reviewed by Tara, here.
This is a true crime non-fiction book about a college freshman who decided to start writing serial killers as a way to find out their secrets for a class project. He concocts stories for each different serial killer in an effort to create a pen-pal best suited to that killer’s tastes. He grew particularly close to John Wayne Gacy, even going so far as to have regular phone conversations with him and meet him face-to-face on Gacy’s dime.
Reading this book is like watching a horror film. You’re curled up on the couch with a bucket of popcorn, peering through your fingers at the screen, and screaming at the dumb blonde not to have sex (Save yourself for Jesus! The immoral always die first!), not to investigate the odd sound or object that is out of place (OMG just get out of there!), or the myriad of other genre stereotypes. I actually yelled at the book when Gacy was convincing Moss to come out for the visit, recognizing the ruse immediately. And while it’s fun to ridicule the characters in a film for the mistakes they are making, it is definitely not when it’s a real person and their family undergoing a real tragedy. This is compounded by the knowledge that Moss committed suicide several years after the book was published.
This book made me incredibly angry, not in a blaming the victim sort of way, but that the series of events happened at all. To some extent, I think Moss blamed other adults for not watching out for him. However, he rejected the feelings of those around him when he found out they were not enthusiastic about the project and he isolated himself so completely that I’m not sure anyone could have recognized the sort of trouble he was in. I’m angry in a way that isn’t completely articulate at the University and professor associated with the project and book. The Last Victim does not deal with the academic process at all, so I’m left with many questions about what went on and how this got approved by them, even if the events happened early in his academic career. I also wish that he hadn’t taken the advice of making the book about himself, rather than the materials he collected. The book explains the process of what he did, but it doesn’t really showcase what he thought he found out. This is unfortunate because it paints the story of a rather unsympathetic victim that was psychologically damaged for apparently no reason at all.
A Canadian film based upon the book, Dear Mr. Gacy, came out last summer. I’m not planning to see it, but if you were captivated by the story it may be something to look into.