Despite what its cover might imply, Last Call for the Living is not a sequel to The Shack. In fact, this debut novel from author Peter Farris is about as far from a treacly-ass Christian novel as you could ever hope for. It’s the story of Charlie Colquitt, an Aspberger-y bank teller whose branch in Jubilation County, Georgia is robbed at gunpoint by ex-con Hobe Hicklin, leaving Charlie a hostage and his co-worker a pile of meat. Hicklin retreats up into the hills with his captive and a big payday, his meth addict girlfriend Hummingbird waiting for them in her shit shack of a cabin.
But while Hicklin may be planning on waiting out the heat, said heat’s coming on awfully fast in the form of FBI Special Agent Sallie Crews, Jubilation County Sheriff Tommy Lang and two of Hicklin’s Aryan Brotherhood buddies with a mini-arsenal in their truck. Seems Hicklin jumped the gun on their planned score by a week, leaving his AB comrades high and dry, and you better believe the racist rednecks don’t take that shit lightly. For Charlie’s sake, here’s hoping Lang and Crews make it to the cabin before Flock and Lipscomb do.
Farris tells this story with some ridiculously assured prose that makes us feel the Georgia heat, the characters’ internal and external wounds, and the tension something fucking fierce. Every character is wonderfully realized, from the AB badass Lipscomb to Charlie Colquitt’s one-eyed Schnapp’s-slurping nurse mom, all of them both complex and recognizable. Dude’s also got a way with violence that’ll make saddlebags appear on your shirt all the way down your waist.
All this beautiful craft eventually leads to a hugely exciting climax followed by a denouement that’s one of the best I’ve read in a long, long time, the final pages casting another light on the whole story and putting a real fucking hurt on your heart while making you wish you could discuss it with a friend right fucking now. So though some blue-hair in a cat sweater might try and talk to you about fellowship when she spies the cover of your copy of Last Call for the Living at a coffee shop (you can try and steer the convo towards the bedroom but I can’t say as I’d recommend it much), I fucking implore you to pick up this scalding piece of badassery in sheep’s clothing toot-fucking-sweet.