Marcus Parks, Henry Zebrowski, and Ben Kissel of The Last Podcast on the Left, the long-running, make-you-laugh-til-you-cry comedy podcast covering stories of crime, the macabre and supernatural, conspiracy theories, alien abductions, high strangeness and general weirdness, have released their first book.
It’s a compilation of serial killer histories with goofy peanut gallery-type commentary and some inside jokes that will delight longtime listeners. But I was a little disappointed that none of the topics covered here were new.
I think this is a problem with podcasts that become mega-popular, with a book seeming an inevitable next step. It was especially inevitable for them, since their storytelling is so thoroughly researched and informative. But what’s new to say that needs a book to say it? It’s fine if they record it for the audio version and it has all the magic of one of their regular podcasts, but am I missing the point in thinking that there should be more to it than that? Of course fans are always clamoring for more content, but it does seem to be difficult to find the right way of delivering that. Similar to the My Favorite Murder book, I just don’t think this was necessarily the right vehicle. It’s a kink that it seems podcasters are having a little trouble working out.
It truly pains me to say that, because I find these guys endlessly entertaining, irreverent, and I’ve learned way more from them than I ever expected to from a podcast that makes so many dirty jokes. Not to mention the bad days they’ve lightened up. I adore them. But the book just didn’t bring anything new to the table.
It’ll appeal to fans of the podcast content anyway as it covers several of their “heavy hitters” — (the Night Stalker) Richard Ramirez, Jeffrey Dahmer, BTK, Son of Sam, Ted Bundy, Ed Gein, John Wayne Gacy, and Andrei Chikatilo. If you’re interested in reading about any of these, there’s no reason you won’t enjoy it and learn something.
Each of these creepers gets his own chapter, written in the clear, serious tone Marcus takes in narrating a story, with sidebars from Ben and Henry offering their commentary and barbs. Basically just how a podcast episode plays out. These work as little condensed histories, but I remembered them already from their podcast episodes, which felt more entertaining.
It did have some jokes from the sideline segments that were absolutely hilarious, and it has that general feeling of being well done that these guys bring to everything they do. They’re not known for doing anything half-assed and this is no exception. So despite my complaints, it’s still entertaining and I don’t mind spending time with them in whatever form I can get it. I read this in a day on a weekend in bed with a bad cold (this was in early January, so pre-COVID terror times) and it was delightfully distracting and made me laugh and was all fine even though I wanted it to be something more.
It’s illustrated by artist Tom Neely, and the style will either appeal to you or not. I was a not, unfortunately, although he absolutely captured these eerie likenesses. My disappointments aside, I think a lot of big-time fans of the podcast will love it, and it’s certainly a worthwhile, well-written resource if you want an overview on any of the creepies covered here.
The Last Book on the Left: Stories of Murder and Mayhem from History’s Most Notorious Serial Killers
by Marcus Parks, Henry Zebrowski and Ben Kissel
published April 7, 2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
I received an advance copy courtesy of the publisher for unbiased review.