The Last Book on the Left: Stories of Murder and Mayhem from History’s Most Notorious Serial Killers (Amazon / Book Depository)
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.
This reminds me of reviews I saw of The Sawbones Book – I love that podcast (though have been skipping episodes lately because they are all about the current situation and don’t have the same humour as when they explore medical history), and I was planning to get the book, but the reviews were indifferent and said that it was mostly the same material as the podcast. It sounds like the transition between media is pretty difficult for a lot of podcast hosts. It’s a shame, as storytelling podcasts definitely have the right ingredients for a successful book.
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I haven’t listened to the Sawbones podcast but just looked it up, that sounds fascinating! I’m adding it to my library, thanks for the introduction to that one. Although a shame that their book hit the same kind of snags. It is a really difficult transition, it seems. There should be something to set it apart or make it unique in a different medium, otherwise it feels like what was the point of it all? I guess that was the artwork here but if you don’t particularly like it, then it’s a bit of a bust. I had high hopes for this one just because of how much effort these guys clearly put into everything they do, but these were basically podcast episodes in printed format and not as funny as those end up being. I guess it’s fine if you’re really interested in the specific content but seemed an odd choice to me instead of exploring some new angle.
Funnily enough, the art style was the one thing that made me consider looking into this one. I love that Tales from the Crypt-esque style and it seems like an interesting choice of mashing humor with mayhem. However, I didn’t pick it up because I’m not familiar with the podcast. And knowing that this is basically a rehash of episodes, I’m inclined to just go listen to it because it does sound like something I’d like. Kind of odd—if you’re like me and don’t know the show, you might not be inclined to read it, and if you are a fan, there’s not much that’s drastically different.
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It is very Tales from the Crypt-y! I do like that style at times but I dunno, it just didn’t do anything for me here. If you like it you should appreciate the book even more because there’s a lot of artwork.
You made me consider this from a different angle, maybe that’s what it’s good for — getting others interested in the show who wouldn’t have come across it another way. That actually makes me feel much more positive about it, so I’m glad you told me that! 🙂 Definitely give their show a listen, they’re extremely irreverent and not too politically correct (especially in the early years, so be prepared!) but really, once they grow on you they’re wonderful. I’ve been relistening to old episodes to stay cheerful in recent days and it’s helping a lot. Hope you’re doing well, by the way!
I’ve made the leap and have a few episodes queued up on Spotify. Thanks for giving me the push. Now I just need to find the time to listen to them! Not that I don’t have added free time with everything going on, but I’ve been demolishing my TBR pile for the past few weeks. On the one hand, yay, because I can finally get rid of these towers of books. On the other hand, I’ve pretty much avoided doing anything else, and they’d all make for terrible reviews because they’re political—and who needs that stress? Anyway, this is a roundabout way of saying I’m doing well and hope you are, too.
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Oh that’s wonderful that you’ve been reading so much! And so funny that political books have been so appealing to you right now. You never know what’ll help, right? Actually they’re still completely worth focusing on and talking about, we’re in an election year, after all…but yeah, people do seem to only want sunnier distractions at the moment. I’ll be happy to hear about them when you get around to reviewing them! And very glad you’re doing well 🙂
Glad I could convince you to make the leap! with Last Podcast! Let me know what you think when you get around to it. I should warn you that they did take awhile to grow on me. I actually gave up and eventually came back to it, but it took some time.
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