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Oxygen Book Club Pick 'Last Call' Examines A Serial Killer Who Preyed On Gay Men
As the inaugural book in the Oxygen Book Club, "Last Call" by Elon Green focuses on the victims of a serial killer who preyed on gay men in 1980s New York.
Journalist Elon Green's "Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder In Queer New York" opens with a particular harrowing scene: In May 1991, sanitation workers on the Pennsylvania turnpike discover the bloody remains of a 54-year-old Peter Stickney Anderson. Spread throughout multiple garbage bags, his body was covered with stab wounds and his penis had been shoved into his mouth.
Anderson, like most of The Last Call Killer's victims, were LGBTQ and often closeted. As homophobia and panic around the AIDs epidemic permeated the media, these men led secret lives but found solace and joy in New York's piano bars and cabarets – places that became a hunting ground. For nearly a decade these murders went unsolved. In 2000, fingerprints led investigators to Richard Rogers, a nurse who lived on Staten Island. Rogers was convicted of two murders and credibly connected to two more, but investigators believe that it's likely he killed more. He's currently serving two consecutive life sentences in prison.
Oxygen.com correspondent Stephanie Gomulka spoke with Green in the kickoff to Oxygen Book Club, which will discuss books in the true crime sphere, featuring exclusive interviews, guided discussions, and more. Gomulka and Green talked about the difficulties of writing a book about a serial killer while keeping the focus on the victims.
Green says that the original impetus for writing the book came from his discovery that there was almost no information about the killings beyond the contemporaneous news coverage. But his focus soon shifted to the lives of his victims and the realization that he had "an opportunity to tell all of these aspects of what it meant to be a gay man of that generation."
And while there was little in the last 20 years about the crimes, Green found family members and friends willing and eager to discuss the lives of the victims: Thomas Mulcahy, Peter Anderson, and Michael Sakara. The major challenge was finding out more about Anthony Marrero, who was a sex worker, and whose family Green was unable to find.
And while Green acknowledges that homophobia played a large role in how long it took to solve the murders, he also points to a lack of communication between jurisdictional police districts, and lack of access to forensic technologies that exist today.
For more about "Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder" watch our interview with Elon Green and read the book that the New York Times called a "terrific, harrowing, true-crime account of an elusive serial killer."