Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Last Victim by Jason Moss (CBR-III #11)

Cannonball Read III: Book #11/52
Published: 2001
Pages: 320 (4,105 total so far)
Genre: True Crime

The Last Victim is about an 18-year-old college freshman named Jason Moss, who decides to take up a rather unique project for his senior thesis (apparently he likes to start early). He wants to form a relationship via letters with various infamous serial killers. Of course he uses different fake personas with each killer he writes, trying to write as someone he thinks they will want to form a bond with. I don't think Jason could imagine how deep this project would go or what damage it might do to his psyche.

The first (and main) killer that Jason formed a relationship with was John Wayne Gacy. It started with frequent letters, then bloomed into weekly phone calls and eventually to an ill-fated trip to the prison to meet Gacy face to face.

The book reads like a cross between The Silence of the Lambs and a true crime novel. It's a gripping read, especially when Jason meets Gacy face to face. Jason barely escapes with his life, although most of it is because of his own stupidity. The guy was pretty arrogant about the whole thing. I think he KNEW there was something fishy about the whole thing (Gacy paid for the entire trip plus bribed the guards into giving them "privacy" with minimal security precautions), but he decided it was worth it to try and get into Gacy's mind. He even goes back for a second meeting with Gacy after the first one went so terribly wrong.

Jason also wrote and received responses from Jeffery Dahmer, Charles Manson, and Richard Ramirez. The letters he got back were chilling, filled with violent drawings and sexually explicit prose. However, he never got as close to any of them as he did with Gacy.

The book included a preface from a professor of Jason's. He said that he pushed Jason to write about his personal and family life during this time instead of just focusing on the letters. Although Jason sometimes came across as an egotistical young man (he was only eighteen), it really fleshed the story out to hear how it affected him internally and with his family. He put his family in danger by giving out his home address and phone number to killers who could easily find outside people to do their dirty work. He almost lost his relationship with his brother due to the project as well.

Perhaps the worst part is learning that Jason Moss ended up committing suicide in 2006. In the book, he speaks about the nightmares and psychological damage that had occurred since he started the project. I guess he really did end up Gacy's "last victim".

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