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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Columbine. Dave Cullen. Old Street Publishing (2009)


On the 20th of April 1999 Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold attempted to blow up Columbine High School, Colorado, they were positioned in the car park to pick off the survivors escaping from the blast, the bombs failed to go, they entered the school and killed 13 people, severely injured more before committing suicide. This serious and riveting book by Dave Cullen examines the path up to the killings and the long lasting aftershocks. The book exposes the myths that have sprung up around the killers and their motives, the myths arose from both the need to have an understandable and acceptable explanation as much as from the need for the media to have a hook for the stories they were providing. The most serious myths are concerned with the idea that this was a "school shooting" the explanation had to be intrinsically involved with school life, that this was a bloody tale of vengeance by outsiders on those who bullied them, that the killers targeted jocks, that there was a "Trench Coat Mafia".
Eric Harris in particular went to considerable trouble to explain why he was going to do what he did, it was because he wanted to kill a lot of people to enjoy the power and display his superiority and contempt for everyone else on the planet. His aim was to exceed the death toll from the bombing carried out by Timothy McViegh in Oklahoma City. Dylan Klebold was a utterly angry and depressed person who contemplated suicide as the release from his frustration with his life. The book takes in a wide scope, it looks at the lives of all those who were involved in the massacre and follows the aftershocks and reconstructions with care and compassion and probably brings us a close it it is possible to the the reasons why the rampage took place. It is a serious, very well written book which in spite of its subject matter is a pleasure to read.

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