Saturday, February 22, 2014

Columbine by Dave Cullen book review

I believe that it was when the Red Lake school massacre happened that I first learned about Valeen Schnurr and her experience at Columbine. She was interviewed on TV as part of the coverage of the latest incident and her story both inspired me and made me want to know more about the Columbine shooting. Over the next days I dove into the net and among all sites I found Dave Cullen's the most informative. At some point, if he had not already, he announced an upcoming book and I waited probably years for it.  When it finally came out, I immediately snatched it.

Columbine, is the result of research based on interviews with the survivors, news reports, the official Columbine documents and more. As one can immediately tell it is well-researched and thought out. Although it is a five-parter I felt it more like it had just two distinct parts: a first one describing the eve of and the attack proper; and a second where we get set of alternating chapters in which Cullen contrasts the shooters' path to the attack with the unfolding aftermath of the massacre. The shooters' path draws heavily from their recovered journals and schoolwork to gain insight into their motivations, preparations leading to the shooting and mindsets.

The survivors path describes their way to healing . These chapters in a way have the survivor community, rise up to the tragedy and negate the harm done by the shooters. Case in point, the rallying of survivor Patrick Ireland.

For what appears to be a 'first' we get the inside story from the assailants, as the killers wanted us to know and took pains to leave a trail. In part, this scheme would later be followed by the perpetrator of the Virgina Tech shooting. Of all the major documents known to exist what we still have missing are the infamous basement tapes. Since these have officially not been released, we only get the snippets  that Time magazine managed to get access to years ago.

During his reconstruction of the events Cullen, takes his time to put to rest many, if not all, of the most pervasive  conspiracy theories and myths surrounding the shooting, such as the third shooter, the Trenchcoat Mafia and the bullied outsiders. The Bernall/Schnurr library incident is also thoroughly examined. Although there are a few inescapable blanks, Columbine results in a solid coherent account.

When I finally got my hands on this book, I finished in about a week and it answered all my questions and more. Totally recommended.

5 stars


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