on 14 September 2009
What a brilliantly written book.
Reads like a novel and is so readable, which to me is highly unsual for "True Crime" books.
I came away from this book amazed and saddened for ALL involved. Yes even Dylan and Eric. So sad..
Being from the UK I had not heard al lot of the "myths" surrounding the whys and wherefores of this tradegy.
What I was more horrified about was the reaction of the religeous community, which in the USA I found really really scary anyway!!
If you are intrested in this story, this is the best.
on 9 October 2009
I was looking forward to reading this book and I wasn't let down when I got round to buying it. A vivid and thoroughly researched account of the Columbine Massacre which I think nothing else before or after has come close to rivaling.
However, there are two small points which I'd like to pick up on that I did not think the authour addressed:
Firstly, I read or heard from other sources that Wayne Harris (Eric Harris' father) phoned 911 during the massacre to express his cocern that he believed his son was involved. Yet there is no mention in the book about this. In fact it claims that Tom Klebold (Dylan Klebolds' father) had rang 911 during the massacre. I wonder if anyone could explain this discrepancy.
Secondly, I was surprised that after so much research and vivid retelling of numerous connecting storylines to the massacre, the library massacre wasn't recreated in much detail. There were scenes from the library which were certainly very harrowing and remarkable which were mentioned in the book, such as Patrick Ireland's incredible escape through the window, or Emily Wyant's account of the Cassie Bernall incident. Yet there were other important moments which were worth a mention, such as one student who escaped with the killers permission because they knew him. (John Savage I think his name was)
Overall, despite these two minor omissions, the book is compelling and extremely detailed. If you are interested in true crime stories or just the columbine massacre this book is a must have. Even for those who know nothing about columbine it serves as a dramatic story to a community that was left shattered by such a catastrophic event.
on 11 November 2009
The first thing Dave Cullen's book does is debunk the myths that have surrounded the Columbine shootings. No, it had nothing to do with Marilyn Manson, the so-called 'Trenchcoat Mafia' thing was irrelevant, no, these were not boys who were relentlessly bullied and just snapped.
The book is harrowing not just because of what happened but how it happened. How they planned it in much greater detail than just a shooting, how they could go to their school prom on the Saturday and carry out the massacre on a Tuesday, and how, because of their behaviour and certain incidents, it might have been stopped. The psyschological evaluation of Eric Harris, in particular, is fascinating. I won't spoil it but the book makes more sense of this tragedy than any lurid TV report or tabloid crap about goths or loners.
There's such an element of sadness too. Eric and Dylan and two young boys who probably should never have met but it's the victims and the famlies of the victims who paid for their relationship. Cullen's reportage is excellent, he's not afraid to show people as they really are. That goes for the killers and some victim's family members who he is not afraid to paint in, not so much a bad light, as their true colours.
Columbine was an event that defined an era, this is the book that defines the event. Brilliant.
on 14 April 2009
It's hard to believe the Columbine shooting happened 10 years ago. I have always been interested by it - such an unusual, atypical scenario, and wanted to find out more. This book goes into great detail of the lives of the 2 shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold in the year before the event. They left so much material - journals, videos etc. that the author can establish clear timelines of their thought process and reasons for decisions they made. It raises the fact that this was never supposed to be a regular school shooting, but a massive bombing attack that went wrong. It goes into the reactions and emotions of the town (and especially the surviving students) following the attack, and how they have moved forward from it.
on 3 November 2012
Having read loads on this subject, I was left disappointed with this. Its claim that it dispels myths of Columbine are only true on a superficial level, e g Eric and Dylan were indeed not part of the trenchcoat mafia and the attack was not prompted by any sort of music. However the assertion that Eric was a popular ladies man and that the pair were not bullied and low down on the social spectrum is not corroborated by any other book i've read, on the contrary the opposite picture emerges. Also the authors contention that the attack was an exercise in pure psychopathic egotism, with a depressed Dylan following like an obedient puppy dog, does not ring true on the basis of other material I've read. For a more realistic appraisal of this tragedy I would recommend Philip Larkins 'Comprehending Columbine' which looks at and merges both sociological and psychological factors, while Dave Cullen writes a fiction style type book to progress his purely psychological account and theory to the detriment of a rounded picture.
on 21 October 2009
After almost ten years covering the case, Cullen's book about Columbine shows the work of a dedicated and thoughtful journalist. It's meticulous in detail, challenging or corroborating even the smallest facets of the massacre.
The result is a chilling and often horrific read. Notably, the latter half of the book alternates between a reconstruction of Eric Harris and Dylan Kleebold's thoughts and activities during the preceding year, and the struggles of the survivors and grieving community to move on in the years after the massacre. For a reader, it creates a sensation like taking a shaky step forward, then being kicked backwards. Is it an effective structure? Maybe, but it makes a disturbing account feel even more harrowing.
As a book about psychopathy, depression and so-called killing 'dyads', it's fascinating. As a book that cuts through the rumours and myths surrounding Columbine, it's an undeniably important document. But is it a book I ever want to read again? No.
on 27 May 2009
I saw the images and read the reports in aftermath of the massacre in 1999. Like most I accepted the version of events depicted during that initial period of reporting and moved on. Cullen's version of events, clearly painstakingly researched over a ten year period, is far scarier and more shocking than the established norm.
This is an outstanding read. It is well paced and covers pretty much every possible aspect - from the killers childhoods, the build up to the day, the day itself, the grief, the lawsuits, the law enforcements failings and the blame game.
The most startling revelation was that the original plan was a three part act - i) blowing up the cafeteria ii) picking off survivors as they tried to escape iii) blowing their cars up and taking out police, paramedics, press outside the school. Harris and Klebold left so much information behind in the form of journals and the basement tapes that Cullen is able to identify their characters - Harris was a psychopath while Klebold was suicidal. Cullen portrays Klebold in a more positive light than Harris and whilst it is clear that Harris was the leader, I can't help but get the impression that Klebold is portrayed more positively simply because his parents were (slightly) more approachable in the aftermath.
I don't aportion blame to the parents. After reflecting on the book I came to the conclusion that the blame for the massacre ultimately lay at the hands of the two perpetrators - a point Harris himself lay bare in his journal and the tapes when he said bad things come from good wombs.
If you have anything resembling a partial interest in this subject matter, I cannot recommend this highly enough.
'Columbine' is the fruit of journalist Dave Cullen's ten years of research into the 1999 massacre of pupils at the school of that name in Jefferson County, Colorado, USA. It is a scrupulous account that manages to be involving without being sensationalist. Although Cullen's sympathies are with the victims and their surviving relatives, he draws their portraits fairly and without exaggeration. Similarly, he attempts to explain - if not to excuse - the behaviour of the two young men who killed twelve pupils and a teacher, wounded twenty-one others, and clearly intended to kill many more.
The story of the Columbine shootings is a complex one, and Cullen deliberately adopts a complex structure. His account moves backwards and forwards in time, changing viewpoints, offering 'facts' that were widely believed in the immediate aftermath, only to show how those 'facts' emerged - and how the truth was unearthed in some cases only after years had elapsed. He shows how the shockwaves from the immediate events radiated outwards to engulf people who were not physically present, and to affect their lives profoundly and in some cases permanently.
The most useful aspect of Cullen's book is the steady way in which he dismantles the myths - many of them still common currency - that sprang up around the massacre primarily as a result of the confusion of the first few hours, and secondarily as a result of the desperate need of the community to find a narrative to explain what had happened. Cullen is excellent on the role of the media, and the way in which media accounts and witness accounts fed on each other. He is fair, but unsparing concerning the shortcomings of the police investigation and the way in which the police's self-serving version of events was slowly unravelled by the parents of the dead and by the media.
On the killers themselves Cullen says everything that can be said in the absence of interview material, bringing the two to life and allowing the reader to glimpse their motivations without indulging in unsustainable speculation. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold committed suicide at the end of their rampage, but left an almost unprecedented quantity of personal documentation in the form of diaries and video tapes. Cullen deals with this material well, but naturally has some trouble getting past the continued refusal of the killers' parents to speak to the media - and the sheer enormity of the acts the killers committed and attempted to commit, for which reason alone struggles to account.
Nonetheless, this is as close to a definitive account of the events at Columbine as anybody is likely to achieve. For British readers, one of the curious aspects of this account will be the sidelight that Cullen sheds on the community from which the killers sprang, and which in the aftermath of their actions had to struggle to find a way through a tragedy that mocked most of its beliefs and values. In particular, we see the way in which powerful, pervasive religious beliefs worked both for and against the people of Columbine. Cullen also shows how much depended on a legal and policing framework that seem in retrospect almost designed to facilitate the commission of crimes of this type - and then to obstruct the pursuit of truth.
As Cullen points out, in the ten years since Columbine there have been eighty school shootings in the United States alone. This is a solid, serious account that raises disquieting questions.
on 5 June 2014
to be honest, i have read the book before i bought it on amazon (i borrowed it from the library) but i wanted to have a clean copy by my side.
'columbine' is an insight into the massacre that happened on 20th april 1999 that left 13 dead and around 2 dozen injured.
the book also illustrates quite vividly, the recovery process of one of the more severely injured victims, presumably because the author contacted him
after the second read i still felt the gush of overwhelming sadness following the first time i read the book (2 years ago)
however i also noted that the sequence of the chapters could be quite jumbled up, sometimes going forwards and sometimes backwards, from different povs each time - the killers, the parents, the reverend etc
also, have read up the massacre on the internet, i found much of what was written in the book - or perhaps even more
to me it felt as if the author had lifted different accounts of what happened and fit it into a book - it does not feel as if it were a product of thorough research.
overall, it is an amazing read, but perhaps due to the lack of access to substantial evidence, i felt that it lacked the depth required for it to be a true documentary of what happened prior, during and after that fateful day.
on 8 May 2011
I'd watched a few TV documentaries on Columbine and did a lot of internet research, out of interest in the event. I found on a lot of discussion boards that the book people seemed to refer to the most was 'Columbine' by Dave Cullen. I ordered myself a copy on the 27th April and I've just finished it tonight (8th May) and I must say I wasn't disappointed.
This book is brilliantly researched, shows it from all sides, the family of the victims, the injured, the parents of Klebold and Harris as well as Eric and Dylan themselves. A thoughroughly fascinating book, I could not put it down and it's a very deep insightful read who I would recommend to anyone in a heartbeat.
It's a horrific story, and stirs up so many emotions when you read it. Even feeling extreme sympathy for Dylan Klebold. Anyone with even the slightest interest in Columbine should not hestitate to buy this book. I loved it, apart from Cullen writing Cheque as 'Check' I'm not sure if it was a Grammatical Error or just an Americanism, but regardless. One of the best books I have ever read. Ever. Brilliant job, Dave Cullen :) :D