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On 20th April 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold made their bid to leave 'a lasting impression on the world'. They drove to school, planted two huge bombs in the dining area, then positioned themselves outside the main entrance to pick off the fleeing teachers and students. The bombs failed, but the ensuing massacre defined a new brand of school violence - one that has started to cross the Atlantic. In the tradition of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and almost ten years in the making, Columbine is the definitive account of those terrible events. Cullen lays bare the callous brutality of mastermind Eric Harris, and the timid, suicidal Dylan Klebold, who had been to the prom just three days earlier and wrote obsessively about love in his journal. A close-up study of violence, grief and an all-consuming media frenzy, Columbine is above all a compelling, tragic and utterly human portrait of two young killers.


5.0 Stars5.0 Stars5.0 Stars5.0 Stars5.0 Stars  by Anne

Compelling reading

This is a fascinating description of an horrific act which has become a byword for spree killings at schools and colleges. The author describes exactly what happened and brings together all the information from various sources including interviews with some of those involved. Although he points to a few explanations and possible causes you won't finish this book with an understanding of exactly why these two young men did what they did - it does seem very much as though there is no real explanation because their motivation and thought processes are having to be reconstructed from what they left behind.

What happened at Columbine could have been much worse. The perpetrators actually planned to set off bombs that would have destroyed the whole school and all those within it. The fact that this failed meant that those who died were limited to those who were shot - that doesn't make it any better. The book works chronologically through the story and tells it through a number of eyes - mainly those where the author has had interview evidence. This does mean that he has had to choose which parts of the story to tell and naturally he has had to impose a narrative on the events so if you were studying this event you would need more sources but for the casual reader like myself it feels comprehensive and I certainly felt that I understood what had happened even if I didn't understand why. The author also mentions some shady work by law enforcement to hide what might have been inadequacies in the investigation as well as hinting about possible collusion from others which was never proved (I suspect he is being very careful here because of possible legal action taken against him).

I can't say that I enjoyed this book but I found it compelling reading. Following through the series of events building up to the massacre and then its aftermath made the book easy to grasp and I thought that the author did a good job of showing us where the evidence came from for his view on events. For a British reader the thing which is hardest to grasp here is how these young men could have had access to to firearms and explosives so easily and why gun control is so opposed in the USA following this sort of event. For me, I found this a horrifying insight into actions that I don't think I will ever understand.

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