- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Ghost Road Press; First edition (March 25, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0981652565
- ISBN-13: 978-0981652566
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 53 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,205,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Columbine: A True Crime Story, a Victim, the Killers and the Nation's Search for Answers Paperback – March 25, 2009
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"On Nov. 21, 2008, the Harris and Klebold parents were sent the same letter requesting cooperation. "Your stories have yet to be fully told, and I view your help as an issue of historical significance," it said. "In 10 years, there have been no major, mainstream books on Columbine. This will be the first, and it may be the only one." The letter came not from Mr. Cullen but from Jeff Kass, whose Columbine: A True Crime Story, published by the small Ghost Road Press, preceded Columbine by a couple of weeks.
"Mr. Kass, whose tough account is made even sadder by the demise of The Rocky Mountain News in which his Columbine coverage appeared, has also delivered an intensive Columbine overview. Some of the issues he raises and information he digs up go unnoticed by Mr. Cullen." ----Janet Maslin, New York Times
"What was it about Columbine? Of all the school shootings over the past two decades, it's the one that festers, an ugly wound that won't heal... Kass' book... [a] straightforward chilling account of what happened...." --USA --USA TODAY
"A decade after the most dramatic school massacre in American history, Jeff Kass applies his considerable reporting talents to exploring the mystery of how two teens could have planned and carried out such gruesome acts without their own family and best friends knowing about it. Actually, there were important clues, but they were missed or downgraded both by those who knew the boys best and by public officials who came in contact with them. An engrossing and cautionary tale for everyone who cares about how to prevent kids from going bad." -------Ted Gest, President, Criminal Justice Journalists<br /><br />
"What was it about Columbine? Of all the school shootings over the past two decades, it's the one that festers, an ugly wound that won't heal... Kass' book... [a] straightforward chilling account of what happened...."
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Kass' coverage is broad, from the event itself, to the events preceding, the investigation, lives of victim's families in the ten years hence, etc. Occasionally the digression into loosely related topics takes the book off-balance, but generally most of the material is relevant.
The text includes very interesting drawings and notes from the killers' journals as well as multiple photographs from news coverage, end notes on sources, and various letters to the killers' parents and government officials soliciting assistance for additional information. Despite the otherwise fine journalistic effort, there was no index and there were numerous grammatical errors (although many from direct quoting of source texts).
This is a sad, depressing recap of death, incompetence and ruined lives. Like a car wreck on the highway, the reader is drawn to the carnage and suffering. It's difficult to put down while in the midst of reading, but you are glad to be done with it once you have finished.
The background info in Dave Cullen's book was much better.
In short I would call this fluff reporting. You would be better off skim reading the official and massive "Sheriff’s Office Final Report on the Columbine High School shooting" for yourself and/or seeing the Even Long film “the columbine cause”. Even Long looked at the tough questions and inconsistencies the detectives uncovered when taking eyewitness statements hours after the shootings from people yard away from shooters… they are eye brow raising interesting. . (The film “the columbine cause” is free on line, it was also out in book form that is now out print). (the governors review has no investigator reports or raw data. it is not as complete as the sheriff's final report)
Both writers have been compared, at least by their publishers, to Truman Capote (the New York Times reviewer said "which book, Breakfast at Tiffany's?"). A major difference is that "In Cold Blood" simply set out to tell a story, whereas these books try to point the finger of blame. Capote also had the unfair advantage of being a genius.
We read these books looking for some way it could have been prevented, and some way to stop it happening again. We hope for some DSM diagnosis or FBI profile that will label the killers. Maybe we are trying to undo the past. The books suggest that some of the precautions we take now would not have forestalled Columbine. For example metal detectors would have been useless because Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold started the killing from outside the school, at the top of an outside staircase, and then shot their way in.
Adolescent suicide is notoriously difficult to predict. Neither killer fitted the usual profile for adolescent murderers. They were white and middle class, with high academic achievements, church affiliations, and even the stay-at-home mothers and disciplinarian fathers that are supposed to be such a panacea against crime. The failure to follow up on Guerra's affidavit requesting a warrant to search Harris's house was the most egregious failure. Both books emphasize the lies and cover-up by the Jeffco sheriff's department.
This book lacks an index, which is annoying when there are so many characters to keep track of. It is illustrated with drawings and handwriting done by Klebold and Harris and with photographs. It has a soft cover that curls back if you leave the book lying flat and opened. The Cullen book is more elegantly written and produced. It is a smoother and more readable narrative. There are no illustrations. Kass jumps about and describes his research methods in great detail.
Kass has dug more diligently and uncovered a lot more facts than Cullen. For example he ascertained that Sue Klebold had been a pupil of Hugh Missildine, the author of "Your Inner child of the Past" and uncovered a case report by Missildine that seems to be about her. Cullen erroneously describes Kevin Albert as a psychiatrist. Kass says that he is a psychologist, and that the psychotropic medications were being prescribed by a family doctor. Cullen erroneously says that Luvox was taken off the market. It remains a popular drug and can be prescribed now under its generic name of fluvoxamine. Such errors reduce my faith in Cullen.