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Showing 1-10 of 29 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 52 reviews
on April 24, 2016
This is not a “A True Crime Story” about columbine. Nor does it have many answers since it is mostly of it is copied from raw data in the massive ( 2 giga byte in PDF) “Sheriff’s Office Final Report on the Columbine High School shootings!”. I expected more from a local columbine journalist who could have addressed many tough questions but the book side steps or fails to mention any controversial disparities in the evidence and eyewitness interviews (that are also in the final report). He stays on the 2 lonely sad evil killer path, then villainises police investigators, parents of the killers/victims families, and the school as incompetent or foolish. Some of his background history on the families involved is good, but did not add much of to the overall picture of what happened.
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)
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on May 1, 2009
I read this and the Cullen book at the same time. They're both good. This one has more facts. If you're a mental health professional or a teacher I think this is more informative.
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.
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on September 29, 2014
A book with insights on the killers, the families and the victims and the thoughts and lives leading up the fateful day. This book gives you more insight into what was going on in their heads and their backgrounds, and everything in between. A good if not well researched read.
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on December 12, 2009
Kass' Columbine book was released in the wake the tenth anniversary of the tragedy along with another from a fellow reporter. Compared to Cullen's "Columbine" which I read prior, "A True Crime Story" lacks the narrative storytelling, but it is hardcore investigative journalism. He fully exposes the incompetence and mistakes in the authorities' response to the shooting as well as the ongoing investigation.

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.
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on December 28, 2012
I don't pay much attention to Amazon and rarely rate anything but this book is a work I completely respect. After Columbine, people were shocked and initially fascinated by Harris and Klebold but a few weeks later (and this always happens) people lost interest. The Littleton community had to make sense of it all. This story stuck with Kass and he put in the real effort to report the truth. I enjoyed reading Cullen's book and it was sad but Kass's was gritty in that it was very real and envoked a real emotion in me.

I say that because it wasn't a far reaching book based on rumor (even the victims have said this) like Cullen's and shows a real sadness in human nature in relation to this tragedy. It shows how a negligent community dropped the ball, stopped looking out for each other when two teens lashed out for over a year and how the parents were left to be the brunt of blame

It also shows a frustrated journalist trying to help us better understand what is always a fixable situation getting the run around when he wants to report and back up facts that no one will give him access to. He truly shows a compassionate side that we rarely see with these shooters but need to know about to correctly address an ongoing problem. I'd recommend this book to anyone that wants to know more about real journalism, how high school in suburban areas where everyone knows each other are great places for this madness to fester and the Columbine tragedy. I was stunned at how much this book bothered me but that's what brings on a change in mindset. Bravo for this!
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on January 16, 2012
I am following with yet another review on books written primarily on the Columbine High School Massacre. While Ralph Larkin and his "Comprehending Columbine" allowed readers to delve into the minds of the two perpetrators, Jeff Kass presents his findings and discoveries of the incident in "Columbine: A True Crime Story", with much success.

Written over a period of ten years, as was Dave Cullen's "Columbine", the material found within these pages is not only an eye-opener, but leaves many with a greater understanding of how the public was kept out of the light when pertaining to the situation, through lack of contact with the parents of Eric and Dylan, the Jeffco police's cover-up of their own negligence, and the media blunders that took place. While not a narrative, this book offers something else: a keen sense of knowing. You will be hard pressed to question much of what is offered, as it is thorough, precise, and in-depth.

As I mentioned in the previous review of Ralph Larkin's product, the opening here is straight up, allowing the person to envision their own being experiencing the shooting as it unfolds. While not as clear (due to confusion on part with lack of exact detail available to the public, purposefully or not), Kass admits that the only way to bring about these much needed asnwers is to dig them up and analyzing them thoroughly, in order to find a clearer picture. While examining the evidence, Mr. Kass explores the mostly unknown childhood of the killers, their parents, even as far back as to detail their own lineage. How does this work? I will not spoil the overwhelmingly useful facts, but hint at such being that of how eerily these families resembled one another, which begs to ask if maybe the social factors that played into the massacre were around early on, that these retaliations, however delusional, would have occured WAY before April 20th, 1999, if they hadn't already. That alone is reason to purchase, or at least give this eye-opener a read.

Do not look for a smooth read, however. This is due in part to the writer simply publishing grotesque events, not sugercoated in the slightest. This is NOT a novel. It is an essay, and an informative one at that. As long as you accept that, then you will take a lot from this book. A most well meaning look into the horror that unfolded and continues to haunt us, and only by doing so can accept and find concilliation.
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on July 8, 2012
I've read this book and the Cullen book. Cullen is a much better writer, and manages to keep himself out of the narrative in a more professional way than Kass does. This book was poorly written, poorly organized, and so chock- full of errors as to be distracting to this English major. Kass also editorialized in very inappropriate ways throughout the book. Kind of a sloppy piece of work. It doesn't add much to my understanding of Columbine, nor of the two disturbed teens who carried out the crime. Stick to Cullen's book.
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on August 24, 2012
I bought this book after reading a few fiction books about school shootings and disturbed teenagers; I decided to read a nonfiction book on the subject, and chose this particular book because reviews indicated it was more fact-based than other Columbine books. I was in 8th grade when Columbine happened, and as a result don't remember a lot of the coverage from it, so I was really looking forward to getting a comprehensive look at what happened that day, how the investigation afterwards went and what happened beforehand that led up to this tragedy. Unfortunately I came away disappointed.

It's obvious that Kass is a reporter and not an author of books; the entire book reads as a super-long newspaper article that's poorly organized and lacking cohesiveness. As others have pointed out, there's no index, so it's next to impossible to keep track of all the characters involved, especially in law enforcement. Kass writes about people in this book the same way reporters do in articles: mentioning the full name once, then referring to them mainly by first or last name only from then on. It works in newspaper articles where it's easy to reference back, but it's a mess in a book. The entire book is sloppy and awkward in organization, wording and grammar. Here are two actual sentences from the book to illustrate:

"At federal court in downtown Detroit the city is gray in both color and character." (WTF does that mean?)

"Philip Duran, who introduced Eric and Dylan to Manes, pleaded guilty to the same charges as Duran and got four and a half years." (He pled guilty to the same charges as...himself? Hmmm. Also, just personal opinion here but...even though the word "pleaded" is formally correct, it's a stupid word. Pled is better.)

Kass also begins thoughts, but doesn't finish them. For example, early in the book we're told that Dave Sanders' death was one of the most controversial, and later on it's mentioned in a random paragraph that his daughter got a much larger settlement than other victims' families because of "different circumstances". Yet we're never given details about exactly what the controversy is and what the different circumstances are. Instead, he spends a big chunk of the book telling us all about one victim's family: the Shoels. There's virtually no discussion of any other victims' families; it felt like Kass had a personal problem with the Shoels and decided to focus on them to settle the score.

In fact, the whole book feels that way. Kass focuses on random things that he has chosen to care about, tells you all about open records requests he was personally involved in, but never fleshes out a complete unbiased story. It's just bits and pieces scattered all over the place; it left me feeling confused. The whole book felt like a egocentric blame-fest: Kass telling us what a noble crusader for information he is (down to hunting down neighbors of one of the killers' grandparents--how annoying!) and what information hoarders various government agencies are, families falling all over themselves to sue each other and law enforcement officials (who all settled for $ rather than push through to a trial), blah blah. There was so much focus on the minutiae and not enough focus on the big picture and what to do next.

There were so many extraneous details (a chapter devoted to the flippin history of Colorado, family histories of the Harrises and Klebolds that stretch back generations but add nothing to the story at hand, pages and pages devoted to the lawyers who represented some family members afterwards, etc) AND a lack of details I actually cared about (the controversy of Dave Sanders, broader focus on the victims and their families, details of police/paramedic response, survivors' opinions on what was behind the shootings, what can be done better next time, etc). And finally, the book had no conclusion. It just kind of...ended.

Indeed, Kass says he's writing the book to tell us the story of Columbine and figure out how to prevent or stop school shootings, but he never offers any concrete conclusions about how Columbine specifically or school shootings in general can be prevented. What, exactly, does he think should have been done? Yes, Harris and Klebold wrote some scary things and did some weird stuff leading up to Columbine, but what should anyone have done about it? Kass seems to blame law enforcement for missing some red flags prior to the shooting, but he also says that the diversion program the killers were in a year before the shootings only served to fuel their fire, so what type of intervention might have worked? That information was sorely lacking. Again, just lots of blame but no suggestions for how to fix it.

That's probably because the answer to how to stop school shootings is: you can't. There's much to be gained by investigating, but sometimes you have to accept that not all bad things are preventable. Sometimes bad things just happen. We should still investigate what could've been done different leading up to and in response to the crisis, but the notion that you can somehow compile a profile of school shooters and use it to magically eradicate school shootings just isn't realistic. But getting back to the book, my problem is not that Kass didn't come to the same conclusion as me: my problem is that he didn't have a conclusion at all.

I threw him an extra star for all the research that obviously went in to this book, and for the portions that I did find to be interesting, but for the most part I felt that this book was a waste of my time. I feel only slightly more informed about Columbine having read it, and I think I could've become equally informed by just reading the Wikipedia page.
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on June 24, 2009
This is the third book on Columbine I've read in the past few months, following both Dave Cullen's and Brooks Brown's. I think I'm done now.

Kass's book, while not a page-turner like Cullen's, is really quite good, and packed with facts that you won't find in any other Columbine book. Kass interviews a lot of the people who were close to Harris and Klebold, as well as many of the investigators. He even spoke to the parents of the killers briefly (and sent them letters), in an attempt to get them to talk. He speaks of their hypocrisy in wishing to figure out what caused the shooting, yet being totally unwilling to open up to investigators.

The book itself is stuffed to the brim with facts that were not found in either Brown's or Cullen's book. I think anyone wanting to get a good overview of what happened at Columbine would do well to read all three of these books. At this point, I think we know all there is to know until the Sheriff's department releases the Basement Tapes or other information they are keeping secret. (Kass has no love for the police department and their vast cover-up of evidence, and neither do I. It's amazing to me that they tried to shift blame for their own mistakes and refused to release evidence time and time again.)

The only thing I disliked about this book was that it inexplicably does not include an index in the end. For a supposedly more scholarly book to not have an index is baffling.
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on January 20, 2013
I think this book is a worthwhile read. Having said that, I was bothered by numerous spelling and grammatical errors, as well as poor sentence structure. The back cover suggests that this work is a "masterpiece" on the order of "The Executioner's Song" or "In Cold Blood." Please. It's not in the ballpark of those other books, and whoever wrote that needs a reality check. However, Mr. Kass has put a lot of effort into researching the Columbine massacre, and deserves his platform.
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