By Dave Cullen
Twelve, Hardcover, 9780446546935, 417pp.
Publication Date: April 6, 2009
New York Times: One of the 100 Notable Books of the Year
Los Angeles Times: Favorite Nonfiction of the Year
Publishers Weekly: Nonfiction Best Book of the Year
Chicago Tribune: Favorite Nonfiction of the Year
Salon.com: Nonfiction Best Book of the Year
On April 20, 1999, two boys went to their high school with bombs and guns. Their goal was to leave "a lasting impression on the world." The horror they inflicted left an indelible stamp on the American psyche.
Now in this definitive account, Dave Cullen presents a compelling and utterly human profile of teenage killers. With a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen, he draws on hundreds of interviews, thousands of pages of police files, FBI psychologists, and the boys' tapes and diaries. This close-up portrait of violence, a community rendered helpless, and police blunders and cover-ups is an unforgettable cautionary tale for our time. In the tradition of "Helter Skelter" and "In Cold Blood," COLUMBINE is a revelatory work destined to be a classic.
"In this remarkable account of the April 20, 1999, Columbine High School shooting, journalist Cullen not only dispels several of the prevailing myths about the event but tackles the hardest question of all: why did it happen? Drawing on extensive interviews, police reports and his own reporting, Cullen meticulously pieces together what happened when 18-year-old Eric Harris and 17-year-old Dylan Klebold killed 13 people before turning their guns on themselves.... Cullen expertly balances the psychological analysis-enhanced by several of the nation's leading experts on psychopathology-with an examination of the shooting's effects on survivors, victims' families and the Columbine community. Readers will come away from Cullen's unflinching account with a deeper understanding of what drove these boys to kill, even if the answers aren't easy to stomach."
-Publishers Weekly, Starred Reivew
"Comprehensive...It's a book that hits you like a crime scene photo, a reminder of what journalism at its best is all about. Cullen knows his material from the inside; he covered Columbine, for Salon and Slate primarily, 'beginning around noon on the day of the attack.' But if this gives him a certain purchase on the story, his perspective is what resonates."
"Cullen's book is a nerve-wracking, methodical and panoramic account...COLUMBINE has its terrifying sections, particularly during Cullen's minute-by-minute rendering of the chaotic 49-minute assault. He puts us inside and outside the building, and he captures the disbelief viewers experienced in 'almost witnessing mass murder' live on television."
-Cleveland Plain Dealer
"A chilling page-turner, a striking accomplishment given that Cullen's likely readers almost certainly know how the tragic story ends...I knew Cullen was a dogged reporter and a terrific writer, but even I was blown away by the pacing and story-telling he mastered in Columbine, a disturbing, inspiring work of art."
"Comprehensively nightmarish . . . Cullen's task is difficult not only because the events in question are almost literally unspeakable but also because even as he tells the story of a massacre that took the lives of 15 people, including the killers, he has to untell the stories that have already been told . . . Should this story be told at all? There's an element of sick, voyeuristic fascination to it--we don't need an exercise in disaster porn. But Columbine is a necessary book. . . . The actual events of April 20, 1999, are exactly as appalling as you'd expect, and Cullen doesn't spare us a second of them."
"The definitive account, [of the tragedy] will likely be Dave Cullen's COLUMBINE, a nonfiction book that has the pacing of an action movie and the complexity of a Shakespearean drama . . . Cullen has a gift, if that's the right word, for excruciating detail. At times the language is so vivid you can almost smell the gunpowder and the fear."
"COLUMBINE is an excellent work of media criticism, showing how legends become truths through continual citation; a sensitive guide to the patterns of public grief, foreshadowing many of the reactions to Sept. 11 (lawsuits, arguments about the memorial, voyeuristic bus tours); and, at the end of the day, a fine example of old fashioned journalism . . . moving things along with agility and grace."
-The New York Times Review of Books
While the details of the day are indeed gruesome, Cullen neither embellishes nor sensationalizes. His unadorned prose and staccato sections offer welcome relief from the grisly minutiae... Cullen's honor and reporting skills propel this book beyond tabloid and into true literature."
"A gripping study . . . To his credit, Mr. Cullen does not simply tear down Columbine's legends. He also convincingly explains what really sparked the murderous rage . . . disquieting . . . beautifully written."
-The New York Observer
From the very first page, I could not put COLUMBINE Dave Cullen's searing narrative, down. Dylan ... How the killings unfolded, and why, reads like the grisliest of fiction. Would that it were not true. Grade: A"
"A remarkable book. It is painstakingly reported, well-organized and compellingly written . . . For any reader who wants to understand the complicated nature of evil, this book is a masterpiece."
-The Seattle Times
"Leveraged for political ends by Michael Moore on film and adopted for convenience by the news media as shorthand for teenage violence, Columbine has begun to feel as impenetrable and allegorical as Greek myth. So the intensive reporting of Denver-based journalist Dave Cullen is welcome. . . Cullen creates more than a nuanced portrait of school shooters as young men. He writes a human story - a compassionate narrative of teenagers with guns (and bombs, too), and the havoc they wreak on a school, a community, and America.
"Exhaustive and supremely level-headed . . . The ways in which the Columbine story became distorted in the retelling make for one of the most fascinating aspects of Cullen's book . . . Hopping back and forth in time, Cullen manages to tell this complicated story with remarkable clarity and coherence. As one of the first reporters on the scene in 1999, he has been studying this event firsthand for a decade, and his book exudes a sense of authority missing from much of the original media coverage. ...Cullen strikes just the right tone of tough-minded compassion, for the most part steering clear of melodrama, sermonizing and easy answers."
COLUMBINE is a remarkable achievement. Cullen has brought illumination to a dark and difficult topic, and the result is an example of literary nonfiction at its finest: masterful, clear-eyed, bold - and unforgettable."