By Dave Cullen
Read by Don Leslie
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So begins a new epilogue, illustrating how Columbine became the template for nearly two decades of “spectacle murders.” It is a false script, seized upon by a generation of new killers. In the wake of Newtown, Aurora, and Virginia Tech, the imperative to understand the crime that sparked this plague grows more urgent every year.
What really happened April 20, 1999? The horror left an indelible stamp on the American psyche, but most of what we “know” is wrong. It wasn’t about jocks, Goths, or the Trench Coat Mafia. Dave Cullen was one of the first reporters on scene, and spent ten years on this book-widely recognized as the definitive account. With a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen, he draws on mountains of evidence, insight from the world’s leading forensic psychologists, and the killers’ own words and drawings-several reproduced in a new appendix. Cullen paints raw portraits of two polar opposite killers. They contrast starkly with the flashes of resilience and redemption among the survivors.
Expanded with a New Epilogue
Table of Contents
Reading Group Guide
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For Rachel, Danny, Dave, Cassie, Steven, Corey,
Kelly, Matthew, Daniel, Isaiah, John, Lauren, and Kyle.
And for Patrick, for giving me hope.
A great deal of this story was captured on tape or recorded contemporaneously in notebooks and journals—by the killers before the murders, and by investigators, journalists, and researchers afterward. Much more was reconstructed or fleshed out from the memory of survivors. Anything in quotation marks was either captured on tape, recorded by me or other journalists or police investigators at the time, published in official documents, or, in the case of casual conversations, recalled by one or more of the speakers with a high degree of certainty. When the speaker was less sure about the wording, I used italics. I have abbreviated some exchanges without insertion of ellipses, and have corrected some grammatical errors. No dialogue was made up.
The same convention was applied to quotations from the killers, who wrote and taped themselves extensively. Their writings are reproduced here as written, with most of their idiosyncrasies intact.
Passages of this book suggesting their thoughts come primarily from their journals and videos. A multitude of corroborating sources were employed, including school assignments; conversations with friends, family members, and teachers; journals kept by key figures; and a slew of police records compiled before the murders, particularly summaries of their counseling sessions. I often used the killers' thoughts verbatim from their journals, without quotation marks. Other feelings are summarized or paraphrased, but all originated with them. The killers left a few significant gaps in their thinking. I have attempted to fill them with the help of experts in criminal psychology who have spent years on the case. All conjectures about the killers' thinking are labeled as such.
Actual names have been used, with one exception: the pseudonym Harriet was invented to identify a girl Dylan wrote about obsessively. For simplicity, minor characters are not named in the text. They are all identified in the expanded version of the endnotes online.
All times for the massacre are based on the Jefferson County sheriff's report. Some of the victims' family members, however, believe the attack began a few minutes later. The times used here provide a close approximation, and are accurate relative to one another.
I covered this story extensively as a journalist, beginning around noon on the day of the attack. The episodes recounted here are a blend of my contemporaneous reporting with nine years of research. This included hundreds of interviews with most of the principals, examination of more than 25,000 pages of police evidence, countless hours of video and audiotape, and the extensive work of other journalists I consider reliable.
To avoid injecting myself into the story, I generally refer to the press in the third person. But in the great media blunders during the initial coverage of this story, where nearly everyone got the central factors wrong, I was among the guilty parties. I hope this book contributes to setting the story right.
Addendum to the Revised 2010 Edition
In the year since the book’s release one of the most common questions I heard was, “Why no pictures?” While I knew from the beginning that I did not want to include them, it took lengthy discussion with readers to articulate exactly why. It comes down to the fact that photos capture one instant in a person’s life. I hoped to bring these people alive as complex individuals: hopeful, gloomy, anxious, playful, devious, etc. Photos, within these covers, undermine that, in my opinion. So we left them out. Photos of all the principals are readily available online, however, and I gathered an assortment at my website, davecullen.com, with links to more.
I heeded your requests for a diagram, however, and examples from the killers’ journals. A detailed layout of the school and environs is included in the appendix, along with several pages from the boys’ journals.
Addendum to the Revised 2016 Edition
The blight of spectacle murders continues to plague us. I’ve written a new epilogue about the template Eric and Dylan created, and the false script being repeated in their name. I included some personal reflections on the continuing aftermath from my vantage, and the perspectives of a few more survivors I’ve come to admire.
In the main body of the book, I have corrected a few typos and two factual mistakes, which I regret. I misattributed a recollection about fishing to Eric; it was actually written by Dylan, and that was corrected in the 2000 edition. I also believed Brenda Parker, who told investigators she had had “intimate relations” with Eric. Her testimony has proved dubious, and I should have been more skeptical. It seems likely Eric died a virgin. I have deleted the passages related to Brenda, about three hundred words.
I have also added more material readers have requested to the appendices: more scans of the killers’ writing, and sample pages from the Columbine Teacher’s Guide I created. Many more scans and the full teacher’s guide can be downloaded at davecullen.com. And ebook readers, take note: With all the supplemental material in the back, the story will end long before your counter hits 100 percent.
I am a wicked man.… But do you know, gentlemen, what was the main point about my wickedness? The whole thing, precisely was, the greatest nastiness precisely lay in my being shamefully conscious every moment, even in moments of the greatest bile, that I was not only not a wicked man but was not even an embittered man, that I was simply frightening sparrows in vain, and pleasing myself with it.
—Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground
The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.
—Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
1. Mr. D
He told them he loved them. Each and every one of them. He spoke without notes but chose his words carefully. Frank DeAngelis waited out the pom-pom routines, the academic awards, and the student-made videos. After an hour of revelry, the short, middle-aged man strode across the gleaming basketball court to address his student body. He took his time. He smiled as he passed the marching band, the cheerleaders, and the Rebels logo painted beneath flowing banners proclaiming recent sports victories. He faced two thousand hyped-up high school students in the wooden bleachers and they gave him their full attention. Then he told them how much they meant to him. How his heart would break to lose just one of them.
It was a peculiar sentiment for an administrator to express to an assembly of teenagers. But Frank DeAngelis had been a coach longer than a principal, and he earnestly believed in motivation by candor. He had coached football and baseball for sixteen years, but he looked like a wrestler: compact body with the bearing of a Marine, but without the bluster. He tried to play down his coaching past, but he exuded it.
You could hear the fear in his voice. He didn't try to hide it, and he didn't try to fight back the tears that welled up in his eyes. And he got away with it. Those kids could sniff out a phony with one whiff and convey displeasure with snickers and fumbling and an audible current of unrest. But they adored Mr. D. He could say almost anything to his students, precisely because he did. He didn't hold back, he didn't sugarcoat it, and he didn't dumb it down. On Friday morning, April 16, 1999, Principal Frank DeAngelis was an utterly transparent man.
Every student in the gymnasium understood Mr. D's message. There were fewer than thirty-six hours until the junior-senior prom, meaning lots of drinking and lots of driving. Lecturing the kids would just provoke eye rolling, so instead he copped to three tragedies in his own life. His buddy from college had been killed in a motorcycle accident. "I can remember being in the waiting room, looking at his blood," he said. "So don't tell me it can't happen." He described holding his teenage daughter in his arms after her friend died in a flaming wreck. The hardest had been gathering the Columbine baseball team to tell them one of their buddies had lost control of his car. He choked up again. "I do not want to attend another memorial service."
"Look to your left," he told them. "Look to your right." He instructed them to study the smiling faces and then close their eyes and imagine one of them gone. He told them to repeat after him: "I am a valued member of Columbine High School. And I'm not in this alone." That's when he told them he loved them, as he always did.
"Open your eyes," he said. "I want to see each and every one of your bright, smiling faces again Monday morning."
He paused. "When you're thinking about doing something that could get you in trouble, remember, I care about you," he said. "I love you, but remember, I want us all together. We are one large family, we are—"
He left the phrase dangling. That was the students' signal. They leapt to their feet and yelled: "COL-um-BINE!"
Ivory Moore, a dynamo of a teacher and a crowd rouser, ran out and yelled, "We are… "
It was louder now, and their fists were pumping in the air.
"We are… "
"We are… "
Louder, faster, harder, faster—he whipped them into a frenzy. Then he let them go.
They spilled into the hallways to wrap up one last day of classes. Just a few hours until the big weekend.
All two thousand students would return safely on Monday morning, after the prom. But the following afternoon, Tuesday, April 20, 1999, twenty-four of Mr. D's kids and faculty members would be loaded into ambulances and rushed to hospitals. Thirteen bodies would remain in the building and two more on the grounds. It would be the worst school shooting in American history— a characterization that would have appalled the boys just then finalizing their plans.
Eric Harris wanted a prom date. Eric was a senior, about to leave Columbine High School forever. He was not about to be left out of the prime social event of his life. He really wanted a date.
Dates were not generally a problem. Eric was a brain, but an uncommon subcategory: cool brain. He smoked, he drank, he dated. He got invited to parties. He got high. He worked his look hard: military chic hair— short and spiked with plenty of product—plus black T-shirts and baggy cargo pants. He blasted hard-core German industrial rock from his Honda. He enjoyed firing off bottle rockets and road-tripping to Wyoming to replenish the stash. He broke the rules, tagged himself with the nickname Reb, but did his homework and earned himself a slew of A's. He shot cool videos and got them airplay on the closed-circuit system at school. And he got chicks. Lots and lots of chicks.
On the ultimate high school scorecard, Eric outscored much of the football team. He was a little charmer. He walked right up to hotties at the mall. He won them over with quick wit, dazzling dimples, and a disarming smile. His Blackjack Pizza job offered a nice angle: stop in later and he would slip them a free slice. Often they did. Blackjack was a crummy econo-chain, one step down from Domino's. It had a tiny storefront in a strip mall just down the road from Eric's house. It was mostly a take-out and delivery business, but there were a handful of cabaret tables and a row of stools lined up along the counter for the sad cases with nowhere better to go. Eric and Dylan were called insiders, meaning anything but delivery—mostly making the pizzas, working the counter, cleaning up the mess. It was hard, sweaty work in the hot kitchen, and boring as hell.
Eric looked striking head-on: prominent cheekbones, hollowed out underneath—all his features proportionate, clean-cut, and all-American. The profile presented a bit of a problem however; his long, pointy nose exaggerated a sloping forehead and a weak chin. The spiky hair worked against him aesthetically, elongating his angular profile—but it was edgy, and it played well with his swagger. The smile was his trump card, and he knew exactly how to play it: bashful and earnest, yet flirtatious. The chicks ate it up. He had made it to the homecoming dance as a freshman, and had scored with a twenty-three-year-old at seventeen. He was damn proud of that one.
But prom had become a problem. For some reason— bad luck or bad timing—he couldn't make it happen. He had gone nuts scrounging for a date. He'd asked one girl, but she already had a boyfriend. That was embarrassing. He'd tried another, shot down again. He wasn't ashamed to call his friends in. His buddies asked, the girls he hung with asked, he asked—nothing, nothing, nothing.
His best friend, Dylan, had a date. How crazy was that? Dylan Klebold was meek, self-conscious, and authentically shy. He could barely speak in front of a stranger, especially a girl. He'd follow quietly after Eric on the mall conquests, attempting to appear invisible. Eric slathered chicks with compliments; Dylan passed them Chips Ahoy cookies in class to let them know he liked them. Dylan's friends said he had never been on a date; he may never have even asked a girl out—including the one he was taking to prom.
Dylan Klebold was a brain, too, but not quite so cool. Certainly not in his own estimation. He tried so hard to emulate Eric—on some of their videos, he puffed up and acted like a tough guy, then glanced over at Eric for approval. Dylan was taller and even smarter than Eric, but considerably less handsome. Dylan hated the oversized features on his slightly lopsided face. His nose especially—he saw it as a giant blob. Dylan saw the worst version of himself.
A shave would have helped. His beard was beginning to come in, but sporadically, in fuzzy little splotches along his chin. He seemed to take pride in his starter patches, oblivious to the actual effect.
Dylan cut a more convincing figure as a rebel, though. Long, ratty curls dangled toward his shoulders. He towered over his peers. With a ways to go in puberty, he was up to six foot three already, 143 stretched pounds. He could have worn the stature proudly, casting aspersions down at his adversaries, but it scared the crap out of him, all exposed up there. So he slouched off an inch or two. Most of his friends were over six foot—Eric was the exception, at five-nine. His eyes lined up with Dylan's Adam's apple.
Eric wasn't thrilled with his looks either, but he rarely let it show. He had undergone surgery in junior high to correct a congenital birth defect: pectus excavatum, an abnormally sunken sternum. Early on, it had undermined his confidence, but he'd overcome it by acting tough.
Yet it was Dylan who'd scored the prom date. His tux was rented, the corsage purchased, and five other couples organized to share a limo. He was going with a sweet, brainy Christian girl who had helped acquire three of the four guns. She adored Dylan enough to believe Eric's story about using them to hunt. Robyn Anderson was a pretty, diminutive blonde who hid behind her long straight hair, which often covered a good portion of her face. She was active in her church's youth group. Right now she was in D.C. for a weeklong trip with them, due back barely in time for the prom. Robyn had gotten straight A's at Columbine and was a month away from graduating as valedictorian. She saw Dylan every day in calculus, strolled through the hallways and hung out with him any time she could. Dylan liked her and loved the adulation, but wasn't really into her as a girlfriend.
Dylan was heavy into school stuff. Eric, too. They attended the football games, the dances, and the variety shows and worked together on video production for the Rebel News Network. School plays were big for Dylan. He would never want to face an audience, but backstage at the soundboard, that was great. Earlier in the year, he'd rescued Rachel Scott, the junior class sweetheart, when her tape jammed during the talent show. In a few days, Eric would kill her.
Eric and Dylan were short on athletic ability but were big-time fans. They had both been Little Leaguers and soccer kids. Eric still played soccer, but for Dylan it was mostly spectator stuff now. Eric was a Rockies fan and found spring training exciting. Dylan rooted for the BoSox and wore their ball cap everywhere. He watched a whole lot of baseball, studied the box scores, and compiled his own stats. He was in first place in the fantasy league organized by a friend of his. Nobody could outanalyze Dylan Klebold, as he prepped for the March draft weeks in advance. His friends grew bored after the first major rounds, but Dylan was intent on securing a strong bench. In the final week, he notified the league commissioner that he was adding a rookie pitcher to his roster. And he would continue working a trade through the weekend, right up to Monday, his last night. "His life was baseball," one of his friends said.
Eric fancied himself a nonconformist, but he craved approval and fumed over the slightest disrespect. His hand was always shooting up in class, and he always had the right answer. Eric wrote a poem for creative writing class that week about ending hate and loving the world. He enjoyed quoting Nietzsche and Shakespeare, but missed the irony of his own nickname, Reb: so rebellious he'd named himself after the school mascot.
Dylan went by VoDKa, sometimes capitalizing his initials in the name of his favorite liquor. He was a heavy drinker and damn proud of it; supposedly he'd earned the name after downing an entire bottle. Eric preferred Jack Daniel's but scrupulously hid it from his parents. To adult eyes, Eric was the obedient one. Misbehavior had consequences, usually involving his father, usually curtailing his freedom. Eric was a little control freak. He gauged his moves and determined just how much he could get away with. He could suck up like crazy to make things go his way.
The Blackjack Pizza store owner during most of their tenure was acquainted with Eric's wild side. After he closed the shop, Robert Kirgis would climb up to the roof sometimes, taking Eric and Dylan with him, and chugging brewskis while the boys shot bottle rockets over the strip mall. Kirgis was twenty-nine but enjoyed hanging with this pair. They were bright kids; they talked just like adults sometimes. Eric knew when to play, when to get serious. If a cop had ever showed up on that rooftop, everyone would have turned to Eric to do the talking. When customers stacked up at the counter and drivers rushed in for pickups, somebody needed to take control and Eric was your man. He was like a robot under pressure. Nothing could faze him, not when he cared about the outcome. Plus, he needed that job; he had an expensive hobby and he wasn't about to jeopardize it for short-term gratification. Kirgis put Eric in charge when he left.
Nobody put Dylan in charge of anything. He was unreliable. He had been on and off the payroll in the past year. He'd applied for a better job at a computer store and presented a professional résumé. The owner had been impressed, and Dylan had gotten the job. He'd never bothered to show.
But nothing separated the boys' personalities like a run-in with authority. Dylan would be hyperventilating, Eric calmly calculating. Eric's cool head steered them clear of most trouble, but they had their share of schoolyard fights. They liked to pick on younger kids. Dylan had been caught scratching obscenities into a freshman's locker. When Dean Peter Horvath called him down, Dylan went ballistic. He cussed the dean out, bounced off the walls, acted like a nutcase. Eric could have talked his way out with apologies, evasions, or claims of innocence—whatever that subject was susceptible to. He read people quickly and tailored his responses. Eric was unflappable; Dylan erupted. He had no clue what Dean Horvath would respond to, nor did he care. He was pure emotion. When he learned his father was driving in to discuss the locker, Dylan dug himself in deeper. Logic was irrelevant.
The boys were both gifted analytically, math whizzes and technology hounds. Gadgets, computers, video games—any new technology and they were mesmerized. They created Web sites, adapted games with their own characters and adventures, and shot loads of videos—brief little short subjects they wrote, directed, and starred in. Surprisingly, gangly shyboy Dylan made for the more engaging actor. Eric was so calm and even-tempered, he couldn't even fake intensity. In person, he came off charming, confident, and engaging; impersonating an emotional young man, he was dull and unconvincing, incapable of emoting. Dylan was a live wire. In life, he was timid and shy, but not always quiet: trip his anger and he erupted. On film, he unleashed the anger and he was that crazy man, disintegrating in front of the camera. His eyes bugged out and his cheeks pulled away from them, all the flesh bunched up at the extremities, deep crevices around the looming nose.
Outwardly, Eric and Dylan looked like normal young boys about to graduate. They were testing authority, testing their sexual prowess—a little frustrated with the dumbasses they had to deal with, a little full of themselves. Nothing unusual for high school.
Rebel Hill slopes gradually, rising just forty feet above Columbine, which sits at its base. That's enough to dominate the immediate surroundings, but halfway up the hillside, the Rockies are suddenly spectacular. Each step forward lowers the mesa toward eye level, and the mountains leap up behind, a jagged brown wall rearing straight off the Great Plains. They stand two to three thousand feet above it—endless and apparently impenetrable, fading all the way over the northern horizon and just as far to the south. Locals call them the foothills. This Front Range towering over Columbine is taller than the highest peaks in all of Appalachia. Roads and regular habitation stop suddenly at the base of the foothills; even vegetation struggles to survive. Just three miles away, and it feels like the end of the world.
Nothing much grows on Rebel Hill's mesa. It's covered in cracked reddish clay, broken by the occasional scraggly weed failing to make much of a foothold. Up ahead, in the middle distance, humanity finally returns in the form of subdivisions. On fat winding lanes and cul-de-sacs, comfortably spaced two-story houses pop up among the pines. Strip malls and soccer fields and churches, churches, churches.
Columbine High School sits on a softly rolling meadow at the edge of a sprawling park, in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. It's a large, modern facility—250,000 square feet of solid no-frills construction. With a beige concrete exterior and few windows, the school looks like a factory from most angles. It's practical, like the people of south Jefferson County. Jeffco, as it's known locally, scrimped on architectural affectations but invested generously in chem labs, computers, video production facilities, and a first-rate teaching force.
Friday morning, after the assembly, the corridors bustled with giddy teenage exuberance. Students poured out of the gym giggling, flirting, chasing, and jostling. Yet just outside the north entranceway, where the tips of the Rockies peeked around the edges of Rebel Hill, the clamor of two thousand boisterous teenagers faded to nothing. The two-story structure and the sports complex wrapped around it on two sides were the only indication of America's twentieth-largest metropolis. Downtown Denver lay just ten miles to the northeast, but a dense thicket of trees obscured the skyline. On warmer days, the sliding doors of the woodshop would gape open. Boys set their cutting tools into the spinning blocks of wood, and the sudden buzz of the lathe machines competed with the exhaust system. But a cold front had swept onto the high plains Wednesday, and the air was hovering around freezing as Mr. D told the students that he loved them.
- "Salon magazine's Dave Cullen has been on top of the Columbine story from the start... We don't like our evil to be banal. Ten years after Columbine, it only now may be sinking in that the psychopathic killers were not jock-hating dorks from a 'Trench Coat Mafia,' or, as ABC News maintained at the time, 'part of a dark, underground national phenomenon known as the Gothic movement.' In the new bestseller COLUMBINE, the journalist Dave Cullen reaffirms that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were instead ordinary American teenagers who worked at the local pizza joint, loved their parents and were popular among their classmates."—Frank Rich, The New York Times
- "Dave Cullen is the Dante of this high school hell. I came away from it thinking of Jack Nicholson hollering 'You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!' Read this quietly powerful account of Columbine and find out if you can."—Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler and The Shakespeare Wars
"Half the anguish of Columbine is our mystification. How did those boys get so twisted, so murderous? Now, after nine years of great reporting, Dave Cullen has done the impossible: you will know these killers -- and it will shake you up. This is a big-time work that will endure."
—Richard Ben Cramer, author of Joe DiMaggio and What It Takes
- "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."—LA Times
- "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."—Salon
- "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."—Time
- "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."—Newsweek
- "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."—Jennifer Senior, 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."—Newsday
- "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"—Entertainment Weekly
- "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.—Esquire
- "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."—Gary Krist, Washington Post
- 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."—Charlotte Observer
- "Comprehensively reported . . . Cullen scrupulously interpolates the interrupted lives of students, teachers, and lawmen."—Seattle Weekly
- "A staggering achievement, ...Rather than burden the deftly written prose with excessive footnotes, Cullen wisely includes a detailed timeline, bibliography and lengthy notes in the back of the book. The 417-page COLUMBINE tears open old wounds but does so with an aching, unflinching clarity that's only possible with hindsight . . . admirable, harrowing work . . . one of the finer nonfiction efforts thus far in 2009."—Fort Worth Star-Telegram
- "What [Columbine] captures better than any other reporting is the confusion and fear that come from an inability to make sense of something that has no reason, no cause, no source-confusion and fear that can lead to damaging misinformation and lasting fictions."—New York Magazine
- "While tackling popular misconceptions, Cullen gives a riveting account of what happened that day and how the survivors view the event that marked their lives forever."—CNN
- On Sale
- Apr 3, 2018
- Hachette Audio