Saturday, February 13, 2010


By Dave Cullen
ISBN No. 978-0446546928
In the 1970s Vincent Bugliosi wrote “Helter Skelter”, an exhaustive investigation of the Manson murders. The book began with a note that anyone of a certain age can paraphrase: this book will scare the hell out of you. Now, Dave Cullen has written what surely must be the definitive document on the Columbine school massacre, and given the millennial generation its own “Helter Skelter.”
But what can Cullen tell us about the worst high school shooting in America that the mainstream media already hasn’t? LOTS, it turns out which is a miracle in itself. While Bugliosi had the tactile advantage of detailed coroner’s photos, police reports and court papers to sift through, Cullen had to unpack all that and a veritable internet server of information, perceptions, and false memories, to piece together exactly what happened before, during and after the shooting. Even harder, he has to correct the hyperventilating media that insisted the massacre be crunched down to a TV show plotline. That the book reads like a book at all is a testament to Cullen’s ability to turn newsprint back into flesh and blood. Along the way “Columbine” – the book - becomes something bigger than just a savvy, smart re-think. I mean it as the highest compliment that, in a cultural environment where books, movies and music no longer inspire (or you’ve already read the “Twilight” series a dozen times), a book as good as “Columbine” reads like the most touching teenage love story, the most compelling parental drama, the most devastating Greek tragedy. Most novels try and fail to tell a single story; “Columbine” tells the grand arc of several lives all at once and does so brilliantly. “Columbine” is the first great book of the Millennium.