Views of ‘Columbine’

Janet Maslin gets pretty snippy about Dave Cullen’s Columbine in the NYT today. It’s apparent that something beyond the book itself is bugging her. She accuses Cullen of believing he “owns” the story, the book of being “commercially ambitious” (can books have ambitions?) and even objects to his YouTube book trailer.

Several online sites have already called foul. Laura James, who writes about the true crime genre on her site, CLEWS, views this as part of a Timesian aversion to the true crime genre, saying, “I am hard-pressed to find a positive review of a true crime book in the New York Times archives — at least in the last decade.” (The Times Strikes Again).

The book has already gone onto the Denver Post bestseller list at #7, after, well, NO days on sale (it’s listed as releasing today, but Denver must have gotten their copies early) and it’s at #35 on Amazon.

The librarians who accepted my “Great Galley Challenge” at a recent presentation in Northern Illinois are showing enthusiasm for the book on their wiki, saying it’s hard to put down and calling it “narrative nonfiction at its best.” One librarian, who was in high school at the time of Columbine, writes movingly about the impact those events had on her generation, which is what drew her to the book.

As mentioned in Maslin’s review, a second book on Columbine, by Rocky Mountain News reporter, Jeff Kass, from small independent Denver publisher, Ghost Road Press, has also just come out. Maslin manages to not review it either, but the AP does, in a more balanced, if passionless story.

Also covered in the AP review is a book by psychologist Peter Longman, Why Kids Kill, which examines a broader range of shootings (Cullen says there have been 80 instances since Columbine).

Dave Cullen
Price: $26.99
Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Twelve – (2009-04-06)
ISBN-10: 0446546933
ISBN-13: 9780446546935


Columbine: A True Crime Story, a victim, the killers and the nation’s search for answers
Jeff Kass
Price: $17.95
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Ghost Road Press – (2009-03-25)
ISBN-10: 0981652565
ISBN-13: 9780981652566


Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters
Peter Langman PhD
Price: $24.95
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan – (2009-01-06)
ISBN-10: 0230608027
ISBN-13: 9780230608023

One Response to “Views of ‘Columbine’”

  1. John Byrnes Says:

    Research has determined that from the Moment of Commitment (the point when a student pulls their weapon) to the Moment of Completion (when the last round is fired) is only 5 seconds. If it is the intent of a school district to react to this violence, they will do so over the wounded and/or slain bodies of students, teachers and administrators.

    Educational institutions clearly want safe and secure schools. Administrators are perennially queried by parents about the safety of their schools. The commonplace answers, intended to reassure anxious parents, focus on the school resource officers and emergency procedures. While useful, these less than adequate efforts do not begin to provide a definitive answer to preventing school violence, nor do they make a school safe and secure.

    Traditionally school districts have relied upon the mental health community or local police to keep schools safe, yet one of the key shortcomings has been the lack of a system that involves teachers, administrators, parents and students in the identification and communication process. Recently, colleges, universities and community colleges are forming Behavioral Intervention Teams with representatives from all these constituencies. Higher Education has changed their safety/security policies, procedures, or surveillance systems, yet K-12 have yet to incorporate Behavioral Intervention Teams. K-12 schools continue spending excessive amounts of money to put in place many of the physical security options. Sadly, they are reactionary only and do little to prevent aggression because they are designed exclusively to react to existing conflict, threat and violence. These schools reflect a national blindspot, which prefers hardening targets through enhanced security versus preventing violence with efforts directed at aggressors. Security gets all the focus and money, but this only makes us feel safe, rather than to actually make us safer.

    Some law enforcement agencies use profiling as a means to identify an aggressor. According to the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education’s report on Targeted Violence in Schools, there is a significant difference between “profiling” and identifying and measuring emerging aggression; “The use of profiles is not effective either for identifying students who may pose a risk for targeted violence at school or – once a student has been identified – for assessing the risk that a particular student may pose for school-based targeted violence.” It continues; “An inquiry should focus instead on a student’s behaviors and communications to determine if the student appears to be planning or preparing for an attack.” We can and must assess objective, culturally neutral, identifiable criteria of emerging aggression.

    For a comprehensive look at the problem and its solution,