Dave Cullen

Yes, it’s been 10 years since Colorado teenagers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot their way into the national consciousness. Fifteen died and several were critically wounded in the April 22 attack recounted in Columbine (Twelve, $26.99). Author Dave Cullen was a Denver journalist who followed the original story, then spent years delving into the case files and police records. The comprehensively reported Columbine is narrative non-fiction in the tradition of In Cold Blood and The Executioner’s Song, and Cullen’s chief news development here is to reveal the stunning incompetence (and subsequent lies) of the local sheriff’s department, which had plenty of prior cause, and citizen complaints, to be monitoring the two future killers. (Both were already in the criminal-justice system for theft; and Harris essentially broadcast his plan in advance on the Web.) Plenty of outcast teen males, and even some well-adjusted ones, have violent fantasies. What pushed this duo past the tipping point? Cullen calls Harris a full-blown psychopath, yet Harris’ strict family won’t be interviewed. Klebold was just a weak follower. Like Leopold and Loeb before them, these youths had a fascination with Nietzsche and delusions of grandeur; and the so-called “Trench Coat Mafia” never in fact existed. Cullen scrupulously interpolates the interrupted lives of students, teachers, and lawmen, to prevent the murderers from completely dominating the book. Yet look at their legacy: Ten years later, Cullen reminds us, and the nation’s gun laws are no different. Ten years later, and there have since been 80 (!) school shootings in the U.S. BRIAN MILLER

Mon., April 27, 7 p.m., 2009

 
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