The tragedies keep coming. As we reel from the latest horror . . .
New York Times Bestseller
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24 Major Year-End Best Lists
That's how I began the epilogue to this new edition. After 17 years covering Columbine, I stepped back to consider how it created a new template for nearly two decades of “spectacle murders.” But it is a false script, seized upon by a generation of new killers. (See below.) In the wake of Newtown, Aurora and Virginia Tech, the imperative to understand the crime that sparked this plague grows more urgent every year.
So we are publishing this expanded edition, with over 30 pages of new material (50 since hardcover). It features a wealth of new scans from the killers' journals. Now you can see Eric's detailed attack sketches, with 'Napalm' printed on the tank to be strapped to his back. You can read Eric's full apology letter to the van owner, and on the same page, I've stripped out a scan of his key vicious journal passage eviscerating the same man, at the same time. This is a key moment depicted in the narrative: now read both sides of Eric's big lie for yourself, in full detail. Read Dylan's entire chilling "emotion of God" story presaging the murders that he turned into English class two months prior. You can see Eric's budget for the attack and his To Do list, and five pages filled with giant hearts in Dylan's shockingly loving (yet angry) journal.
The new edition also includes book club questions and exercises from the Columbine Teacher's Guide. (Teachers: download for free.)
Get the new edition:
- Online: BN.com and Amazon ship the new version. (On sale: 40% off.) Most indies do, but call to make sure. Autographed copy.
- Ebooks: All formats ship the new edition, including Kindle, Nook, etc.
- Physical stores: As of May 3, virtually all have gotten it, but some have old copies mixed in. Make sure the cover has the corner tab (saying "Expanded...")
More Relevant Than Ever
Excerpts from the new epilogue (spring 2016):
Screen teens for depression:
I spent ten years on the main text of Columbine. I was driven by two questions: why did they do it, and what became of the survivors?
My big surprise was that most of what we "know" about Columbine was wrong. It wasn't about jocks, Goths or the Trench Coat Mafia. The killers didn't even see themselves as school shooters, whom they ridiculed. Their primary vision was a bombing, bigger than Oklahoma City.
The key to comprehending Columbine is letting go of our concept of "the killers." Spend a few pages with Dylan and Eric, and you'll discover two starkly different boys. Their personalities and motives were poles apart. Eric Harris was monstrous; Dylan Klebold was loving but fiercely angry inside, a tender boy torn apart. For me, Dylan was truly a revelation.
The survivors proved equally illuminating. Their stories are surprisingly uplifting — what a refreshing contrast to Eric and Dylan. Thousands of kids and parents faced the unthinkable; most overcame it, often in extraordinary ways. I was amazed by their spirit and stunning moments of redemption. (Watching Patrick Ireland's resilience was what got me through it. Readers keep telling me he did the same for them.)
I was stunned to discover just how different the tragedy was for people going through what appeared identical, to outsiders. Each survivor's recovery is unique, and the greatest lesson other communities can learn is: Don't rush their healing!
Chapter 1 — May surprise you:
There are harrowing moments in this book. But most readers are surprised what an easy read it is, and the brevity of the darkness. Here is Chapter 1, "Mr. D":
A few of the many new journal scans just added (2016):
I carefully went back through the thousand pages of journal entries and other material from Eric and Dylan, searching for the bits that would be most revealing, that illustrate the most crucial points, and show as many possible sides.
I decided to shrink down many of their drawings, and crop the most important bits, so that we could include more entries. Above you see six journal pages condensed onto one in the book.
Above, four journal pages were condensed into two. The text is much larger in the book (reproduced full-size), so you can read all their writing.
For each spread, I chose related and often contrasting material. Another page (not shown), captures both Eric's entire apology letter to the van owner, and his vicious journal entry about the same man written at the same time, to illustrate Eric's incredible skill at deception. The opposite page shows his budget for the murders and his late To Do list, with items crossed off.
Please post a selfie with you holding the new edition and tag me. Thanks. Here's mine:
Columbine Book Trailer
3-minute intro video
The enormity of the Columbine story keeps surprising readers. This tight little video by South Park filmmaker Andrew Kemler summarizes it neatly in 3 minutes.
Includes clips of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold from their "Hitmen For Hire" videos and the cafeteria surveillance video. We got rare permission to shoot this video inside Columbine High, and I can show you the exact spot the propane bombs were placed in the cafeteria. You can see the perspectives of where everything unfolded from inside.
I just signed several at B&N Union Square. Order. They ship worldwide.
Depression Kills: Help a kid
Make a difference: Two million teens are clinically depressed
The great unlearned lesson of Columbine is teen depression. Six percent of U.S. adolescents suffer clinical depression. That’s 2 million kids. It's time to act. Readers tell me they don't know where to start, so I created Teen Depression 101. It includes warning signs, resources, discussion-starters, etc.
Parents and teachers: please discuss depression openly. Our Columbine Teacher's Guide has a Teen Depression unit. Renowned hostage negotiator and head of the FBI's Columbine investigation, Dr. Dwayne Fuselier has created a practical guide for parents/teachers to talk to kids—using the same approach he developed to talk down gunmen: active listening.
See a kid in danger? Get help. Save a life.
Sue Klebold has spent much longer advocating/specializing in suicide prevention and depression, so check out Sue's list.
For gay kids
Free Teacher's Guide
Excerpt now in the expanded paperback (2016)
I created this 50-page modular Columbine Teacher's Guide with a lot of input from high school and college instructors. And we're giving it away free. Thanks to everyone who helped create and then refine it. We really wanted to make it practical. An excerpt appears in the back of the 2016 edition of the paperback book, and all ebook formats.
I sifted through mountains of evidence researching the book, so I organized it into the research tool Columbine Online. It includes photos, diagrams, scans of the killers' journals, links to all the reports and police files, instructions on how to get your own copies, etc.
Stop Naming Killers
My proposal on BuzzFeed. Watch me discuss my proposal on disappearing future killers on Anderson Cooper 360 and debate it with Jeff Greenfield on CNN's Reliable Sources. I got into it deeper with a guest host on AC360 in Aug 2015: How the media should cover murderers.
I discuss this much further in the new epilogue to the book (spring 2016).
Sue Klebold's New Memoir
Read my Vanity Fair piece on Sue Klebold's Diane Sawyer interview: A Startling Look at the Parent of a Mass Shooter.
Sue Klebold's long-awaited memoir, A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy, just debuted at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list. I can only bear to read bits right now, but so far, I'm been impressed. (I was also impressed by Klebold's extraordinary piece for O Magazine: "I Will Never Know Why.") Both are illuminating about depression.
New York Times Video: "Haunted by Columbine"
This video appears on the New York Times site, but it was actually produced by RetroReport, an award-wining nonprofit that revisits events from the past to set the record straight. I've been watching their work for quite awhile, and been really impressed.
I spent a year with RetroReport on this project in 2015. (They did the work. I just let them interview/film me, and helped with occasional fact-checking, etc.) I'm amazed that they devote an entire year to get 12 powerful minutes to set the record straight. Their diligence shows. I have additional thoughts at my Haunted by Columbine blog entry.
Critics on Columbine
"What's amazing is how much of Cullen's book still comes as a surprise . . . [His] nuanced dissection of the differences between Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold is first-rate."
— New York Times Book Review
"Like Capote's In Cold Blood, this tour de force gets below the who and what of a horrifying incident to lay bare the devastating why."
"This superb work of investigation looks to be a definitive account."
— Columbia Journalism Review
"The pacing of an action movie and the complexity of a Shakespearean drama."
"Read this book for its unflinching honesty . . . You may want to leave the horror behind you—that may be why you haven't yet picked up Columbine, journalist Dave Cullen's spectacularly gripping account.
But Cullen's chilling narrative is too vital to miss."
— O: The Oprah Magazine
"Accomplishes an astonishing number of things in compelling, articulate prose . . .
Most remarkable is Cullen's ability to present an onslaught of facts while recreating such anguish and fear. Columbine is a valuable historic resource, but it roils the heart, too."
— Miami Herald
"Cullen makes it work because he insists on framing the killers in human terms . . .
That's tricky ground for a writer to navigate, to ask, if not for understanding, for compassion for two boys regarded as monsters."
— Los Angeles Times
"Cullen's Klebold is a lonely depressive, and all too easily manipulated. Harris is a genuine psychopath, a natural-born killer.
And yet, both boys emerge as three-dimensional human beings. Throughout, Cullen refuses to sensationalize."
— Very Short List
"It opens with a proclamation of love and concludes with an image of redemption, and what unfolds in the pages between them is extraordinary."
— Charlotte Observer
"An astonishingly comprehensive look at the incident and the decade of struggle."
— Chicago Tribune
"Graphic and emotionally vivid; spectacularly researched and analyzed."
— Booklist (starred review)
"Definitive . . . a staggering feat of reporting that completes and corrects the record in equal measure."
"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?. . . Readers will come away from Cullen's unflinching account with a deeper understanding of what drove these boys to kill."
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"This book is a masterpiece."
— Seattle Times
All Columbine reviews—with longer passages and links to full reviews.