Sorting fact from fiction

It's now a little over 10 years since two teenagers from Colorado executed a two year plan by killing 12 of their fellow students and a teacher before turning the guns on themselves. Columbine, as the massacre became known, is the title of a stunning new book by investigative journalist and author Dave Cullen (Old Street Publishing, £9.99) that reveals the lie behind the myth that these were crimes perpetrated by a pair of bullied, jock-hating misfits who were members of a supposedly sinister group known as the Trench Coat Mafia and driven to violence by video games and the lyrics of Marilyn Manson.

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It also forensically recounts how, had everything gone to plan, the death toll would have eclipsed those witnessed at the Waco siege and the bombing of Oklahoma orchestrated by Timothy McVeigh (events that the Columbine massacre had been designed to commemorate).

Through painstaking examination of thousands of pages of evidence - much of it concealed until recently incorporating interviews with psychologists, teachers, survivors and former friends of the killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, and, most importantly, access to their gruesome homemade videos and journals, Cullen has pieced together the real story.

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Harris was the instigator, a youth who displayed the precocious hallmarks of a fully formed psychopath, while Klebold was an erratic, lovesick depressive with a romantic view of suicide and the propensity for sudden and violent outbursts. Cullen’s achievement lies in harnessing the narrative pacing of a thriller to a quite monumental feat of reporting in order to chart and explain the mental downward mental spiral of the killers, and the ultimately the deadly dynamic of their relationship.

Blunt, brutal and shocking in equal measure, Columbine is a story that peels away the veneer of lazy media stereotyping while surely re-injecting an unhealthy dose of fear into the heart of Middle America. Columbine by Dave Cullen (Old Street Publishing) is out now