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Incredibly vivid, heavily detailed, brilliantly written and fast-paced, Columbine is one of the best true crime books I’ve ever read. Written like a thriller, Dave Cullen, one of the first reporters on the scene that day, covers everything to possibly know about the Columbine massacre that took place on the morning of April 20, 1999, carried out by high school students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. The book covers three major events: the evolution of the attack stretching out two years, the attack itself, and the aftermath that spans over the next decade.

There is honestly way too much to dissect for a simple analysis or review. To cover all of it I’d need to write a full-length essay. In short, it’s a true crime masterpiece that hits you hard in the chest. A large portion is dedicated to the survivors of the attack. Not just those in the school but the families of the thirteen. Cullen takes you along their recovery stories, particularly Patrick Ireland’s and Valeen “Val” Schnurr’s who pop in and out of the narrative as if to lend readers their resilience when things get too heavy.

The description of the attack itself is harrowing. Cullen’s words chase you down like that junkyard owner in Stand by Me, hitting you over the head with a rock in his dirty hand. Before I picked up the book I already knew a lot about the attack, that the bulk of it ended after about 17 minutes, that Eric and Dylan ended their own lives and that there were 13 victims, and yet I was biting my nails the whole time. Subject matter aside, it’s clear that Cullen is a phenomenally talented writer. He puts you in the moment. You’re there at Columbine not only living the event but watching it unfold.

You can hear the police sirens, the blaring fire alarm honking for hours, and feel the quaking rattle of the gunshots. It’s graphic and violent, every survivor shares a bit of the story so that readers get a full picture of that day, including the image of Eric smiling as he shoots through a glass door at a teacher and the slow, agonizing death of Dave Sanders.

The thirteen victims of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold

Debunking the myths of Columbine

It’s easy to tell that Columbine started from Dave Cullen’s desire to set the record straight. Facts about the massacre have never been 100% accurate, starting from contradicting personal statements to the first blundered press conference. Rumors have taken on a life of their own, becoming facts in the eyes of the public.

The biggest myth about the attack was that had to do with the toxic atmosphere at Columbine High. If you browse the internet you’ll find many Tumblr and Reddit posts featuring “evidence” of the harassment Eric and Dylan supposedly faced at their school. Cullen addresses these claims by saying that they were largely made by those who didn’t know the boys and were projecting hateful comments onto their characters post-mortem. Friends of Eric and Dylan have repeatedly refuted these claims, that they never knew either one to suffer at the hands of bullies.


The myth comes from our desire to give reason to such an event. Anything that would neatly wrap up the blame in a box and shape it into something acceptable. There was no obvious motive so people created one they could understand but even after all these years, the world is still bewildered. It’s just as Eric predicted:

“The majority of the audience won’t even understand my motives either. All you f***ers should die! DIE!”Passage taken from Eric Harris’s journal, The Book of God

The motive of the psychopath

Warning. I am a major nerd for psychopathology so this section is a lot of rambling.

The psychology of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold is what inspired me to pick up this book. Anyone interested in the same should definitely give it a try. There is an amazing chapter in Columbine that works at explaining not only Eric but the reason why he and Dylan were a pair because, as most true crime enthusiasts know, most killers work alone.

Page 239, “Chapter 40: Psychopath.” Easily my favorite chapter of the whole book. It explains the reason why people such as Eric grow attached to people such as Dylan and why both committed the crime.

Psychopaths crave constant stimuli. They can’t feel or experience emotion the same way as everyone else yet they crave it. They’re aware of that spark they’re missing and often seek it out elsewhere. Usually, they find it in rushes of adrenaline or in the presence of explosive individuals, and Dylan Klebold was Eric’s explosive individual. Prone to impulsive fits of rage, Dylan ran hot and cold all at once. He was packed to the brink with raw emotion which made him incredibly stimulating to someone like Eric- a textbook psychopath who struggled to feel even a flicker of anything.


“The psychopath is in control, of course, but the hotheaded sidekick can sustain his excitement leading up to the big kill. ‘It takes heat and cold to make a tornado, ‘ Dr. Fuselier is fond of saying. Eric craved heat, but he couldn’t sustain it. Dylan was a volcano. You could never tell when he might erupt. Day after day, for more than a year, Dylan juiced Eric with erratic jolts of excitement. They played the killing out again and again: the cries, the screams, the smell of burning flesh… Eric savored the anticipation.”Columbine pg. 244

A psychopath is not the Michael Myers type of killer most of us associate with the word. Their actions are used to meet specific goals. In Eric’s case, it was fame or rather, recognition. Columbine was a performance and the public was the audience. The objective was to leave a mark on the world. Just a single glimpse at Eric’s journal “The Book of God” shows how hungry he was for recognition. Not companionship or even success, but acknowledgment of his superiority. The kid really thought himself a god.

The hard truth of it is, Eric and Dylan walked into Columbine that day with no targets in mind despite their different objectives. Eric wanted mass extermination and fame and Dylan wanted suicide.

Final verdict

The attack didn’t happen out of the blue. There is a gradual buildup as well as some concerning red flags. As it turns out, there were MANY chances to stop Columbine. At least a year before the attack, multiple complaints were filed against Eric for threatening behavior and the reported detonating of crude bombs in isolation areas. Even more shocking is how Dylan attempted to warn several people! He hinted at the attack on several occasions, warned Eric’s neighbor (a boy who Eric sent repeated death threats to) about Eric’s desire to kill, and wrote a short story for class that appeared to be a foretelling of the attack just months earlier. It was as if he was begging someone to stop them. But of course, no one did.

We’ll probably never have the full story about what happened at Columbine. There are only two people who know the truth and they both took their own lives. They robbed the world of ever knowing the truth and so now, we do our best to fill in the blanks. As I said, there is a lot covered in Columbine. It does its very best at giving you the full picture or rather the picture that Dave Cullen has discovered for himself. Even if you don’t agree with his account, Columbine is still an incredible read. 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)


Rachel Roth is a writer who lives in South Florida. She has a degree in Writing Studies and a Certificate in Creative Writing, her work has appeared in several literary journals and anthologies. @WinterGreenRoth

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Book Reviews

The Roots Grow Into The Earth



Launching next month The Roots Grow Into The Earth was a delightful read. It’s the premiere novel by horror author Bert S. Lechner. And after reading it, I hope it’s not his last. 

The stories

The Roots Grow Into The Earth is a collection of nine short stories and novellas, including three previously published stories. The tales are all part of one larger story. A story of darkness, and madness. A story of a creature released that should never have been. That begins then to sink its roots into the Earth and infect innocent people far and wide. 

One such example is The Wall. This is the story of a man named Sam and his wife Nat. They have a lovely normal life full of morning coffee and weekend pizza nights. Until Sam notices something on the wall of their home. While it appears to be nothing, a vision starts taking shape. With Sam’s help.


Another story that really moved me was The Orchestra. 

Let me first stay that this was not a particularly fleshed out story. We do not see The Conductor before she’s infected. We don’t see the fallout. No real picture is painted for us, it’s more like a sketch. 

In the case of The Orchestra, though, this is exactly the right choice. We don’t need to see the whole picture in gruesome technicolor to get what’s happening in this ill fated concert. We understand perhaps too well what’s occurring. And I thought that was brilliant. 

What worked

I just want to start by gushing over this storytelling style. Short story collections always have a soft spot in my heart. In the case of The Roots Grow, all of the short stories come together to create one truly dark tale. 


I also loved the clear Lovecraftian influence of this story. It’s clear that this was something that the author was going for, from interviews and social media comments. But I could tell before I saw any of that. 

The story in The Roots Grow is one of madness. But more than that, it’s one of madness and destruction that the victims could not have avoided. There was no being clever enough to avoid these dark roots that touched them. There was no being strong enough, or selfless and good enough. If the roots reach out and touch you, you’ve already lost. 

Finally, I want to extend some praise to my favorite character, Joanne. She is dealing with her own madness, her own demons. But she still finds kindness and strength to help others when they need her. Even against some truly dark odds. 

What didn’t work

All that being said, I will say that some of the short stories felt incomplete. One prime example is What Lies In The Icy Soil. This appears to be nothing more than the tale of a person possessed by the need to dig. He digs up something that for sure shouldn’t be dug up. But there’s nothing more to the story. We don’t know who this person is. We don’t know who might be missing him, or what might come of this thing he dug up. As a part of the whole story, it fits. But if we are to consider every tale by its own merit, this one doesn’t have much of anything going for it. 


That being said, this is one story in a round ten that wasn’t much of anything. The rest of the stories were wonderfully eerie, both on their own and as part of a whole. 

The Roots Grow Into The Earth comes out on October 7th. And I think it would be a perfect addition to your Halloween reading list.  4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Book Reviews

Strange Eons Review: Cornfields and Eldritch Gods



“The elder gods arrived in the sky in early September, like an unholy aurora borealis stretching across a midnight sky. Their vastness blocked the sun, an unending eclipse, a liminal state, a breath that was inhaled but never let go. Lovecraft got it wrong, I think. It was not the sight of the gods that made humanity go mad. It’s what they destroy that hurts us. Somehow, these elder gods, these aliens, had killed time itself.” – Strange Eons by Keria Perkins

Strange Eons is a short story published in Bourbon Penn Issue 30 by Keira Perkins. Perkins, is an Indiana writer of short fiction and poetry that has also appeared in Non-Stalgia and The Heartland Society of Women Writers. Bourbon Penn is an online and print journal that specializes in speculative, odd, and surreal fiction. All issues are available to be read online for free or can be purchased as a paperback from

Strange Eons follows a young woman struggling to adjust to a life post-Lovecraftian apocalypse. This is a cozy story, the majority of which takes place as the woman lays in a cornfield and hides from well-meaning but unhelpful family members. While cozy, the piece is ominous, tackling the terror associated with pregnancy. Specifically, the terror that comes from living in a Red State and finding a significant lack of resources or options.

As a Hoosier capable of becoming pregnant, Strange Eons resonated with me. The imagery of cornfields and cicadas were very Indiana. However, so is a young woman covertly asking her sister to drive her to Illinois to receive healthcare. I loved how Perkins merged cosmic horror with the horror of receiving reproductive healthcare in Indiana but also the United States as a whole. All that was missing were predatory billboards advertising fake pregnancy centers! Talk about maddening and terrifying! Throughout the short story, the most horrific part of the young woman’s ordeal is not the eldritch gods appearing but her rather typical, hellish circumstances.

Aside from content, Strange Eons is well-written. It keeps you guessing where the story will go next. If you like a non-tropey cozy take on Lovecraftian horror or have struggled to receive reproductive healthcare, I highly recommend checking out Strange Eons! You can also check out the other stories in this issue of Bourbon Penn here. Or you can see what else Perkins is up to on her website.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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Book Reviews

Walking Practice – A Book Review



Walking Practice is Dolki Min’s debut novella about an alien named Mumu, who must learn what it is like to perform as a human. Victoria Caudle, the translator of this unique Korean story, experiments with the English language to properly convey Min’s style. This, complimented with Min’s various drawings of the story’s protagonist, creates a poetic, outlandish reading experience that keeps you hooked from beginning to end.

Walking Practice: Never Enough Practice

After the destruction of their home planet, Mumu crash lands their spaceship in a desolate forest far from human life. They survive by having sex with humans then, with graphic violence and great diligence, eats them.

Mumu has a strict schedule and regimen for this process; they must shapeshift their body to the specific gender and personality their date is attracted to. While this process of gender conformation is a difficult one (as the alien will often tell us), it is nowhere near as hard as the ridiculous habit humans have of walking on two legs. This is one of the many obstacles Mumu must struggle with while playing the game of life.

Dolki Min with the Korean Herald
Dolki Min in an interview with the Korean Herald

Mumu is a rich, self-aware character who seems to trust only one human: the reader. They address us directly, asking questions and indulging us with their theories on what it is to live on Earth. They are knowledgeable about the complexities of personhood, and aware that a person’s gender and sex are complex and not one-size-fits-all. After years of experience in multiple genders, the alien theorizes that humans are treated as people as soon as they have a sex and gender assigned to them. However, depending on the sex and gender, that treatment is never equal.

While Mumu performs various genders and personalities to match the sexual desires of their future prey, they do not identify as human. At the end of the day, they go home, stock their human leftovers in the fridge and freezer, and unleash their natural form. Their only priority is their own survival and pleasure (which, arguably, is their most humanlike quality).


“I’ve learned that my face arouses homicidal impulses”

Walking Practice uses horror, science fiction and satire to create a passionate queer narrative. While Mumu is a serial killer who prides themselves on their murderous skills, it is hard not to feel for them when karma strikes back and they are hurt. The poetic elements of Min’s story and Caudle’s translation support our empathy for such a vicious character

Min’s artwork, depicting Mumu’s alien forms, complements Caudle’s stylistic choices. There is enjambment in several paragraphs, (which can be interpreted as the alien either having a flair for the dramatic or genuinely pausing to find the right words), thus enhancing their internal dialogue. There are moments when the Mumu’s stream of consciousness confuses reality from imagination. They will also lose all learned human skills and revert to their mother tongue; words either run together or are spaced apart, and sometimes there are unintelligible symbols. At the surface, it looks like a linguistic nightmare. Once immersed in Mumu’s narrative, it is a work of art.

The Verdict

Walking Practice‘s balance of ambiguity and transparency keeps the reader close while also allowing an array of interpretations. It is an eccentric piece of fiction that plays with the literary status quo, resulting in an entertaining affair with an unforgettable alien. 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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