Boy, I don't know what my problem is, but lately I've been reading "hard to read" books. This book is haunting. But it's honest, and I think it's impoBoy, I don't know what my problem is, but lately I've been reading "hard to read" books. This book is haunting. But it's honest, and I think it's important to read--especially for those who work with children or have them.
I've read other books about Columbine. The fact that this is written by Brooks Brown (with Rob Merritt) who was a friend of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris gives it a unique perspective. Brown recalls what Klebold and Harris "were really like" and offers history and context to some of the myths we heard in the media. I greatly appreciated that Brown doesn't sugar coat his own problems; it sort of lends more credibility when he talks about how hurtful Eric Harris was to him and to his family. As a better--and nearly lifelong--friend of Dylan Klebold's, Brown's account is definitely biased toward sympathy for Klebold that he doesn't really have toward Eric.
Brown is also in a unique position to call out the police. They knew about Harris's death threats and murderous rants for several months before Columbine. Had they acted on the reports and information the Brown family provided them, they could very possibly have stopped the attack altogether. I can't dwell on that thought too long. Nor can I dwell on what the police--and the Littleton community--did to Brooks and his family afterwards.
Throughout its recount of his life growing up, the bullying at Columbine leading up to the attacks (and after them), April 20, and its aftermath, Brown doesn't hesitate to lay the blame squarely on Klebold and Harris for what they did--while he questions what propelled them to commit these heinous acts, he calls them what they are: murderers.
And yet . . . in a way, he almost humanizes them. And he certainly reminds us that the 12 innocent children and the 1 innocent children and the dozens of others wounded weren't the only victims. Klebold and Harris died that day too. And they were grieved. They were missed. And then there are their families and their friends who are left wondering--even today--what they could have done or should have done differently. How they could have been betrayed so thoroughly by people they loved. How they reconcile the monstrous acts with the boys they enjoyed. That's the trouble with acts like this. They don't happen in a vacuum, even when our society wants to force them into one....more
Dominick Dunne has got to be one of the most interesting men who have ever lived. Somehow he seemed to have a face or a personality or something aboutDominick Dunne has got to be one of the most interesting men who have ever lived. Somehow he seemed to have a face or a personality or something about him that led people to trust him and share secrets with him. He took those secrets--and honored the secret tellers when they were honest or fair--and wrote gripping fiction and compelling nonfiction. I used to love reading what he wrote for Vanity Fair and was sad when he passed away. Surely we had lost a great story teller who knew how to make nonfiction read like fiction and fiction carry the true weight of nonfiction. Brilliant.
Justice: Crimes, Trials, and Punishments is nonfiction. In it, Dunne recounts his own daughter's murder, which drew him in to telling the stories of victims and their families while exposing the lengths that defendents and their lawyers will go to to keep guilty men (and women) out of prison. Dunne also includes his essays on several popular trials of the '90s and early 2000s: the Menendez brothers, O.J. Simpson, and the murder of Martha Moxley and subsequent arrest--25 years later and in part because of Dunne's digging--of Michael Skakel.
There are also chapters dedicated to other murders and trials that are less familiar, except to those who have read some of Dunne's fiction. This was perhaps my favorite part of the book. It was "fun" (if one can say that regarding reading about murders and justifications) to read the true story behind some of the Dunne novels I have enjoyed over the years. He really changes remarkably little and somehow managed to avoid lawsuits even while building more than a few enemies among the rich and powerful. I wish I could have sat in a room with him for even a short time . . . I bet the conversation would have been fascinating.
Overall, I really liked this book. Why the three stars instead of four or five? I guess it's still too soon for me to read 10 chapters about O.J. Simpson. The trial truly was a debacle of justice, with the murders of two innocent people getting swept under the rug of pretending that a police officer's racism was a worse crime. Those 137 pages left me disgusted and hurt and angry all over again. It also left me grateful that he was caught in the Vegas robbery and is finally serving time. I find it ironic that for robbery he is serving a minimum of 9 years, with a maximum of 33 years, while he served no time for murdering two people. Yeah, it's still too soon. ...more
Cleverly written as a memoir, it was an engaging novel. With Dunne's "fiction," it's always so hard to know what is real and what he wishes was real.Cleverly written as a memoir, it was an engaging novel. With Dunne's "fiction," it's always so hard to know what is real and what he wishes was real. Because of the topic of this novel--the debacle of the OJ Simpson criminal trial for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman--and my personal feelings and expierences during the trial, I prefer to believe most of it this time. I only wish that Dunne would have lived long enough to see Simpson finally convicted of something....more
Every once in a while, a book will come along that sticks with me. It settles into my brain and sort of just grabs hold in a way that I know I'll neveEvery once in a while, a book will come along that sticks with me. It settles into my brain and sort of just grabs hold in a way that I know I'll never be the same. I've been changed by what I've read. The Meaning of Matthew is one of those books. I remember so vividly the day in October 1998 when I first heard that Matthew had been attacked and tied to a fence and left to die. I remember feeling personally violated at the thought that people could be so heartless and hateful. It made no sense to me. To be honest, it still doesn't.
Judy Shepard, Matt's mom, wrote this book ten years after the murder of her son, and it still makes no sense--to anyone. But, like so many people caught in tragic situations, she has decided to make the world different, make sense of the world, instead of the tragedy. The honesty with which Judy writes is moving. She doesn't paint Matt with an angelic brush and even calls out the media and others who have.
This book is important for everyone to read--whether you think you've made up your mind about homosexuality, whether you are facing it yourself or struggling with a family member who is, or whether you think none of it will ever affect you. It will. It does, in ways that may surprise you. Take a minute to learn what you can about yourself, about the people you know, and about the world in which we live. It's never okay to hate. It's not enough to tolerate. As Dennis, Matthew's father, stated in his victim impact statement at the sentencing of one of the murderers, "Love, respect, and compassion for everyone is why we are here today...loving one another doesn't mean that we have to compromise our beliefs; it simply means that we choose to be compassionate and respectful of others." ...more
This book was hard to read. But, I think it was also important to read. It was important to see what can happen to a woman who doesn't gain or build oThis book was hard to read. But, I think it was also important to read. It was important to see what can happen to a woman who doesn't gain or build or receive a healthy self image. It was important to see how many times Janine or Amy could have spoken out, crying for help, and it was even more important to understand why they kept quiet. ...more
I was so disappointed by The Prom Night Murders. I wasn't disappointed by the writing, which was good. I wasn't disappointed by the research, which waI was so disappointed by The Prom Night Murders. I wasn't disappointed by the writing, which was good. I wasn't disappointed by the research, which was thorough. I was disappointed by the ending.
Warning: This may seem like a spoiler, though the back of the book and a check on Google will reveal nothing less than what I've included.
I love true crime. It's probably my favorite genre, and I've read quite a bit of it. When it goes as far as a trial, I have never once failed to develop an opinion of my own about the guilt or innocence of the alleged perpetrator. Like most people, I want the bad guy to be caught and punished for his crimes. When he gets away, I'm disappointed, even if the evidence didn't support his or her guilt.
Living in a post-OJ and post-Casey Anthony world, it sometimes becomes clear that sometimes the bad guys DO get away. That's the reality of our judicial system. The prosecution needs to be able to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant is guilty of the crime at hand. When police botch evidence and show extreme prejudice and bloody gloves don't fit, there is reasonable doubt, and a jury can't ethically convict the defendant. When the body is so decomposed that cause of death can't be determined, mom goes free after killing her daughter.
That's why I found this book so disappointing. Let me be clear here. I'm pretty certain that Jeff Pelley killed his family. But Carlton Smith does such a thorough job researching the history of the Pelley family, the botched police investigations, the gruesome murders, and the aftermath. As a result of the evidence he lays out, I can't understand how the jury could convict him. There are just too many things that suggest he may not have been the murderer. Granted, there are many things that suggest he was, and the reader is privy to more than the jury heard. At the same time, the evidence exonerating Pelley is strong enough that I believe I would have hung the jury.
It's disappointing to me when the judicial system "doesn't work," and someone I believe is so clearly guilty walks. So it's probably a double standard for me to say that when it does work, and the bad guy pays for several lifetimes, I'm still a bit disappointed. Maybe I just think that if Pelley has to pay, then so should OJ and Casey. ...more
The story of the Nichols family is told here--through recollection and research--in a hauntingly beautiful narrative. In her introduction, Alonzo alloThe story of the Nichols family is told here--through recollection and research--in a hauntingly beautiful narrative. In her introduction, Alonzo allows that portions of the story are unbelievable. She was right. At times I had to remind myself that she was recounting true events supported by evidence, police accounts, and memories.
What is perhaps even more unbelievable than the events are the true themes of this story: submitting to God's call, no matter what or where it is; trust in God's protection and ultimate goodness; integrity; and, most significantly, forgiveness. This book is a beautiful reminder that forgiveness truly is the language of heaven. Even when--or perhaps especially when--it doesn't make sense....more
One reviewer called this book haunting. That's putting it mildly. Reading Ann Rule's in depth retelling of Ted Bundy's adult life is a gripping experiOne reviewer called this book haunting. That's putting it mildly. Reading Ann Rule's in depth retelling of Ted Bundy's adult life is a gripping experience. I was in turns horrified and fascinated (which makes me sound slightly psychotic, so bear with me) to read his own words from personal letters and descriptions of his crimes and victims from court and actual police documents.
Ann's background in police work and her personal relationship with Bundy uniquely qualify her to write a book no one else could. The fascination lies in those things as well. She is able to take readers of true crime beyond the limitations faced by most true crime books--beyond merely the facts and actually into the life of the criminal himself. As Ann says, it is likely that no one actually knew the real Ted Bundy. Her personal connection to him shows us that at the end of the day, that is the true horror of a sociopath: they seem so normal, so caring even. And then they show their true selves....more