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A Sniper in the Tower: The Charles Whitman Murders
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A Sniper in the Tower: The Charles Whitman Murders

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  296 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews
On August 1, 1966, Charles Whitman ascended the University of Texas Tower and committed what was then the largest simultaneous mass murder in American history. He gunned down forty-five people inside and around the Tower before he was killed by two Austin police officers. In addition to promoting the rise of S.W.A.T. teams to respond to future crises, the murders spawned d ...more
Paperback, 324 pages
Published March 1st 1997 by University of North Texas Press
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Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I watched Keith Maitland’s excellent documentary Tower a few months ago, the subject of which is the horrific shootings that occurred on August 1, 1966, where 14 people were killed and at least 31 injured by a lone gunman firing a high-powered rifle from the observation deck of the University of Texas Tower in Austin. Maitland’s film is focused on the stories of the witnesses, heroes, and survivors, and to the best of my recollection there was little if anything at all on the killer (Charles Whi ...more
Jill Meyer
Apr 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was in Austin this weekend and one of the places we visited was the University of Texas. In particular, I wanted to see the famous tower where Charles Whitman, a 25 year old student, shot and killed or wounded scores of people on August 1, 1966. I remember the event as if it were yesterday, despite there not being 24/7 news back then. This was a big deal, and the newspapers were full of details of the shooter and the shot and the police who cornered and killed Whitman. We walked around the tow ...more
Toni Moore
It has taken me years to read this book. I've had it for at least 10 years, and it's only because my brother kept telling me how good it was that I finally managed to pick it up again and finish it.

My reluctance to read "A Sniper in the Tower" had nothing to do with author Gary Lavergne's writing -- which is good, if workmanlike -- or his research, which is exhaustive. It had everything to do with the subject.

I was born and reared in Austin, and remember the hot August day when this unimaginable
Mar 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is an exhaustive study not only of the murders, but also of the personalities involved and how they were affected by theses tragic events. Lavergne's book accurately depicts the times and the setting, from small towns in Florida and Texas where Whitman and his family were from, to Austin of the 1960's and beyond. Lavergne seems to struggle some, as most do, with what made Whitman act. Was he a sociopath suffering from major depression but saw treatment as a sign of weakness? Was he the vict ...more
Sep 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a thoughtful, well researched account of the background leading up to the sniper shootings, as well as the actual day of the murders. The timeline was interesting to me and must have taken many bits and pieces to weave together. I, too was there that day, an 18 year old incoming freshman on campus for orientation. One of the policemen he mentions said he was in the doorway of Batts auditorium and 2 bullets narrowly missed him. I had been about to leave the west facing door of Batts Hall ...more
Mary Havens
Oct 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I used to walk across campus at UT, in front of the tower, and think how good my day was (even if I was having a hard day) because I was not getting shot at from the tower.
I came to UT in 1998, 32 years after the shootings, with only a pop culture idea of what actually happened. I've never been able to shake that macabre feeling. So it seemed fitting that I should read this book on the 50th anniversary of these terrible events.
Lavergne does an excellent job of researching and giving emotion to
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found this book interesting for a couple of reasons. First it happened when I was 17 years old so I remember the coverage of it. Of course there wasn't 24 hour news coverage in those days but it was a big event, a mass murder of random strangers. Some of the reasons it frightened people were the randomness of it, the large number of victims and the fact that Charles Whitman appeared to most acquaintances to be an all-American clean cut kid. He had been an Eagle and an honorably discharged Mari ...more
Kevin LaBrie
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fascinating look and a snapshot of American history. The author takes the time to stop and introduce you to every single one of this monsters victims which is rare and I found refreshing. I knocked a star off for the authors take on why Whitman did what he did. I wont tell you here, Ill let you be the judge.
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
True story. Describes how a person changes day by day to a killer mindset. Makes to see to how scary a person can get. I prefer reading this real story book to other fictions, if you think like me go for it.
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a surprisingly quick read; I especially enjoyed the depth with which Lavergne covered the victims of the shooting and the psychological aspects of the case.
Mary A. Miner
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hard reality to hear about

Having graduated from ut and walked across the mall looking at the tower my first day there I thought about this event. I didn't know half of what I know now. A sad but informative book
Mar 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

...while I was reading this book on the UT Tower shootings in August 1st, 1966, I found myself thinking back on Sandy Hook. There are a few similarities. Both Charles Whitman and Adam Lanza killed their family members before embarking on their massacres. Adam Lanza killed his mother; Charles Whitman killed his wife and mother before holing up in the Tower. After the Tower shootings, and also Sandy Hook, both raised concerns regarding mental health, and firearms.

For myself, looking back at the U
Dec 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A few years ago, I visited the Tower at the University of Texas in Austin. Now the public is allowed to visit, as long as one obtains reservations in advance, has picture identification and is willing to go through a security check, such as what is at a typical airport. When I was at the top of the Tower, I walked around and was amazed by amount of distance that could be seen from the observation deck.

On August 1, 1966, Charles Whitman took advantage of this view and went to the top of the view
Feb 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
I had heard of this tragic event that happened in 1966, but I didn't know much about it. Just that a man had shot a lot of people from the tower on the campus of the University of Texas. Recently I was privaleged to make the aquantance of Claire Wilson James; Charles Whitman's first victim when he began firing from the observation deck. Claire was not the first person Whitman shot that morning, but she was the first after he was in position on the observation deck.

Whitman was an X Marine and an
Feb 12, 2017 rated it liked it
I picked this up after hearing an interview with Claire Wilson about the new documentary, Tower. As someone who works on a large public university campus, I was little surprised that this was the first time I'd heard about this particular incident. The book itself is a fascinating narrative of domestic terrorism, and how this event influenced the development of campus facilities operations and security policies.
Dec 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
As a Texan, a writer-wannabe, and a collector of Texas non-fiction, I was estatic when I was able to pick this book up at Half-Price Books on Black Friday. I read it over the next two days and it was marvelous to be able to do so.

August 1, 1966, happened to be 15 days before my wedding. I was 19 and working in Houston, Texas. A co-worker came in during lunch break and said there was something going on in Austin, the Texas State Capitol,and someone was shooting people from the Tower on the UT cam
Lewis Smith
Jun 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This story has a very personal connection for me. My Mom, Dad, and three older siblings were there that terrible day; they were leaving the tower as Whitman was arriving - in fact, they got off the sidewalk to get out of his way as he trundled his dolly with its load of concealed weapons towards the building. They got in the car to drive back to the KOA camp they were staying at; moments later the shooting began.

This book is a fascinating study of how one psychopath made a conscious decision to
Austin Zhang
Aug 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Being a current student at the University of Texas at Austin, I was compelled to read this story that has been forgotten and hidden from history. I have always heard about the Tower shootings, but I never went in-depth to find out more about it. Eventually, someone introduced me to this book and I finally got that chance.

Gary M. Lavergne excellently weaved this story together in this book through extensive research and through multiple perspectives brought forth by the civilians, the APD, and th
Aug 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On August 1, 1966 Charles Joseph Whitman became the face of mass murder in the United States by shooting people from the observation deck of the tower at the University of Texas in Austin. Charles Whitman also murdered his mother and his wife on the night prior to the shootings.

The detail in this work is amazing. Gary M. Lavergne has documented the childhood and family life of Charles Whitman and the events leading up to the murders, as well as the events of August 1, 1966. Why would someone com
Jul 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, texas
I am a University of Texas alum, as is almost every member of my family, including my father, who was a student at UT at the time of the shooting. I've often wondered if my dad was on campus August 1, 1966, and what he might have seen or heard, but that is not something we talk about in our family. This book is a thorough investigation into the shooter's past, as well as comprehensive account of the 90 minutes of terror that overtook the school 50 years ago, giving me an idea of what my dad may ...more
Jun 01, 2008 rated it it was ok
It was alright. The meticulous notes and details on EVERY LITTLE THING was awesome for the first half of the book, but quickly got exhausting. The things Whitman had with him when he went up into the tower were catalogued and described so much, it took up two full chapters. I really didn't need quite that much detail about his stuff, though I can see why someone else might like it. It was about 100 pages too long. Otherwise it was ok. I've always been curious about this guy and why he did what h ...more
Aug 27, 2016 rated it really liked it

Actually quite good - unexpectedly so.

Well-researched; well-organized; includes maps and pictures scattered throughout the book but pretty much on target - appropriate choice of wording considering the content of the book - for where they should be, as opposed to grouped in the middle of the book.

Tons of admiration here for those who exhibited extraordinary courage that day.

Recommend - Yes, though I wish I had a better mental picture of the UT campus. Those who do will be further drawn
Tisha Havens
Aug 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Well written account of the the facts and timeline of the event in question. Kudos to the author for his excellent research, clear style, and ability to keep opinion and judgement out.. Although that is rendered easier as there is little to no analysis presented at all, and is very dry. One star off for that.
Another star off because it just isn't my cup of tea. If you like true crime, or if you live in the Austin area, it's certainly worth your time for its educational value.
Dec 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
A very thorough account of a truly tragic event in US history. Deemed the worst mass murder ever (until the recent Sandy Hook tragedy) its aftermath re-shaped our society and reconstructed law enforcement practices. Why this man did such a thing will never be known but without a doubt he was not insane but truly a sociopath.
Roger D Byrd
Dec 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great read!

This ya can't put down. As a 32 retired year officer, detective and former scout/sniper, I have always had a strong interest in case studies. Being predominately reactive LE's job is to stop what is happening at the time, history teaches, therefore, you need to know it, not repeat it. Learn from the experiences of others.
Jan 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great book that details the life of Charles Whitman and the event that took place from a number of perspectives. It was extremely detailed and quite personal, which I really enjoyed. It also has some photographs throughout the book as well.
Oct 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
A very thorough look at the Charles Whitman Murders, everything you wanted to know and didn't about this case is included. I myself knew very little of the incident prior to reading this book, but now consider myself an expert or whitmany as we prefer to be referred to as.
Jan 10, 2012 rated it liked it
I love the subject matter, but the Lavergne was a little too speculative for my taste, with statements like "He must have felt X" or "He had to be thinking Y". Otherwise, a great read, and VERY well-researched.
Aug 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: true-crime
So, SO interesting. A fascinating read about a very troubled man. Great detail and wonderful coverage of the heroes and the victims. The writing is detailed, covering Whitman's background in just enough detail.
Jul 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
I've always been fascinated by the morbid. Mass killings, serial killers, assassinations. This was an easy two day read. Lots of minute details. And now that I live in Austin, I'm gonna have to go investigate that tower.
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