Columbine and the real thing

July 5, 2009 at 7:55 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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My last book signing for Columbine: A True Crime Story taught a lesson about how there is no substitute for the real thing.

The signing was at the Houston Barnes & Noble across from the massive, famous Galleria chock full of retail stores. The significance was that I was with Michael Shoels, the father of Isaiah Shoels, who was killed at Columbine.

We must have looked like an odd couple; me a short white guy in a tie and Michael a tall black man dressed all in black. We have known each other for almost ten years, since I started writing the Columbine book, and it meant a lot to be with him in Houston. I felt proud to share the moment with Michael because he and his family had opened up to me long, long before I had a book contract, and believed in me as an honest person and a book author. And the tour was part of proving I could publish the book. (I was also told, in Houston, that my book was required reading for a course in criminal profiling at Rice University.)

The final chapter of my book is about the Shoels family. Early on, they were amongst the most critical of the victims families, questioning the school, police, and killers’ parents. The Shoels, in turn, became amongst the most criticized of the victims’ families. People said their stances and lawsuits (among the first to emerge from Columbine) were grandstanding, opportunism, and money-grubbing. But no matter how hard you try to tell the story, it is no substitute for the real thing: Being there alongside a victims family. To hear Michael tell his stories brought up old emotions, and new emotions, as he recounted his feelings and fights for information. And Michael reminded people only the way a victims family can: Columbine never goes away.

Buy Columbine: A True Crime Story, a victim, the killers and the nation’s search for answers on Amazon.

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authors and bookstores

February 15, 2009 at 8:36 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Before Michael Moore came out with Bowling for Columbine (which had little connection to Columbine) there was his book Stupid White Men (which had no connection to Columbine).
Moore had a book signing at Tattered Cover in Denver and the Rocky assigned me to cover it. Moore and I were chatting and I recall him saying that his publisher didn’t cover his expenses for the tour. I was pretty surprised, but figured it might have been a sign of the times. Although Moore had also noted that his publisher was about to pulp the book at one point because they figured no one wanted to hear criticism of George Bush right after 9/11.
So I didn’t feel all that bad when I told my publisher I could set up a book tour myself. Even if I don’t agree with Michael Moore’s “reporting,” I figured I was in good company.
What I didn’t realize is that bookstores don’t like authors, at least when they try to set up their own book tours. The stores figure you’re self-published and don’t want to deal. And I suppose I can understand that. So I have capitulated and am having the publisher deal.
But I still need to get from Washington DC to Houston, most likely by land. The one-way drop off fees for rental cars are outrageous (one place quoted me $4,000 for ten days). So the question is, does anyone need a car driven from DC to Houston in April?

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