FIRE AND BLOOD by David Leppard


The True Story of David Koresh and the Waco Siege
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 First published last year in Great Britain, a decent but already dated quickie account of cult leader David Koresh and the conflagration last year at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. Leppard (On the Trail of Terror: The Inside Story of the Lockerbie Investigation, not reviewed), deputy editor of the Sunday Times (of London) ``Insight'' team, draws mainly on court transcripts, official reports, and affidavits rather than on primary sources. He devotes a section each to the March 1993 federal raid that left four agents and six cult members dead, Koresh's background and the cult's cosmology, and the 51-day siege that ended in the fiery (and bullet-riddled) deaths of Koresh and some 80 followers. Most interesting is Leppard's somewhat luridly written tale, based on Koresh's 1988 trial for attempted murder, of how Vernon Wayne Howell, ``a semi-literate ninth-grade drop-out and failed rock guitarist,'' became ``David Koresh, pathological killer and child molester, hell-bent on mass destruction.'' Leppard has a tendency toward breathlessly sensationalist prose: ``What force was at work? Was it some psychopathology which clinical experts could recognize? Was it evil?'' However, this book has already been overtaken by events, such as the 1994 trial of surviving Branch Davidians, whose revelations reflected poorly on the government. Nor has Leppard had the time to fully investigate issues like Attorney General Janet Reno's questionable decision to approve the raid that ended the siege, or to query whether the FBI could have allowed other hostage negotiators, such as those from city police departments, to replace its fatigued agents. Deeper books probing both Koresh and the feds' poor procedures surely are coming. (8 pages b&w photos)

Pub Date: July 1st, 1994
ISBN: 1-85702-166-5
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Fourth Estate/Trafalgar
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1994


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