Acclaimed novelist Vann (Caribou Island, 2011, etc.) alternates his own adolescent fantasies about guns and school shootings with those of Steve Kazmierczak, who on Valentine's Day 2008 killed five and wounded 18 on the Northern Illinois University campus before ending his own life.
The author’s notes that his back story and that of Kazmierczak are similar. Though an outwardly well-behaved, exceptional student, Vann began an obsession with guns at age 13 after his father's suicide; the author had easy access to the weaponry his father left behind. When he read about Kazmierczak's rampage, the author felt compelled to investigate and obtained an assignment from Esquire. Gaining access to Kazmierczak's 1,500-page police file, Vann delved into the reasons for the mass murder. Those who had known Kazmierczak only during his years as a NIU student might have seen a dedicated scholar in the making, a potential professor of criminology who earned high grades and participated in campus activities. By relying on the law-enforcement files, however, Vann began to understand the demons of a manic depressive individual who had used powerful medications heavily, demonstrated suicidal tendencies for years, become alienated from family members and found it difficult to maintain friendships and romantic relationships. Although he rarely deviates from his own history and the arc of Kazmierczak's troubled life, Vann occasionally provides background on previous campus mass murderers (including the 2007 tragedy at Virginia Tech) and on the ease of purchasing deadly weapons in the United States.
A carefully crafted account of a descent into fatal madness.