Lamb: …The Hour I First Believed, the novel I’m writing now, started not with a voice or an image, but with an anecdote that a cousin of mine told me. She and her family live in Paducah, Kentucky, the site of one of the school shootings; I think it was about a year and a half before Columbine. Her two younger daughters went to that school, and were friends with the sister of the kid who did the shooting and killing. His name was Michael Carneal, and my cousin’s daughters knew his older sister. So, my cousin was telling me this story about that day—the confusion, and the horror of what had just happened. I believe Michael had been apprehended and taken away, and the school was in chaos, and his older sister was walking in a daze down the corridor, just sobbing and saying, “But in four years here I’ve never even been absent, I’ve never been in trouble.” She was just moaning, at least in the version that I heard. And that was a couple, three, four years before I sat down to write this novel. Every time I remembered the story my cousin told me, tears would come to my eyes, and sometimes tears would fall, and my heart went out to that poor girl and everybody in the school, including this very disturbed kid who had brought the gun to school. I didn’t want to write about a school shooting, but it wouldn’t let go of me, so I started researching Columbine, just because there’s so much out there about Columbine, and lo and behold, that’s where the novel begins, in Littleton, Colorado, at Columbine High School. —“A Conversation with Wally Lamb,” upstreet number three, ©Copyright 2007 Vivian Dorsel
You can read Chapter One of The Hour I First Believed on Amazon.com. Here’s how it begins:
They were both working their final shift at Blackjack Pizza that night, although nobody but the two of them realized it was that. Give them this much: they were talented secret-keepers. Patient planners. They’d been planning it for a year, hiding their intentions in plain sight on paper, on videotape, over the Internet. In their junior year, one had written in the other’s yearbook, “God, I can’t wait till they die. I can taste the blood now.” And the other had answered, “Killing enemies, blowing up stuff, killing cops! My wrath will be godlike!”
My wrath will be godlike: maybe that’s a clue. Maybe their ability to dupe everyone was their justification. If we could be fooled, then we were all fools; they were, therefore, superior, chaos theirs to inflict. But I don’t know. I’m just one more chaos theorist, as lost in the maze as everyone else.
It was Friday, April 16, 1999, four days before they opened fire. I’d stayed after school for a parent conference and a union meeting and, in between, had called Maureen to tell her I’d pick up takeout. Blackjack Pizza was between school and home. —The Hour I First Believed, ©Copyright 2008 Wally Lamb