Rave Reviews for A SNIPER IN THE TOWER
"In an era of seemingly ever larger public massacres and fiendish acts of terrorism, Gary Lavergne masterfully investigates the first such crime that seared the American conscience, Charles Whitman's 1966 rampage at the University of Texas. In Lavergne's skillful hands, and backed by meticulous research, Whitman's moment of madness is chillingly recreated, and we come as close as possible to understanding the 'why' of mass murder."
Gerald Posner is the author of CASE CLOSED, considered by many to be the final word on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He is also the author of CITIZEN PEROT, a critically acclaimed biography of Ross Perot
"A thorough and fascinating examination of one of the most shocking crimes of the century."
Vincent Bugliosi is the author of OUTRAGE: FIVE REASONS WHY O.J. SIMPSON GOT AWAY WITH MURDER, and HELTER SKELTER: THE TRUE STORY OF THE MANSON MURDERS, the best selling true crime book in publishing history.
"Gary Lavergne is the best true-crime storyteller I've read since Truman Capote."
Kinky Friedman is the popular author of THE LOVE SONGS OF J. EDGAR HOOVER and ROADKILL, and BLAST FROM THE PAST.
"Reading the authoritative account of the Whitman case, A Sniper in the Tower by Gary M. Lavergne -- which was published in 1997, before our recent mass murders -- one feels it's as much prophecy as history."
Frank Rich in a New York Times OP-ED Column, September 25, 1999
"Charles Whitman's 'Guns of August' blew a hole in the American Century and drove us down the road towards gated communities and SWAT Teams. Read this brilliant birth certificate of Fear Nation."
Charles Bowden is a Contrubuting Editor of ESQUIRE and the author of JUAREZ: THE LAB0RATORY OF OUR FUTURE.
"Gary Lavergne has done an outstanding job of chronicling one of the most significant cases in the annals of American crime. He has skillfully researched, documented, and analyzed a case that in many ways defined the concept of 'mass murder.' A SNIPER IN THE TOWER will likely become a classic in anyone's library of true crime editions. My sole disappointment is that it took three decades for a book like this to have been written... at last, the true story is told."
James Alan Fox is one of the world's foremost authorities on mass murder. With his colleague, Jack Levin, he co-authored MASS MURDER: AMERICA'S GROWING MENACE and OVERKILL: MASS MURDER AND SERIAL KILLING EXPOSED. Both were landmark works on a growing American social ill.
"A SNIPER IN THE TOWER is a terrific and detailed true crime classic."
Dr. Susan Swartwout teaches Creative Writing and Literature at Southeast Missouri State University and is the author of two poetry collections, "Freaks" and "Uncommon Ground." She is also the Small Presses Expert Editor for AMAZON.COM, the "World's Largest Bookstore," which chose A SNIPER IN THE TOWER as a recommended book. It was also chosen as one of Ten Best Small Presses Books of 1997.
"Only the passage of time and America's tragic experience with other mass murders has allowed Gary Lavergne to look back on the Texas Tower sniper with a clearer sense of what Whitman was about, and as an unusually gifted author he does so with a cool, balanced, and yet vivid recounting of the gory mayhem that occurred on August 1, 1966, providing readers with intelligent insights rather than simplistic conclusions. His understated style only enhances the sense of terror and drama that took everyone, including the police, press, and an uncomprehending public, by complete surprise, destroying many lives besides those which were lost to rifle bullets."
William J. Helmer witnessed the UT Tower tragedy from several positions on the UT campus. While watching the sniper he was cut by flying glass from a window shattered by a bullet. Helmer is a former Contributing Editor of PLAYBOY and co-author of DILLINGER: THE UNTOLD STORY and is the author of THE GUN THAT MADE THE TWENTIES ROAR, a book about the Tommy Gun.
"As a reporter who broadcast the Charles Whitman murders live while crouched behind a mobile unit in the shadow of the University of Texas Tower on August 1, 1966, I have followed this story for 30 years. Now, with Gary Lavergne's SNIPER IN THE TOWER, we have the first scholarly research ever performed on this horrific American tragedy. Lavergne's investigative expertise, his objectivity, and his scientific eye for evidence forms a truly revealing picture of Charles Whitman, until now a fathomless madman. Lavergne brings us this story in a non-sensational, careful recounting of facts, following years of painstaking tracking of every lead and every crumb of information pertinent to the story. This is a stunning achievement."
Neal Spelce anchors the K-EYE Witness News, on Austin's CBS affiliate. He won national awards for his live remote reports about the Tower tragedy.
"Gary Lavergne's A Sniper in the Tower: The Charles Whitman Murders is the first thing I have read to make sense of an insane incident. This is because Lavergne so developed the characters in his well-told tale that, at long last, I learned much more not only of Whitman, but of his victims and the policemen responding to the tragedy than I had previously known or suspected. A great read and an assist to history. Run out and buy it."
Larry L. King is one of Texas' most prolific writers and playwrights. He is the author of THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS, and several other plays and books.
"For some reason I never felt an urge to write a book about Charles Whitman, although I am a professional writer and received a serious wound on that deadly day as an Associated Press reporter running after two highway patrolmen toward the Tower. But I am eternally grateful to Gary Lavergne for his meticulous book. Anyone who wants a straight-forward, unemotional report on what really happened should get this book. It is the definitive account. Any writer who attempts to revisit the story in its entirety is wasting time."
Robert Heard, an AP reporter who was wounded in the left shoulder by one of Whitman's rifle blasts, was one of the first newsmen to arrive on the scene. Today he is a freelance writer and the author of five books. He also produces INSIDE TEXAS, a newsletter on UT sports.
"As a young writer for the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, I heard the gunfire on August 1, 1966 as Charles Whitman fired from the University of Texas Tower and police shot back. Reading Gary Lavergne's A SNIPER IN THE TOWER 30 years later made me hear that gunfire again. I knew one of Whitman's victims and later knew many of the police officers involved in the situation that day. This is an objective treatment of a story that is hard for anyone who was there that hot summer day to be objective about."
Mike Cox is now the Public Information Officer for the Texas Department of Public Safety. He is also a "Texana" columnist for the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN and the author of TEXAS RANGER TALES, the winner of the 1997 Violet Crown Award.
Lavergne sketches the disparate experiences of the major participants in the massacre with the skills of an imaginative fiction writer, a perceptive journalist, and an objective historian. The reader senses the bizarre implausibility of the events, with a composite perspective of every major actor, including Charles Whitman. This was not fiction... This book is a valuable, well-documented account; it won't induce peaceful sleep or urban serenity.
James G. Dickinson of Stephen F. Austin State University writing for the EAST TEXAS STATE HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION JOURNAL (Spring, 1998).
A true crime classic, Gary M. Lavergne's book gives the most complete analysis of the man who climbed the tower at the University of Texas in 1966 and shot 45 people, besides killing his wife and mother the night before. Also revealed is the shocking information about Whitman's family life; he was not the all-American young man gone suddenly insane as he was depicted in the media. Instead, the dark secrets of his relationship with his father and his father's own violence is woven into this account of calculated evil. This book has been hailed by experts as an excellent depiction of a case that defined mass murder, the largest mass murder in U.S. history at that time.
DALLAS MORNING NEWS
Meticulously researched and scrupulously balanced, A SNIPER IN THE TOWER is the definitive, in-depth look at a mass murderer whom many still remember, as did his friends, professors and family, as the "all-American boy."
In his research, Gary Lavergne goes beyond the folklore and partial excuses for the gruesome crimes committed by Charles Whitman. And the author is not afraid to use the word "evil." In short: It’s an important history that reads like a good crime yarn.
Excellent historical biography, should be required reading for all Texans and people who wonder what the hell happened to the world in the Sixties. (The Austin Chronicle chose it as one of Ten Notable Books of 1997.)
SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS
Students of true crime and the social sciences, as well as those who simply remember the terrible time, will feel compelled to read this well-produced volume.
Gary M. Lavergne, a former teacher and currently an administrator with the Southwest Region Office of the College Board, has produced a carefully researched, dispassionate account of that terrible day... bringing them chillingly to life without descending to sensationalism.
Lavergne is an unlikely author of a book that reads like a crime novel. He is a statistician with the College Board, the SAT publisher. But through exhaustive research of the records, as well as interviews with people who knew Whitman, he touches upon issues which still plague America today.
A good choice for true-crime collections.
This is the first book-length study of Whitman, and given the thoroughness of Lavergne’s work, it may well remain the only one.
A true-crime classic, Gary M. Lavergne’s book gives the most complete analysis of the man who climbed the Tower at the University of Texas in 1966 and shot 45 people, besides killing his wife and mother the night before.
TEXAS BOOKS IN REVIEW
Who was Whitman? Why did he do it? How did he do it? What was the aftermath of such carnage? These points are explored and objectively answered by Gary M. Lavergne in his superbly researched and very well-written study of A Sniper in the Tower. Lavergne brings a mass killer into focus and in so doing delineates the beginning of many of our nation's present societal fears... Lavergne does achieve a superior portrayal of the creation of a killer... this is a rather frightening book.
Gary M. Lavergne has written an excellent account of the
crime. He provides the reader with biographical information on many of the key
players in this tragedy, including some of the victims. Lavergne makes you feel
that you are both in the tower with Whitman and on the ground with his injured
and traumatized victims. He takes you into the barricaded buildings where
terrified people huddled for safety, he takes you out onto the hot pavement
where many of his victims lay dead and dying. He skillfully recreates the panic
and terror of that time as well as the bravery of the police officers who ended
Whitman's siege with a few well aimed bullets.
COMMAND: The Tactical Police Officers Quarterly
A Sniper in the Tower, by Gary M. Lavergne, reads with the intrigue of a fine novel revealing facts leading up to and following the Charles Whitman murders. Dispelling some of the myths of Whitman, the Eagle Scout and the all-American boy, the author exposes the true character of Whitman. Also he finally lays to rest some of the unanswered questions of the incident, like who shot Charles Whitman? And more importantly, why it should not matter.
SECURITY MANAGEMENT: The American Society for Security Management
After thirty years, this is the first book to tell the story of Charles Whitman and his sniping from the University of Texas Tower in Austin. The result is a good read and a helpful learning tool for security managers.