This article is an electronic version of an article originally published in Cultic Studies Journal, 1998, Volume 15, Number 2, pages 229-230. Please keep in mind that the pagination of this electronic reprint differs from that of the bound volume. This fact could affect how you enter bibliographic information in papers that you may write.
Book Review - Fire and Blood: The True Story of David Koresh And The Waco Siege
David Leppard. Fourth Estate Limited, London, England, 1993, 182 pages
This book is an account by a former crime reporter and his attempt to illustrate who David Koresh was, his following and examine the tragic ending. The author has been nominated in the Report of the Year category of the 1989 British Press Awards. The author divides the book into three parts that are not in chronological order. He begins the book by describing the first incident that finally concerned authorities about a religious cult that were stockpiling weapons, ammunition and explosives near Waco, Texas.
Part I of this book examines the “building for Armageddon.” This section contains three chapters that explore the first reports of trouble provided by neighbors complaining to local police of gunfire and suspected child abuse. Neighbors’ complaints lead into the first investigation by local authorities to inquire about illegal guns and child protective services exploring the child abuse allegations. The last two chapters provides accounts of what lead to the ATF’s involvement and the buildup to the first tragic confrontation with David Koresh and the Branch Davidians.
Part II of this book is a historic account of the Branch Dividians and how they grew to exist from a New England preacher, William Miller, in the 1800’s, who was the founder of The Seventh Day Adventists. This section contains four chapters that describe the ongoing troubles the Adventists encountered and promises that never materialized since its beginning. The chapters examines how Vernon Howell, aka, David Koresh became involved with the church and his obsession with the bible. The author explores David Koresh’s psychological make-up and characteristics that eventually lead people to follow David and formulate their own religious group from a original group they all attended led by George Roden and his wife. The chapters depict the conflicts between David Koresh and George Roden for the land that George occupies and the eventual overtaking by David Koresh and the Branch Davidians. In the last chapter of this section, the author examines how David Koresh at this point began to take control of his followers and what life was like at Mount Carmel.
Part III of this book returns to the investigation and siege of the Branch Davidians by the FBI, SWAT team and the ATF. This section contains four chapters, also, that examines the attempts by federal agents and well known professional that were brought in to peacefully resolve the hostile situation without further deaths. This section explores decisions that were made and an account of what led to the last raid of the compound that ended in an inferno that eventually killed David Koresh and 80 of his followers, including 22 children.
The author provides a factual account of the Waco siege, which he acknowledges at the end of the book. He does not provide any literature references or bibliography, however, the book reads of his own investigation. The author does not imply conclusions or insights of his own, but stays with providing information that he collected. His book is an accumulation of evidence provided by ex-cult members, court and official documents compiled to tell the story of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians. This book would provide a novice cult reader with an exploration of how a cult is a danger to society and individuals. It does not provide a critical analysis of the issues or factors that centered around the controversy of what happened at Waco.
Kimberly Salow, BS, RSW
Therapist, Grad Student
Cultic Studies Journal Volume 15 Number 2 1998