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New Novel Gives Shocking Examples of School Violence

In 1990 a student in Massachusetts named James Ballum suffered a brutal beating at his high school. His tormentors walked away clean while James was suddenly expelled. This injustice drove him to a homocidal conclusion. The new novel 'Almost Columbine' is the story of a tragedy that Almost happened.

Brockton, MA, December 01, 2006 --( On April 20th, 1999 an unemployed writer named Alex Hutchinson walked into his favorite Bridgewater coffee shop and heard a loud radio announcing that there had been a high school shooting. Not surprised, he cut past several gossiping listeners and ordered his drink. The other patrons were whispering in hush tones that they couldn’t believe this was happening and what has this country come to? Nonchalant about the event Alex caught all of their attention when he said; 

“It’s about time they talk about it.” 

“What do you mean?” asked a surprised college professor. 

“This isn’t the first time this has happened. This is simply the first time anyone cared enough to pay attention.” 

“How do you know that it’s happened before?” Asked the store owner from behind the counter. 

“Well, I was there. In fact, I almost did it myself,” replied Alex. 

With that cryptic statement left lingering in the air, he walked out of the café.

Nine years earlier on May 2nd, 1990 Alex was heading to class at Blue Hills Regional High School in Canton, Massachusetts. He had been having bullying problems since freshmen year and, although he was now a junior, the struggles were getting worse. On this day the same kids who had done him so much harm confronted him in the hallway in the school’s lowest floor, he was outnumbered but determined to escape. Four larger teens chased Alex into an empty shop where he was trapped. For the next ten minutes they beat him, burnt him with electrical wires and stabbed at him with blunt metal pipes. An hour later he limped through the halls bruised and battered. A teacher, ignoring his apparent injuries, yelled at him for not having a hall pass. In a fit of embarrassment and rage Alex pushed the teacher up against the wall and screamed in his face, the teacher promptly reported his actions. Later that afternoon Alex was permanently expelled from high school but had already decided to start planning his revenge.

Alex knew from personal experience that school shootings were far more prevalent than the public was aware of. In fact, there had been sixteen such incidents before Columbine, none of which made it onto the mainstream newscasts. However now that the tragedy in Littleton, Colorado was finally being discussed and studied, Alex was sure that the problem would soon be given the serious attention that it deserved. Unfortunately just the opposite happened. Since Columbine there have been forty more shootings, most of them fatal. The public didn’t solve the problems, but perhaps it’s because they still don’t know what they’re facing…?

Alex Hutchinson has released what is possibly the earliest recorded story of school violence that almost resulted in a massacre. His novel, “Almost Columbine,” takes place at his former high school Blue Hills Regional as well as the surrounding towns of Norwood, Brockton, Avon and Middleboro. The main character James ‘Dutch’ Ballum and his small group of friends face off against school bullies, rival street gangs, a vigilante cop and a gun dealer all in their often misshapen attempts to arm themselves with complicated plans of revenge. Luckily for everyone involved with this suburban gang they were often in over their heads. While other teens were dying around them, the HAWKS were often only a step behind the gunfire.

“Almost Columbine” is a work of fiction, but only to the degree that there were so few witnesses to many of the actual events. Alex does a fine job crafting his characters to reflect not only the helplessness of the situations, but also the fatalistic thinking that continues to be prevalent in today’s teenagers. With regular outbreaks in school violence across the country, this sixteen year old story is more relevant now than it was back when the author was still in school suffering from his own daily denigrations.

Almost Columbine: HAWKS Foundation Mission Two
By Alexander Hutchinson
ISBN: 0-595-41939-9
U.S. $20.95
Now available at

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