Jeff Guinn’s Waco: David Koresh, the Branch Davidians, and A Legacy of Rage

Any time Jeff Guinn releases a new book is a special occasion on this blog. I’m a big Guinn fan–thanks so much to Mary-Esther to introducing me to his books a few years ago. In the past, I’ve reviewed or profiled his books that span from Jim Jones to Bonnie and Clyde to the Pershing Expedition. I always know that a Guinn nonfiction book will be thought-provoking, well-written, and well-researched, and I think he particularly shines at historical true crime. He excels at examining the social and historical contexts that his subjects both shaped and were shaped by.

His latest book, about the Branch Davidians, their leader David Koresh, and the infamous standoff that unfolded at Waco thirty years ago this spring, particularly succeeds at this and is a fascinating read. Thanks so much to Julie for purchasing it for the library!

Going into this book, I wasn’t actually too familiar with Waco. I knew the basics of what happened, but I was too young when it happened to follow what was going on. So, I’m actually more familiar with criminals inspired by Waco (Tim McVeigh, for instance) than Waco itself. Guinn does cover how Waco still continues to lurk in the popular conscience, but I was particularly interested in the history and background of both the Branch Davidians and David Koresh, which fills a good early 1/3 of the book. The Branch Davidian history was quite a bit more extensive than I’d assumed, and Koresh’s own rise to power within the group is a bizarre odyssey.

Guinn’s obviously done his homework on the Branch Davidians and interviewed numerous survivors in the process, but he also devotes equal attention to the feds, particularly the ATF investigation that led up to the February 28, 1993 shootout that precipitated the 51-day siege. As Guinn amply documents, there was a lot going on in the compound that merited law enforcement’s attention, but they were also woefully under-prepared and ill-informed about what was going on behind the scenes. It was the perfect recipe for disaster.

The siege itself and the fire that ended it make for grim but compelling reading. Ultimately, Guinn argues that a lot of what unfolded tragically was both sides profoundly misunderstanding and underestimating each other and talking past each other in the heated, byzantine negotiations.

Waco: David Koresh, the Branch Davidians, and A Legacy of Rage is a fascinating book that is well worth reading. The story itself is an interesting one in its own right, but Guinn also works in interesting parallels and differences between David Koresh and both Jim Jones and Charles Manson, previous topics of his books, that makes for a particularly insightful discussion.

Recommended for those who like compelling true crime that is thoughtfully written.

Are you a fan of Jeff Guinn’s work? Have you read his Waco book? What have you been reading lately? Tell us in the comments! As always, please follow this link to our online library catalog for more information on this item or to place it on hold.


Author: berryvillelibrary

"Our library, our future"

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