With his note, [Lynwood Drake III] got the drop on us reporters, preachers, barflies and other on-the-fly sociologists who would come looking for larger lessons in the murder rampage, for the moral of the story. It's a common response in these cases: We plumb for deeper meaning to take the edge off chaos, to produce explanations and story angles that give the pointless a point. Thus, a gunman's assault on a San Ysidro McDonald's drifts into a debate over police tactics and fast-food chemicals. Thus, a nightmare on a Stockton schoolyard results in marginally tougher regulations for automatic weapons. Thus, Crazy Jim's twisted vengeance is framed as a failure of family.
Drake's past was sifted. It seemed important, as a hedge against future loose cannons, to document the early signs of trouble. "Somebody like that just doesn't happen," a boyhood friend of the troubled man told reporters. "He gets created." So readers were served up all the details-Drake's fascination with Wild West characters, his unexplained "problems" with his father, his battle with leg cancer, his obsession with his daughter, his habit of never knocking on doors. They were provided pictures of Drake posing with a plastic weapon. They were informed how, two days before the murder rampage, he had played poker for 15 hours straight, lost everything and wept like a baby.