Dimebag Darrell’s shocking murder while performing onstage at a Columbus, Ohio nightclub also claimed three ordinary people whose heroism under fire cost them their lives. A Vulgar Display of Power seeks to honor these brave souls (Erin Halk, Jeff Thompson, and Nathan Bray), pay homage to Dimebag’s revered stance in the metal community, detail the elements and timeline of the crime, and offer tributes from fans. It’s a tall order, and the book teeters a bit under its ambitious premise. The tributes from friends and fans, for example, are scattered throughout the book, and, while sincere, their frequent appearance breaks the narrative flow. In addition, I was conflicted about the comprehensive biographic profiles of Halk, Thompson, and Bray. Their deaths were absolutely tragic, and author Chris A. should be lauded for not glossing over their sacrifices in deference to Dimebag’s star power. But the troubling journalistic fact is that these men lived fairly common lives, and the level of insight into their pasts seems a bit much. Incredibly, there’s even a chapter dedicated to the Cautela family, owners of the Alrosa Villa—the small club where the murders took place.Where this sad book is most affecting is in its extremely scrupulous and detailed reporting of the tragedy. Chris A’s attention to every tendril of the events leading up to, and including, disturbed maniac Nathan Gale’s rampage with his Beretta is chillingly precise. Even in an age where crime shows practically overrun cable TV, this is truly brilliant detective work, and the author’s methodical text is presented amidst multiple crime-scene photos and diagrams. There is never a “good” way to describe a scene of senseless slaughter, but A Vulgar Display of Power manages to balance straight facts with care and empathy. As a result, it’s one of the most heartfelt books you’ll ever read on the awful subject of murder. —Michael Molenda
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