A Revenge Fantasy That Should Have Stayed a Fantasy

BULLY: A True Story of High School Revenge by Jim Schutze

Every picked-on kid dreamed of this kind of revenge in high school. But that don’t make it right.

Houston Chronicle reporter Jim Schutze (By Two and Two, 1996, etc.) always has impeccable taste in choosing true-crime cases to cover. Here he details the short life and hideous death of Bobby Kent, a high-school bully in an upscale Fort Lauderdale, Fla., community.

Iranian by birth, Bobby quickly adapted to life in America, developing a taste for bikini-clad blondes, his tripped-out car stereo, and a heavily muscled torso—he popped steroids like Tic Tacs. Bobby’s best friend and neighbor, Marty Puccio, was his accomplice in many of his misdeeds (their specialty was tormenting retarded students), and the two developed a fascination with homosexual pornography and gay men (a tidbit Schutze opts not to explore).

Bobby forces Marty to date overweight girls, and when plump, lovesick Lisa Connelly shows up at the Publix deli counter where the boys work, Marty gains a new girlfriend. Bobby spends much of his time mocking Lisa and occasionally beats her girlfriends and Marty, as well. When Lisa becomes pregnant and Marty is unsupportive, she decides that Bobby is the problem. She convinces Marty and her cousin to kill Bobby, and in a series of unintentionally hilarious scenes, she includes an ever-widening group of drug-addled teens.

Seven kids take Bobby out one night to the Everglades, stab and bludgeon him, and dump him into the swamp for the alligators. Freakishly compelling and highly readable until this point, the book breaks down after the abbreviated court scenes. Schutze quickly assesses the results of the seven trials (the defense attorneys briefly consider using an “urban psychosis” plea; Marty gets the death penalty) but concludes weakly in a self-righteous blast at their parents, without examining the effects of the teens’ copious drug use, their undeniable stupidity despite good schooling, and he apparently hasn’t spoken to any of the seven after sentencing.

True Crime writer Jack Olsen blurbed the book, calling Schutze “perhaps our best true crime author” and describing Bully as “another masterpiece.” Not so much. This is a gripping story that would have benefitted from the hand of a true master like Olsen himself. Without that, it’s pretty much an insight-free look at a bunch of teenage morons feeding another teenage moron to the alligators, with lots of swearing, sex and drugs thrown in for good measure. Which is still pretty entertaining.

BULLY: A True Story of High School Revenge by Jim Schutze (Morrow/HarperCollins, ISBN: 0380723336)

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Rebecca Kurson

Rebecca Kurson writes about literature, pop culture, television, science fiction and music. Her work has appeared in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Observer, The Federalist and Rodale's Organic Life.

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