Sales of new book a low-key affair in Oklahoma City

Wednesday, April 4th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Roger Stroede bought the new book about Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, although he wasn't exactly proud of it.

``I feel like I just walked out of a dirty book store with my book in brown paper,'' Stroede said Tuesday, toting a plastic bag with ``American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing.''

The book, released Tuesday, has angered some of those who survived or lost loved ones in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building.

In the book, McVeigh admits to the bombing and says he had no sympathy for those affected by it. He refers to children who died in the bombing as ``collateral damage.''

Some relatives of bombing victims have urged people not to buy the book, saying it gives McVeigh the forum he always wanted before his scheduled May 16 execution. Its authors, Buffalo News reporters Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck, promised a portion of its proceeds to the Oklahoma City National Memorial, but memorial officials said they don't want the money.

Such feelings left local book sellers and buyers in an awkward position. Some stores refused to sell the book; others kept sales low key.

Stroede, who was only blocks away when the federal building was bombed, admitted the controversy over the book made him think twice about buying it.

``I think you're caught in a political and personal feeling of, 'What's right?' And it's a shame,'' Stroede said. ``This is America. If you don't want it, don't buy it.''

At a Borders book store, only two copies of ``American Terrorist'' were visible _ mixed inconspicuously with dozens of other titles on a shelf behind the counter.

A store employee leafed though a copy at the counter and noted that 10 copies had been bought within the first hour of opening.

``I won't buy it. I'm just curious,'' she said. ``But I don't think people should be ashamed to buy it at all. It's going to be in all the history books, anyway.''

Still, to pick up the book in Oklahoma City on Tuesday was to risk sideways glances from other customers.

Dwe Williams got her share of them as she studied the book at a Barnes & Noble in north Oklahoma City.

``I'll buy it because I'm brave,'' she said, before admitting she waited to look at the book until her friend left the store.

Many stores in the area refused to discuss sales of the book. Even libraries debated how best to handle the situation.

Oklahoma County's library system ordered 16 copies _ one for each of its libraries _ largely because of customers who requested the book before its release, said Karen Marriott, the director of material for the Metropolitan Library System. She said the system sometimes orders around 300 copies of books that receive national attention.

``Our goal was to meet the demand of our customers, but not to make a big deal of it,'' Marriott said.

Herman Kirkwood, wearing blue overalls and a green baseball cap, unabashedly picked up a copy of the book at an area book store.

Kirkwood said he was awakened by the blast in his Oklahoma City home and rushed to the scene to see what had happened. He said he wasn't going to let people tell him what he could or couldn't read.

``They've got the right to be angry, they just doesn't have the right to tell me not to buy the book,'' Kirkwood said.

Hal Priddy, who runs a book and magazine shop just blocks from the bombing site, joined retail chain Wal-Mart in refusing to sell the book.

Priddy said his good friend, Alvin Justes, died in the bombing. He said he was turning his back on the book because it was ``a pack of lies'' and out of respect for his dead friend.

``I understand the First Amendment right to freedom of speech and press,'' Priddy said. ``I just don't want it in my store.''