On camera, Mr Powell seemed to struggle to assimilate the idea that his book had apparently been influential on a number of notorious criminals. One was Zvonko Busic, a Croatian nationalist who hijacked a TWA flight in 1976 while carrying fake bombs after leaving a real one at Grand Central Terminal that killed a police officer who tried to deactivate it.
Others included Thomas Spinks, who was part of a group that bombed abortion clinics in the 1980s; Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995; Eric Harris, one of Columbine’s forwards; and Jared Loughner, who killed six people in his 2011 assassination attempt on Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona.
“When ‘The Cookbook’ was associated with Columbine and subsequent characters and murders, I felt responsible, but I didn’t,” Mr. Powell told Mr. Siskel, adding: “Someone else with a perverse, warped sense of reality did something terrible. I didn’t.
William Ralph Powell was born on Long Island, Roslyn, on December 6, 1949. His father, William Charles Powell, was a United Nations press officer; his mother, the former Doreen Newman, ran a phobia clinic at a hospital in White Plains.
Mr Powell told Mr Siskel that after his father was transferred to Britain, he attended a school where bullying was commonplace and where the headmaster caned him. When the family returned to the United States, he said, he felt alienated as an outsider. Her fifth grade teacher made fun of her British accent. At a prep school in Westchester County, NY, he said, he was assaulted by the dorm master.
He was working in a Greenwich Village bookstore in late 1969 when he decided to quit his job to research and write “The Anarchist Cookbook”.