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Avg. Rating: 4.67
a thundering good read
This is the definitive account of the longest trial in American legal history wherein four persons: Charles Manson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten, were sentenced to death for the murders of Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Voytek Frykowski, Stephen Parent, Leno La Bianca and Rosemary La Bianca. The crimes, collectively known as the Tate/La Bianca murders took place in Los Angeles in August 1969. Vincent Bugliosi's work is both focussed and orderly and he scores highly in bringing a convoluted and at times incompetent enquiry to the reader in a totally believable account. Stretching to 664 pages, some might consider the work too long winded but the story certainly licks along at a good pace. The lion's share of the time is given over to a day by day, blow by blow account detailing the court proceedings. These accounts are so good that in places you can believe yourself to be in the public gallery and can feel the tension and horror as this macabre tale unfolds.
The crimes, which rocked America in the late 60's and early 70's, are truly horrific. Bugliosi does not shy away from revealing the cold, callous and detached nature of each defendant; none of whom show the slightest remorse for their barbaric actions. Neither too are we sheltered from the abundant stabbings, shootings, hangings, and mutilations. There are ample official statements, legal examinations, cross-examinations and personal conversations to satisfy even the most curious. The reader's inclusion 'in the court' so to speak, might for some readers prove too much, but by a combination of thoroughness, attention to detail and style the author takes us into the bizarre world of Charles Manson.
He is a 'wannabe' but unsuccessful musician, drug user and, for more than half of his life, a frequenter of numerous penitentiaries. He is the self-styled guru of 'The Family' where most of the members are young, impressionable runaways. Lost, lonely and anti-establishment they, by numerous avenues end up at Manson's door. Most are female, most claim to be in love with Manson, most claim he possesses special power or is the embodiment of Christ or Satan (terms Manson uses of himself). The late 60's mix of sex, free love and drugs are used to full effect and, more often than not, the girls are used to attract new recruits. In turn, through a dangerous cocktail of charisma, fear and violence, added to delusionary interpretations brought on by 'hidden' meaning in a number of the Beatles songs, Manson creates a dependency upon himself and his words. In short - he controls their thoughts, actions and lives. He, Manson, plays the pipe, they dance in time until they kill to order, but as Bugliosi shows they too are willing participants in this 'game'.
Crucial to the prosecution's case is the motive for the murders - Helter Skelter. Bugliosi shows that through his interpretation of the Beatles lyrics, his predisposition to violence, his anti-establishment and racism, Manson attempts to kick-start a race war in America. BR>If the book has a down side it would be that the real comparisons between Charles Manson and Adolf Hitler are pretty tenuous; Bugliosi's frequent portrayal of himself in the, 'I'm always right' camp when comparing himself to his opponents in defence counsel, gets a bit irritating and the use of aliases with some of the main players in the 'Family' can get confusing at times. That said, for any true crime buffs out there who like their reading material to be a real mix of the gruesome and the legal, this book is a must.
This review covers the 1974 paperback edition.
====A TRULY STARTLING, AMAZING, WELL-WRITTEN MASTERPIECE====
I highly suggest that everybody read this book. It is, without hesitation, a genuine masterpiece in real life horror.
The first page on the book reads: "The Story in Which You Are About to Read Will Scare the Hell Out of You". That is not an understatement. This book literally kept me up at night fearing that someone could just simply walk into my living room at any minute. It was so vividly described that it put the fear of God in me when I could literally picture the entire array of murders accurately inside my head. It is such a horrifying aspect, a sea of thoughts that will forever remain inside your subconsciousness. I guarantee that when you read the passages describing the horrendous Tate/LaBianca murders, you will gradually build the entire picture inside your brain, to the point where you will feel like you are there, looking down on an excruciating scene of human barbarity. Not ONE detail is left to the imagination.
You will feel like you are inside the investigation, working with Bugliosi to pinpoint these motives, journeying with the killers step by step as they act out there darkest fantasies. You will begin to second guess "The White Album" and be disturbed by Manson's seemingly psychotic interpretation of it. (Make a point to listen to this album afterwards, and you will feel transported back to the Spahn Ranch where the madness soon ensued) You will feel yourself singing crazy ballads with the Family, you will become ancy inside Susan Atkins' jail cell. You will be scared alongside Linda Kasabian on the long night ride to the Tate house. All these feelings and more will incorporate your senses whilst reading this horrifying story.
All I can do to recommend this book enough to you is to say that it stayed with me and disturbed me for years to come. Every time I read this novel, I become obsessed with the events, haunted when I'm lounging around "in the dead of night". Trust me, reading this book is like surviving the events yourself. With its graphic detail and play by play analyzation of every possible occurence, "Helter Skelter" is one of the best true crime novels ever written. I can't suggest a better title for you to read. Be warned, however: Only immerse yourself in this world if you have a desire to be constantly frightened and possess a strong tolerance for graphic descriptions of violence. Not a book for the kiddies!
Reviewed by J.C. Hoyt
Only the absolute BEST pieces of art recieve the highest rating on the universal scale of stars. Hint, hint.
One of the most harrowing crime stories ever...
I first read "Helter Skelter" the same summer I read "In Cold Blood." Both books left indelible images in my psyche and ensured I would never look at the world of crime and investigation the same again.
I've never read a book quite like HS since. Bugliosi and Gentry have written a taught and gripping blow-by-blow account of the two seemingly unconnected streams of events, the Tate/La Bianca murders and Manson's cult, how they horribly intersected and the breathtaking resolution.
Bugliosi's reminiscences provide both the personal anguish that the investigation caused him and his family and the urgent immediacy that gripped him and the community to see that justice was finally done.
Unforgettable and unflinching, "Helter Skelter" forces us to look into the eyes of evil and learn more about ourselves.
See also my reviews of the "Helter Skelter" TV movie and the audio book version.
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