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Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson…
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Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders (original 1974; edition 2001)

by Vincent Bugliosi

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3,054591,855 (3.95)86
Member:peptastic
Title:Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders
Authors:Vincent Bugliosi
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (2001), Edition: Older Edition, Paperback, 689 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned
Rating:****
Tags:None

Work details

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi (1974)

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Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
Amazingly enough (especially considering my interest in the macabre), I had never before picked up this classic true crime account of the Manson Murders. I’m pleased to say that I have rectified that deficiency, and that I was not disappointed in the least.

Bugliosi (who was also the lead prosecutor of Manson and his co-defendants) begins the 600+ page book with the Tate murders themselves. We follow the housekeeper as she enters the property to begin her day, the trauma of the bodies being discovered, and the movements of the police who first entered the scene. We are next led along to the LaBianca murder scene (the murder of an elderly couple also committed by Manson’s “Family”). From these two bloodbaths, Bugliosi takes the reader along through the (occasionally horribly bungled) police investigation, letting us walk along with investigators as they try to make sense of such seemingly senseless killings.

As I said earlier, Bugliosi was the lead prosecutor of the case (and occasional investigator). This is certainly in evidence as Bugliosi approaches “Helter Skelter” like a trial in and of itself. Physical evidence, witness statements, and paper trails are carefully presented and thoroughly dissected for the reader. The sheer weight of evidence eventually brought together against Manson and his family is presented here in largely chronological order, and shows just how completely Bugliosi throws himself into his work. There is a good reason why Helter Skelter is considered one of the best true crime books written (easily up there with Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood).

So, grab this book and read it. For such a hefty tome, it goes by very quickly. Bugliosi’s style is intense, but highly readable. Any one who is interested in true crime will obviously love this book, but even if that isn’t your usual genre, this is a compelling read about a charismatic madman and the incredible influence he had, not only on his followers, but on the country as a whole. ( )
  irregularreader | Nov 23, 2016 |
Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry
August 9, 1969: Arriving at the Los Angeles home where she was housekeeper, Winifred Chapman noticed downed telephone wires. Walking up the drive, she saw a car she didn't recognize, parked haphazardly. She entered the house by the back door, as usual, passing through the kitchen and into the dining room. Looking into the living room, she saw what appeared to be blood staining the carpet and spattered everywhere. Through the partially open front door, she could see pools of blood on the porch and beyond, a body on the grass.

Upon their arrival, police determined that the murder scene comprised five dead bodies: those of starlet Sharon Tate, the eight-months pregnant wife of director Roman Polanski; celeb hair stylist Jay Sebring, a close friend of Tate; Abigail Folger, the coffee heiress; her lover Voytek Frykowski, and slumped in the haphazardly parked car, Steven Parent, a teenager not connected to the other four. Parent had been shot several times, but the others were dispatched by dozens and dozens of stab wounds and gunshots. The word P I G was written in blood on the front door.

Who would do such an appalling thing? The scene was grisly, shocking. The deed seemed pointless. And why? Why would anyone do it?

August 10, 1969: The bodies of businessman Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary were discovered in their home. Rosemary had been stabbed 41 times, Leno more than a dozen times. A large carving fork was implanted in his abdomen, a steak knife in his throat. The letters W A R were incised on him. Written in blood on the walls were the words "Rise" and "Death to pigs" and on the refrigerator "Healter [Sic] Skelter."

The murders in all instances were committed by members of the so-called Manson Family. Charles Manson was a 32-year-old composer/musician wanna-be who'd spent about half his life in reformatories or prison. But he had a charisma that charmed a gaggle of rootless teenage and young-adult girls, as well as a few boys. All were outcasts, alienated from families and society, and those who stayed with him were soon in his complete thrall. They'd do anything he asked them to, even kill a complete stranger.

[Helter Skelter] is prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi's thorough, detailed, and gripping story of the murders, the murderers, the investigations, the trial, and, in an afterword written in 1994, the aftermath.

Jailhouse bragging provided an initial break. One of the murderous Manson girls, jailed on an unrelated charge, just had to confide her story to cellmates who, rocked to their cores by the remorseless glee of this murderer, passed information to police (not that police were interested in what two jailbirds had to say). In the book, Bugliosi recounts how he elicited her testimony, used her as a grand jury witness to get indictments, and then, when she recanted--he knew she would, how he worked the individual family members to gain true, and believable testimony.

Interviews with the suspects, peripheral friends and acquaintances, neighbors, many conducted by Bugliosi himself, helped him piece together a narrative of the murders, but equally as important, a motive for the crimes. Helter Skelter is central.

The murder trial, which ended in conviction and death sentences for the four defendants, began June 10,1970. It was the longest jury trial in history; the jurors were sequestered from June through March, when the guilty verdicts were presented. In a separate, later trial, a fifth defendant was also convicted and sentenced to the gas chamber. In 1972, the California Supreme Court overturned capital punishment, and the killers' sentences were commuted to life imprisonment. One girl died in prison in the 1990s; the other are still behind bars.

A terrific book, [Helter Skelter] reveals the chess game a prosecutor must play against defendants and their attorneys, the judge, the potential witnesses, even the jurors. Each day of trial rolls out setbacks and surprises, and in this sensational case, Bugliosi confronted hundreds of them.
  weird_O | Oct 28, 2016 |
Fascinating account of the Manson family and the murders. Only negative is that it drags a little in places. Very long book that I wish would move along. ( )
  Peter.Kmiec | Aug 13, 2016 |
Why I Read It:

After finishing Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson, I knew I had to read Helter Skelter. I wanted more detail on the Manson crimes and the trial itself.

Overarching Story: 5/5

Because it’s a true crime novel, it’s hard to judge the “story” aspect of Helter Skelter. The book opened with detailed descriptions of the Tate and LaBianca murders, and the rest of the book flowed naturally from there: the investigations, the interviews, the trial and sentencing. It was well written and “easy” to read—although it takes a strong stomach to read about such horrendous crimes.

Voice/Style: 4/5

Bugliosi is clearly highly educated, an excellent writer, and extremely knowledgeable about everything having to do with the Manson crimes and trial. (He was, after all, the prosecuting attorney.) I appreciated all the detail, although some people may find it tiresome and unnecessary after a certain point.

Additional elements: 4/5

Since I read the 25th anniversary edition, I enjoyed the updates that came in the afterword of the book—sort of a “where are they now,” although even the updates are already a bit dated.

Recommended for:

Fans of true crime, ’60s and ’70s American history ( )
  blackrabbit89 | May 6, 2016 |
I love the story and the movie, but I didn't like how it was read...could have been written in a more...story like way, I guess. ( )
  imagine15 | Mar 15, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Vincent Bugliosiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gentry, Curtsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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It was so quiet, one of the killers would later say, you could almost hear the sound of ice rattling in cocktail shakers in the homes way down the canyon.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393322238, Paperback)

A national bestseller—over 7 million copies sold. "[A] social document of rare importance."—The New Republic

Prosecuting attorney in the Manson trial, Vincent Bugliosi held a unique insider's position in one of the most baffling and horrifying cases of the twentieth century: the cold-blooded Tate-LaBianca murders carried out by Charles Manson and four of his followers. What motivated Manson in his seemingly mindless selection of victims, and what was his hold over the young women who obeyed his orders? Here is the gripping story of this famous and haunting crime.

Both Helter Skelter and Vincent Bugliosi's subsequent Till Death Us Do Part won Edgar Allan Poe Awards for best true-crime book of the year. 50 pages of black-and-white photographs

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:45 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Prosecuting Attorney in the Manson trial, Vincent Bugliosi held a unique insider's position in one of the most baffling and horrifying cases of the twentieth century: the cold-blooded Tate-LaBianca murders carried out by Charles Manson and four of his followers. What motivated Manson in his seemingly mindless selection of victims, and what was his hold over the young women who obeyed his orders? Here is the gripping story of this famous and haunting crime.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393322238, 039308700X

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