Beth's Reviews > Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi
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Jun 01, 11

Read in June, 2011

Published in 1974, Helter Skelter tells the story of the 1969 Manson murders from the perspective of the district attorney who prosecuted the case against Charles Manson and three female members of his cult known as "The Family." Bugliosi begins his book by detailing the Tate-LaBianca murders themselves; he successfully puts the crimes into context using witness interviews together with a factual blow-by-blow of events to describe the environment in which the crimes occurred, the backgrounds of both victims and killers, the motive for the seemingly senseless killings, and the subsequent investigation and trial of Manson, Leslie Van Houten, Susan Atkins, and Patricia Krenwinkel.

Helter Skelter is as much a testament to the heinous crimes committed in the name of Manson as to the bumbling ineptitude of law enforcement. Throughout the book, Bugliosi makes clear references to the ways in which the LAPD, LASO (Sheriff's Office), and other agencies mishandled evidence, failed to pass on pertinent information, and otherwise hindered the criminal investigation.

Having just done quite a bit of research on the 1967 Detroit riot and other so-called "race riots" occurring during the '60s in the U.S., the concept of "Helter Skelter" was particularly interesting to me. Although Bugliosi only made a passing reference to the Watts Uprising that had taken place in LA several years prior to the crimes detailed in the book, the motive that he detailed behind the killings really resonated with the volatility of the era. Manson's belief that a full-blown race "revolution" was imminent seems extreme by today's standards, but by taking into consideration the context in which violent uprisings were breaking out in hundreds of urban locales across the US, his ideas, in some ways, seem to become products of their time.

Bugliosi's epilogue was particularly intriguing in which he suggested that Manson's philosophy was an amalgamation of various influences including, among others, Hitler, a cult known as "The Process," the "Church of Satan," and, interestingly, Scientology. I have seen several books on Amazon written by one-time confidants of Manson and I look forward to reading, at some point, Charles Manson's take on both the crimes themselves and the way in which the world operates--a necessity, I believe, in truly understanding how his enigmatic personality and unorthodox beliefs attracted a cult following.

Although a lengthy book, Helter Skelter was well worth the read and maybe even a re-read down the road!
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message 1: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer I read this when I was in junior high. It scared the crap out of me then.


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