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Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders
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July 2016: Biography Memoir > Helter Skelter - Vincent Bugliosi 5/5

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Nicole D. | 1496 comments In August 1969 I was approaching my 6th birthday and I lived less than an hour south of Los Angeles. I got most of my news at the time sitting in the back seat of my parents car driving down the street, and I remember hearing snippets of the Tate-LaBianca murders and being petrified. It was a gigantic deal. Naturally I didn’t understand it, but it was in the air and it didn’t matter how old you were, everybody felt it.

I read this book in my teens but I don’t remember it at all, and even if I had remembered it I certainly would have reacted to it as I did this time. I’m less trusting of the “establishment” (DNC anybody?) and have finely honed my life motto “Question everything.”

Before I say anything else, I will say this – Bugliosi was a brilliant prosecutor. His job was convictions for the murders, and he got them. I also felt like he was quite frank in his recounting of the trial of Charles Manson and the “family.” Often noting when he made a mistake, or when opposing council scored a point.

The investigation was botched on numerous levels by the police, and it was up to VB (easier than typing Bugliosi every time) to not only build his case with evidence, but also to find a motive. In speaking with Susan Atkins she mentioned the start of “Helter Skelter” which she defined as “the last war on the face of the earth. It would be all the wars that had ever been fought built one on top of the other … ” “The karma is turning, it’s blackie’s turn to be on top.” Danny DeCarlo said Manson preached this incessantly.

VB’s conclusion: “That Manson foresaw a war between the blacks and the whites was not fantastic. Many people believe that such a war may someday occur. What was fantastic was that he was convinced he could personally start that war himself-that by making it look as if blacks had murdered the seven Caucasian victims he could turn the white community against the black community.”

Birth of a motive.

The book is fascinating and the story is well laid out. You definitely felt the vibe of the time, sex, drugs and rock and roll. VB often talking about how he and Charlie would “rap.” (This was really something I felt was missing in the recent release The Girls.) There are countless avenues for discussion should a group wish to really dig into this book. Here’s a few takeaways for me:

The justice system – fair trials and the insanity defense.
Jail – life in, and what kind of rehabilitation are they talking about exactly?
The black/white war – has it finally arrived?
Did VB construct a fictional case against Manson?
Cults vs. religions – what’s the difference?
The White Album – The best record of all time? (Yes, yes it is. )

Coming soon to The Readers Room, I give my thoughts on all those topics.
thereadersroom.org


LibraryCin | 8923 comments Now I want to read this again. I believe I was also in high school when I read it. I've also seen the movie at least twice.


Barbara M (barbara-m) | 2283 comments I graduated HS in 65 and married in 67, busy establishing my life at the time of these murders but I certainly remember the horror of it. I was born in LA and my grandparents lived there - I was all the way across the country in Mass. It was years later when I read Helter Skelter, I couldn't bring myself to read it when it first came out - it was just too horrible for me. I really don't remember enough except that I found the book fascinating after such a long wait. I may have to consider it as one of my very, very few re-reads.


message 4: by Joi (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joi (missjoious) | 3831 comments This has been on my radar forever now, and your review definitely makes me want to pick it up! Maybe I'll try and read this before The Girls


Nicole D. | 1496 comments I think it would be interesting before The Girls so you kind of get the idea of who is who, but either way it works.


message 6: by Book Concierge (last edited Jul 25, 2016 12:31PM) (new)

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 6279 comments I know I read it when it first came out (circa 1974-1975) ... I was a couple of years out of college. I was working in the criminal justice system at the time (I was a probation/parole officer - and my caseload was adult male felons). The book completely fascinated me.

I've never re-visited it, and probably won't, but your review makes me wonder if perhaps I should re-read it.


 Olivermagnus (lynda214) | 2307 comments I read this back in 1975 when I had my first apartment. I remember locking all the doors and windows because it scared me so much. I thought about rereading it just last week when I saw that Governor Brown denied Leslie van Houten's parole application. I'm definitely going to find my copy.


LibraryCin | 8923 comments I volunteer for a cat shelter. One of the cats used to be named "Saddle". She was adopted, but came back (I can't recall why). Recently they renamed her "Sadie", but I always associate that name with Charles Manson! I can't call her Sadie! (And good news, it looks like Saddle/Sadie has now been adopted!)


Anita Pomerantz | 6671 comments Great review! I read it in my late teens or early twenties and honestly only looked at it from kind of a "true crime" perspective, but thought it was completely gripping. Now, I am really tempted to re-read it because it sounds much more multi-faceted than I thought it was . . .


Nicole D. | 1496 comments Anita wrote: "I am really tempted to re-read it because it sounds much more multi-faceted than I thought it was . . .
"


Yeah, hindsight makes it very interesting


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