Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Book Report: "Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders"

Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson MurdersHelter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In between long interludes of self-congratulation, attorney Vincent Bugliosi gets around to telling the sordid tale of Charles Manson and his followers that obsessed him for the better part of a decade.

The lead prosecutor responsible for convicting and securing a short-lived death penalty for the killers, Bugliosi breaks down the bungled investigation and scattershot trial that became a media circus that drew worldwide attention to the mass murders that became nightmare fuel.

Bugliosi writes almost reverently of Manson as he describes his philosophies, musical fascinations and methods of exerting control over his harem and hangers-on, dispatching them to rob and murder innocents at his whim. The psychological study skims the surface, but includes enough detail to let you pass yourself off as a Manson expert in casual conversation.

Bugliosi lauds his dogged prosecution methods, but also shows a soft side for the female suspects who fell under Manson's control when they were lost, unloved drifters looking for a cause to cling to. His grim tale of twisted Americana and the hippie movement gone sideways is captivating and well-researched.

Scott Brick's narration of the Audible version is a stirringly staccato that aptly suits the potboiler, true crime nature of the material. You feel as though you're listening to Bugliosi relay his war stories over drinks at a dive bar.

"Helter Skelter" is essential reading on one of history's most notorious killers, and fascinating from beginning to end. It may suffer and gains from Bugliosi's personal touch in equal measures, but the bravado has a charm and self-reference that tends to pay off more than it makes you wince.

Publisher provided review code.

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