Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murder – Book Review

As lead prosecutor in the Manson trail, Vincent Bugliosi proves to be an invaluable source into the atrocities that happened on August 8th/9th 1969, that involved the brutal murders of seven people, the most well known of whom was Sharon Tate. While the cast is many, which at times becomes disorientating as most of the Manson family also went by aliases, Bugliosi does well in keeping the wheels on a vehicle that moves at a fair pace. Beginning with the discovery of the bodies located at the Tate house on August 8th, then moving chronically through the first responding officers, forensics, the second murders at the LaBianca residence on August 9th, interviews, and extensive research before leading to the trail, you can’t help but get caught up in the story. The blunders made by police officers, the brutality and sheer madness of the deaths themselves, and of course Charles Manson and his crazy ideology that spread through the family like a virus, further bolsters the need to keep turning the pages.

As with most notorious killers and evil people, there is a morbid curiosity to understand why these people did what they did, and while we are happy to ask these questions, and indeed delve into the minds of the sick and disturbed from the safety of our homes, as proven with many fictional books that deal with murder, it’s always worth reminding yourself that this is not a work of fiction. This was real, which makes it all the more chilling. While at times Bugliosi’s account of the events leading to the Manson trail turned into a genealogy chart with an infinite amount of members, and that his articulating of the American judicial system, and its many follies, acted as literary speed bumps, I believe that there is no one better placed to exhibit the story and evidence with such skilful finesse as Bugliosi. I personally took the trip into Manson’s life, and that of his family, because of Tarantino’s movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which makes reference to the killing of Sharon Tate. I wanted to know as much as possible to see how accurate the movie is. Whatever reason propels you to delve into this book, be reassured you’ll come out of it realising that had this been a work of fiction you would have never believed it. And, that whatever factions of society believed Manson was innocent, they were wrong. Very very wrong.

Published by craigwallwork

Craig Wallwork is the author of the novels, Bad People, Labyrinth of the Dolls, The Sound of Loneliness, To Die Upon a Kiss, and the short story collections, Quintessence of Dust, and Gory Hole. His short stories have been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize and feature in many anthologies and magazines both in the U.K. and U.S. He currently lives in West Yorkshire.

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