I feel I should pre-fix this post with a little disclaimer about true crime enthusiasm. I love true crime, my podcast list is peppered with real life stories of murder and horror – I can’t get enough and I’m not entirely sure why.
Obviously I’m a massive horror fan but I feel that actual true life horror goes against why I love those movies so much. There’s comfort in letting myself be scared but also knowing that it’s all fantasy. Stories like this reinforce that there really are monsters out there – and that’s terrifying in a whole new way. It’s probably the psychology of what makes a monster that gets me – and this true account of the Manson murders is no exception. How on Earth could one man be responsible for such horrific carnage when he wasn’t even present on the nights of the murders?
Well, Helter Skelter takes us inside the media circus and tries to answer some of those questions. I just want it to be clear that I don’t believe Manson deserves any of the adoration he’s always received. There’s a mystique to him obviously but he was a horrible, evil manipulator and he doesn’t deserve to be revered as a rock star. See also: Ted Bundy.
It’s taken me almost two months to the day to finish this massive tome, more for the fact that the content is as brutal as you can imagine. It goes in deep on the Sharon Tate murders, adding details I had never read before. I thought I knew most of what there was to know about that particular crime but I didn’t, it’s awful and senseless – and not for the faint-hearted.
But that’s not why this book took me so long. It’s just so court-roomy. Author Vincent Buliosi was a high-profile American attorney and best-selling author – and the chief prosecutor in the Manson trial. He basically took that fucker and the other accused Family members down to China Town, securing the death penalty for all of them (until it was abolished in the state of California).
I won’t rehash it all here, if you’re interested then the chances are you’ll read this on your own or already have. The detail is fascinating as is the trial, it just isn’t the fluffiest of reads and not one I was eager to devour every night. What gripped me most were the stories of the Manson girls, all young and many of them damaged in their own ways. I can’t even comprehend the nature of their relationship with master manipulator Charles Manson, who thought of himself as the second coming of Jesus. Something they also believed.
There are a lot of surprises in this book – one of the highlights is the speculation as to how many murders The Family actually committed. Some of members claim there are upward of 40 clocked up, however in most cases there’s no proof and sometimes, not even a body.
I definitely recommend this but it is heavy and not the easiest read.
Bought secondhand paperback for myself