In one of my previous posts, I let you know that true crime is a huge passion of mine. I gave you a glimpse of some of my book collection, and suggested a few podcasts I’ve been listening to.
In this post, I want to discuss a shocking and brutal string of crimes that shook the US in the 1970’s.
One of the podcasts I regularly listen to, You Must Remember This, used its second series to cover the Manson murders. It was a case that hadn’t really caught my interest before, but after tuning in to the 12 part series, I desperately needed to find out more.
As some of you might be aware, Charles Manson was a small time crook from Ohio, born to a single, alcoholic mother, who slowly became a respected and revered leader of a cult he named the Manson family.
During the summer of 1967, Manson had accrued a number of followers, most of whom were young, hippie girls looking for stardom or for something different to what normal society had to offer them. Charlie gave them attention, drugs and companionship, and they loved him for it.
Helter Skelter, written by the lead prosecutor of the Manson family, Vincent Bugliosi, gives us almost 600 pages dedicated to the Tate, La Bianca and Hinman murders. As Vincent was the principal prosecutor of these cases, this book doesn’t just give readers the facts. It gives us a look into police procedure, in departmental politics and in some cases, crime scene negligence that we otherwise wouldn’t be a party to.
Bugliosi’s book covers all of Manson’s killings, or directed killings I should say, plus the full trials of all the family members, taking the reader on a complete journey of the horrifying case that shocked Hollywood, and America in the late 70’s.
Now, back to my previous question, is Helter Skelter the world’s number one true crime bestseller? Judging on book sales alone, it might well be. As of Bugliosi’s death in 2015, it had sold over 7 million copies. If we’re judging on content, Helter Skelter is definitely up there, thanks to its honest, blunt and eye-witness like testimony of the crimes. But I’m not yet 100% convinced.
I’m an eternal worshiper of Ann Rule, the great, late US crime writer, who wrote The Stranger Beside Me, after realising that the handsome fellow she shared a desk with was, in fact, Ted Bundy (how awesome is that?! Well, not awesome, he could have killed her! But its bloody interesting).
Ann seems to bring something to her books that no other true crime writer I’ve read has yet managed. Maybe it’s because she’s a woman. Or maybe it’s because she was so close to one of the most prolific psychopaths we’ve ever known. Either way, Rule manages to communicate fear. When I read her books, I find myself checking the doors and windows, or keeping my eye out when I’m walking alone at night. She writes of each murder, each suspect, and each victim, in such vivid detail and in such complex language, that it seems as though you’re having a private conversation with the writer, perhaps about a murder case taking place in your own home town.
I’m yet to finish Helter Skelter, although I have already read many reviews on the book for this blog post. I’m sure Bugliosi will give me an insight into the Manson murder that no other person ever could. Except maybe Charlie, of course.
If you’re interested in Manson, then this book is most certainly for you. But I can’t recommend The Stranger Beside Me enough, especially for someone interested in how Ted’s mind really worked.
That’s it for now. Back to my book and thanks for reading!