Monday, April 19, 2010

Helter Skelter

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi, with Curt Gentry
Mass Market Paperback, 676 pages
Bantam Books edition, 1975
reread, very highly recommended

Synopsis from cover
It began August 9 and 10, 1969, when seven people were shot, stabbed, and bludgeoned to death in Los Angeles. It ended when a nation watched in fascinated horror as the killers were tried and convicted. But the real questions went unanswered. How did Manson make his "family" kill for him? How could these young men and women kill and kill again and again without human feelings of any kind? Did the murders go on even after Manson was in jail?
My Thoughts:

This is another reread. When doing research for some paper in high school, I can clearly remember coming across news articles about the Manson murders. Then I started to look into the murders because at the time they occurred I didn't recall hearing anything about them. (It was probably kept away from me.) Once I learned there was a book, well, I got my copy of Helter Skelter shortly after it first came out in paperback. It is still a horrific true crime novel. The Tate/La Bianca murders were among the most gruesome in US history and the trial was the longest, most grueling trial the country had seen to date. Bugliosi includes many details and much information in this account. It is graphic at times and not for the faint hearted, especially since it begins with the murders. My book included 64 pages of photos and footnotes at the bottom of the page.
Very Highly Recommended


It was so quiet, one of the killers would later say, you could almost hear the sound of ice rattling in cocktail shakers in the homes way down the canyon.
The canyons above Hollywood and Beverly Hills play tricks with sounds. A noise clearly audible a mile away may be indistinguishable at a few hundred feet. opening

All things considered, it's surprising that more people didn't hear something.
But then it was late, just after midnight, and 10050 Cielo Drive was secluded.
Being secluded, it was also 3

There appeared to be blood on the trunks, on the floor next to them, and on two towels in the entryway. She couldn't see the entire living room - a long couch cut off the area in front of the fireplace - but everywhere she could see she saw the red splashes. The front door was ajar. Looking out, she saw several pools of blood on the flagstone porch. And, farther on, on the lawn, she saw a body.
Screaming, she turned and ran back through the house, leaving the same way she had come in but, on running down the driveway, changing her course so as to reach the gate-control button. In so doing, she passed on the opposite side of the white Rambler, seeing for the first time that there was a body inside the car too.
Once outside the gate, she ran down the hill to the first house, 10070, ringing the bell and pounding on the door. When the Kotts didn't answer, she ran to the next house, 10090, banging on that door and screaming, "Murder, death, bodies, blood!" pg. 6-7

Altobelli had rented the main residence to Roman Polanski, the movie director, and his wife. The Polanskis had gone to Europe, however, in March, and while they were away, two of their friends, Abigail Folger and Voytek Frykowski, had moved in. Mrs. Polanski had returned less than a month ago, and Frykowski and Folger were staying on with her until her husband returned. Mrs. Polanski was a movie actress. Her name was Sharon Tate. pg 8

Printed in what appeared to be blood were three letters: PIG. pg. 10

In literature a murder scene is often likened to a picture puzzle. If one is patient and keeps trying, eventually all pieces will fit into place.
Veteran policemen know otherwise. A much better analogy would be two picture puzzles, or three, or more, no one of which is in itself complete. Even after a solution emerges - if one does - there will be leftover pieces, evidence that just doesn't fit. And some pieces will always be missing. pg 24

There is writing, in what appeared to be blood, in three places in the residence. High up on the north wall in the living room, above several paintings, were printed the words DEATH TO PIGS. On the south wall, to the left of the front door, even higher up, was the single word RISE. There were two words on the refrigerator door in the kitchen, the first of which was misspelled. They read HEALTER SKELTER. pg. 56

If it could happen in places as widely separated as Los Feliz and Bel Air, to people as disparate as movie colony celebrities and a grocery market owner and his wife, it meant it could happen anywhere, to anyone. pg. 59


Wendy said...

I read this way back in high school (the mid-70s) and I remember being very affected by the book. This author also wrote a book about the OJ Simpson trial which is excellent.

Lori L said...

I first read this when I was in high school too, Wendy. Bugliosi's The Sea will Tell, was another excellent book... perhaps another reread?

raidergirl3 said...

Have you seen the movie?!?

So scary, I remember watching it in the basement in the dark with my sister.

Lori L said...

I haven't seen the movie - and I don't know if I could watch it! I have seen a couple documentaries. I remember an interview with 3 participants in about 1995. I also seem to recall that they were recently looking for more bodies.