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Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders - Curt Gentry, Vincent Bugliosi I was familiar with some aspects of this case such as the Manson girls acting out at the trial, that the Beatles music was cited as a reason and prison being Manson's mother. Sharon Tate was the only murder victim I'd read about it before reading this book.
Manon's cult status seems to have superseded the victims. I'd heard of Squeaky but not poor Steven Plant. [I pictured Bob Odenkirk in the Mr. Show Lassie/Manson skit throughout reading this book]
This book review isn't going to touch on the Tate-Labianca victims but I do cover some of the other Manson Family murders.

I didn't know what I was getting into when my boss loaned me this book to read. If all of this truly happened the way Bugliosi claimed or alternate versions spouted out by the Family as "the copycat murder" it's the oddest true crime I've ever read about. Any theory put forth is insane.

No wonder this case has captivated people. If this case happened today more likely the whole prosecution would have been against Linda Kasbian for leaving little Tanya at the ranch. Nancy Grace could have crucified her and Manson would be ignored. He did after all choose not to pick a house with kid photos in the windows.
Linda doesn't seem to be very popular on the Manson forums [both pro and followers of the case. I wandered onto a pro site by accident that tells how you can send him commissary. No thank-you!]
I had to go online to reference the aliases for the family many times. I had a hard time remembering who went by what name.
Susan/Sadie, Leslie/Lulu, Patricia/Katie, Nancy/Brenda, etc. but the girls interchanged and shared aliases. I wish the book could've had a chart for this. I'd have to say the book failed on this as I had to use outside references to explain details in the book. As a reference for the investigation and the original trial it's very informative. He doesn't go into as much detail in Tex Watsons case. It's astonishing the judge tried to lead the jury in an acquittal.

I'll admit that did bother me Linda had no problem leaving her kid with this cult. She should have. One of the more creepy aspects of the book was after the raid on Spahn ranch one of the girls pretended to be Linda in an attempt to get Tanya.
If they had succeeded what may have they done to prevent her from talking? The family robbed stores and planned on taking over a plane. The plan was to shoot a person every hour until the incarcerated family were set free. Yikes!!
The other moment to stick with me was Manson hiding in a tiny bathroom cupboard during the raid.

While reading the book I was repulsed and sad. I imagine that Spahn ranch was hell on earth. The poor kids raised by Manson! He felt they didn't have egos and weren't tainted by society.
Manson made sure that whatever their hangup was then they had to do it in front of the family. I can't imagine believing that a 13 year old liked being beaten but that was the story Gypsy Share told Linda Kasbian.
I've never done drugs so it is possible I'm being unfair what life was like on the ranch but this I can't accept as because of the drugs.
Letting go of your ego meant being sodomised by Manson and doing whatever you most did not want to do. This should have cleared the membership! Poor Snake.

Murder schools???? This book just kept getting weirder and crazier! The girls even fed a witness 10 lsd tabs in what was called the Hamburger caper. Ouisch skipped her ROR bail and got away with that.
A lot of the girls including Ouisch had rotten lives. There was even something about Susan to pity although she was creepy as hell.

Often I was just left with a creeped feeling such as the girls spouting how he was Jesus or disbelief since it only took candy bribes to talk to the prosecution. I didn't have any nightmares but one oddly mundane dream where I was reading through the trial bits.

The reason I read this book was because my boss made the statement had she been around California in the '60s she could see herself joining the family. How?? I've read about the family but I still don't see it. Manson was full of hate and abuse.
It was interesting that Bugliosi made the statement near the end of the book that many members stayed at the ranch for a time but were put off by Manson. The people who stayed were attracted to whatever he was offering [death was his trip] but Manson himself chose who stayed. He only picked people he could dominate.
The main reason people cited for not staying was they were sick of getting the clap. Such as the bikers, Dennis Wilson, etc. Manson pimped the girls out to get men followers. Bugliosi did not mention this in the book but an internet rumour is he also pimped the girls out to the Aryan brotherhood for protection in prison. Manson was worried another inmate would kill him for fame.

Any of those reasons were good ones to leave. I realise there are people out there in the world who liked to be told what to do or are comfortable with sexist prigs but honestly? Didn't the murder school thing not freak them out? It's scary that in this moment in history California had enough murderers in one place to ban together. I don't buy they weren't capable of it before Manson.

This family were no hippies. They shared some aspects with communal living and cults but no this was more closely related to the Aryan brotherhood and just plain sick murder than the Beatles preaching for a race war in the White Album. It's quite telling that Mary Brunner, Catherine Share and Nancy Pitman married and followed "AB" leaders [James Como and Michael Monfort] after Manson was locked up. Bobby Buesoleil and Squeaky also had ties to the organisation before hooking up with Manson.
Manson was a con artist plain and simple. He knew how to read people and manipulate them. The followers brought those ideals with them to the Family. He projected that back at them to incite his desire to destroy society. Manson seemed more driven to cause destruction for the sake of destruction. My take on this was group hysteria. Their worst attributes came together. Manson needed the Family as much as they apparently needed him. If these particular people hadn't been horrid racists he'd have picked something else as a reason.

I guess Bugliosi wanted to make sure Manson was convicted and didn't bring that up in the trial. He sort of toed the line in blaming Manson as much as he could until it came to the girls getting out of the death penalty. THEN they were culpable for their actions. Yes, yes they were. It would have been hard for him to say both things if the girls own lawyers didn't say it as well to try and get Manson off.

I think Bugliosi makes a strong case however that defense attorney Hughes death was related to the family even if the Willet's weren't the killers. It was disgusting of him to pin the blame on them since they weren't alive to defend themselves. Lauren Willet was one of the murder victims of Pitman and the Aryan brotherhood guys. [Squeaky managed to beat the rap] The teenager Hughes went camping with was also named Lauren.
Lauren apparently isn't a very common name. Maybe it wasn't then. My mother says it wasn't when she named me in '79. It became a super popular name later.
No wonder this didn't go to trial. I don't blame him for including the story in the book but all the same since no one could prove it. I can only imagine why Van Houten, Krenwinkle and Atkins didn't come forward and prove the rest of the family interfered with their right to have an attorney working for THEM not Manson. The family still free should have gone to prison. Not just for interfering with the prosecution which was insane and scary but for messing with the other defendants legal right to a fair trial. Their lawyers should have been disbarred.
Interesting Lauren also played russian roulette just like Zero apparently did. Luckily the police didn't buy the story as they did for Zero's death. Sure people play that game with every bullet loaded.
Bugliosi had a lot of to say about LASO and LAPD ineptitude in solving the murders. It seems the biggest gaping hole in the history of the Manson family is how much they did get away with.
The cops were too busy spying on Jessica Mitford? [I just read her memoir and it seems they had no problem sending in undercover agents for the commies.] I could totally see Unity Mitford as a Manson girl.

It's just interesting that the cops couldn't infiltrate the Manson family then because they might have to smoke weed but today undercover cops entrap teenagers and send them to jail for buying weed. Maybe they were afraid they'd get the clap too. There were cops going in too deep. I couldn't imagine a 21 Jumpstreeter cop infiltrating this family.