Helter Skelter

  • by Vincent Bugliosi, Curt Gentry
  • Narrated by Scott Brick
  • 26 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Prosecuting attorney in the Manson trial Vincent Bugliosi held a unique insider's position in one of the most baffling and horrifying cases of the 20th century: the cold-blooded Tate-LaBianca murders carried out by Charles Manson and four of his followers. What motivated Manson in his seemingly mindless selection of victims, and what was his hold over the young women who obeyed his orders? Now available for the first time in unabridged audio, the gripping story of this famous and haunting crime is brought to life by acclaimed narrator Scott Brick.


What the Critics Say

“One of the best crime stories ever written.” (Chicago Sun-Times)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Evil: Step by Step

Would you consider the audio edition of Helter Skelter to be better than the print version?

In both print and on audio the book becomes more and more engrossing as it develops. It's length makes the audio version preferable for a second reading. There is so much detail only an unabridged version is acceptable.

What did you like best about this story?

The detail of the story, what might be described as the boring work of detection that a fiction thriller would leave out is the most compelling aspect of the story. Detectives, as they say, 'work the case' and in Helter Skelter it's clear what this really means. There's also a sense of people reacting to a murder in different ways,creating their own version of events when they don't know the truth, being unable to see the truth, because they have created their own narrative of the crime. What comes through step by step is the sense of evil: of people being able to decide and plan and want to murder, and to believe they have the right to murder. The facts of the case are famous, but the detail is what makes an engrosssing and morally insightful story.

Have you listened to any of Scott Brick’s other performances? How does this one compare?

I recognize the name Scott Brick, but don't track my audio books by performance. Brick's reading is slow and steady and clear. Some might say that this is not dramatic enough, but it would be a betrayal of the book to give it an over-dramatic reading. Brick also avoids any sort of accents or performance for the dialogue, which is also the right approach.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I read the book in print many years ago and decided to revisit it in audio. At 26 hours its not a book for a single sitting. Its a book I will listen to for an hour and then leave for some time, treating it more like a serial than single story. 26 parts is a long tale. Also there are a lot of people and events. Its more involving to mull over events, rather than consume them at one gulp. The book is structured to move slowly towards the killers, chronologically, this does work as a dramatic device. The public history means that you know who will be convicted, but the book recreates this process, giving you a sense that how things turned out were not always inevitable and clear.

Any additional comments?

A book like Donna Tartt's The Secret History, a fictional crime story, is lauded as a literary work, and this is justified. There's always some sense that a true crime story is more sensationalist and morally tawdry compared to true literature. There is badly written true crime, but Helter Skelter is written with the detail and diligence that makes it a great book. It's a social novel, about people who lived and worked in Hollywood in the sixties and a study of a 'cult'. Both these topics are often treated superficially, but in working from the facts, using the development as the investigation as an insight into the people, their motives and personality become understood.

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- Eugene

Forensically detailed - but worth it

The book starts where the whole investigation would have begun - the discovery of the horrific crime scene of the Sharon Tate murders at 10050 Cielo Drive, Berkeley, LA. From there we are taken - via grisly descriptions - to the identification and subsequent clearing of early suspects, through to the growing signs pointing towards the Manson 'Family', the spreading investigation, and then arrests, trial and convictions of the killers.

Along the way we learn - as prosecutor and author Bugliosi would have learned - the backgrounds and psychology of everyone involved, from Manson himself through a whole cast of characters, some killers, some ordinary Family members, contacts, victims, people who 'just passed through' or - like Susan Atkins' cellmates - who were simply unwilling recipients of her crazed confession/boasts about the crimes.

The book is very long and full of forensic detail right from the very start. It is at times very repetitive as we hear the same things from different witnesses, and then repeated again in Bugliosi's and others' reports, and brought out yet again at the trial. Although the Tate and LaBianca murders are the central crimes, there is also much attention paid to other victims thought to have been killed by Manson Family members.

You might think that all this fine detail and repetition would make for a boring account... but no, it grips relentlessly and won't let you go. Compelling, hypnotic, revolting, but never boring. It's only towards the end that you realise it was written in 1974, but there is a lengthy 'Afterword' by Bugliosi which brings the story up to 1994, tells of the unexpected public obsession with Manson, and the subsequent fate of everyone involved in the matter including judge, attorneys, and prosecutors.

Scott Brick's reading is steady, authoritative yet undramatic, and suits the subject matter perfectly.
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- Goldfrapper

Book Details

  • Release Date: 13-09-2011
  • Publisher: Audible Studios