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.
“One of the best crime stories ever written.” (Chicago Sun-Times)
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Evil: Step by Step
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Forensically detailed - but worth it