Friday, May 3, 2013

Helter Skelter - Vincent Bugliosi

I have been reading so much lately, so I thought I would throw in an extra post for this week to keep you up to date.  There are some really incredible books that I am working on right now that I cannot wait to share with you.  Make sure you subscribe to the blog in some way so you are the first to know when I post about new books!

Whenever Kevin and I take long car trips, we like to get an audio book to pass the time.  Since I have an endless list of to-read books, I am always trying to kill two birds with one stone and find one he might like as well.  I took the risk with Helter Skelter because, a while back, a very dear friend of ours recommended this book to me, claiming it as one of his favorites.  Now, I trust this friend and, therefore, his recommendations.  He failed, however, to mention to me that Helter Skelter features more blood than a Quentin Tarantino movie.

So there we are, driving along, heading to what is meant to be our first romantic weekend away as a married couple, listening to detailed descriptions of the Manson murders.  It set the mood well, let me tell you.  In fact, the first part of the book contained such gory, frightening descriptions that when we stopped to get lunch, I was completely convinced someone was going to murder me in the dingy bathroom.  To top things off, that night, we watched No Country For Old Men before bed.  I have no idea how, in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, I fell asleep.

Upon starting this post about Bugliosi's book, I was disappointed to realize we had listened to an abridged version.  I try my absolute hardest to never grab an abridged version of anything.  An author's words should stand in completion (unless you are a writer of classic Russian literature).  So, knowing that, I now suppose that the abridgment should be held responsible for my only true complaint, which is as follows.

Vincent Bugliosi, who wrote Helter Skelter, served as a lawyer for the prosecution of Charles Manson and his accomplices.  By the point in the book I realized he was the lawyer, I was a bit surprised.  Bugliosi's telling of the events detail the facts, cold and hard.  I would have guessed him to be a cop on the case before a lawyer.  The way he presents the information did not seem story-like to me, but almost clinical in its precision.  He got across everything the reader (or listener) needs to know, but at times I found his tone too detached.  Again, this is probably due to my failure to get an unabridged copy.

We found the story itself to be absolutely fascinating, if totally creepy.  I knew virtually nothing about Manson outside of his cultural legacy.  His history in "the system" was extensive by the time he formed the cult he called "The Family" and carried out the infamous Tate-LaBianca murders.  Though it should not have given the reputation Mason has procurred, the brutal gore still surprised me.  I will never understand how people can slaughter strangers - or anyone for that matter.

Of course, the ability to do such an awful crime all too often comes hand in hand with an altered mental state.  Manson's followers had certainly been brainwashed in some way, even if that is not the correct terminology.  They worshiped him - literally.  They believed him to be Jesus Christ.  Cults have always fascinated me and I think this is why.  Life as part of a cult can convince someone to do something they would otherwise see as crazy.   I would have been interested to hear more about the lifestyle and beliefs of Manson's cult.  Manson himself very clearly had some serious issues of his own, including a bizarre belief that the Beatles were speaking to him through one of their albums.

Helter Skelter definitely interested me.  Granted, it kind of grossed me out in the beginning there, but once we actually got to the part about Manson and his followers, I was fascinated.  It certainly does not qualify as the best book I have read so far this year, but I did enjoy it and appreciated the recommendation.  I am always always always up to learn about something new and this fit the bill exactly.

What books have you read lately that educated you on something new?  Are you as fascinated by cults as I am?  Does too much violence turn you off from a book, even though you can't actually see it happening?

Date Completed: April 21, 2013

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