Vincent Bugliosi’s Parkland was one of the better non-fiction books I read this year and I instantly wanted to seek out Helter Skelter. As the prosecuting attorney against Manson, Bugliosi was infinitely qualified to write this book; it is both well researched and full of personal memories.
Our book begins with the discovery of Sharon Tate, Abigail Folger, Jay Sebring and Voytek Frykowski along with Steven Parent at 10050 Cielo Drive followed by the murders of Rosemary and Leno LaBianca the following day. Following a jailhouse confession from Susan Atkins, arrested for another crime several months later, to her cellmate the pieces begin to come together that Charles Manson and his “Family” were responsible for the Tate-LaBianca murders. There are several players in the Manson family and Bugliosi gives a lot of background before delving into the trial.
“For a lawyer to do less than his utmost is, I strongly feel, a betrayal of his client. Though in criminal trials one tends to focus on the defense attorney and his client the accused, the prosecutor is also a lawyer, and he too has a client: the People. And the People are equally entitled to their day in court, to a fair and impartial trial, and to justice.”
Vincent Bugliosi is assigned the case as the young prosecutor against Manson, Atkins as well as Patricia Krenwinkle, Leslie Van Houten and in a seperate trial, Charles “Tex” Watson. Bugliosi is more than just a litigator; he acts like a detective, especially since the LAPD made several mistakes throughout the investigation. It is incredible to me that in such a well publicized case the police would ignore leads and in many instances sit on evidence without looking into it. Once in court Bugliosi runs into several issues due to the theatrics Manson and his co-defendants put on as well as going up against a defense attorney known for his stall tactics. The State’s case hinges in large part by the testimony of Family member Linda Kasabian (in exchange for her immunity) and the sections devoted to the trial are immensely interesting. The People’s case against Charles Manson was largely based on the belief that “the Family” was so hypnotized by Manson that on his orders they committed heinous crimes for which he was equally guilty (even though he was not present at the Tate killings) of committing.
“Midway through the arraignment I looked at my watch. It had stopped. Odd. It was the first time I could remember that happening. Then I noticed that Manson was staring at me, a slight grin o nhis face. It was, I told myself, simply a coincidence.”
We all know Manson and his “Family” were found guilty of their crimes but don’t let knowing the ending ruin this read. Law and Order has nothing on true crimes.