Helter Skelter

Helter Skelter - Vincent Bugliosi, Curt Gentry It was so quiet, one of the killers would later say, you could almost hear the sound of ice rattling in cocktail shakers in the homes way down the canyon. Those are the opening lines of Helter Skelter. Decades after I had first read it, I could recall that first sentence almost word for word. The book has that kind of haunting quality. A lot of that may be due to the less well-known co-author, Curt Gentry, because in contrast Bugliosi's other book about a murder case he was involved in, And the Sea Will Tell was much less memorable and engrossing. Of course, it's hard to imagine a case more fascinating than the Manson Murders. You have celebrity victims such as Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of the famous director Roman PolaƄski; you have the murderers, cult leader Charlie Manson and "his Family" and what has to be the most bizarre motive in the history of American jurisprudence. And whether he contributed to the literary quality of the book, certainly Vincent Bugliosi contributes the intimate knowledge and perspective of someone closely involved--he prosecuted Manson for the Tate/LaBianca murders. I read this in my early teens, if not younger, and it made a deep impression on me. As a child, decades before Law and Order, my idea of a lawyer came from such shows as Perry Mason that gave all the glory to defense attorneys. This was the first glimmer I had that prosecutors could be heroes too. The book won a 1975 Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime book and I can understand why. One of the classic true crime books.