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Helter Skelter

The True Story of the Manson Murders
Narrated by: Scott Brick
Length: 26 hrs and 29 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (163 ratings)

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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.

©1974 Curt Gentry and Vincent Bugliosi, Afterword 1994 by Vincent Bugliosi (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

What the critics say

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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Great "read"

Well written. Well paced. Interesting. The narration was good. This book has faults but I really think it does so much right that it negates any major issue. Really good book. Highly Recommend.

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I am adding an expansion to this review to give credit to the narrator. This is a 26 hour book (that I already stated was well performed in my short review above) in which the narrator must narrate in his own voice as well as differentiate, in small ways, the voices of many characters.

Those of you familiar with the Mason family, the victims and the trial know there were a great many people involved. After listening to quite a few books since my original review, I have noticed how not all narrators are able to make a clear distinction from one person to another at all times. This narrator, however, generally only makes small changes to evoke a new person speaking. He is not portraying them as a character actor would but he is giving them a voice that is distinct in the moment it is being read, and often times maintains it throughout the book.

The lawyers are more stern. Manson is a dude. The girls are soft. Everyone is provided a voice that makes this book easy to digest. I have listened to some books that are full on narrations with very little characterization and others with far too much, bordering on caricature. It is always his voice in this book but I found that the effort put into making the voices distinct is a major asset to this title and one you may not appreciate until you hear others who can't or don't make the attempt.

I don't think you can say you know what Manson sounds like by listening to the narrators version, but with the book's writing behind it it goes a long way in selling the whole. Great work. Still highly recommend.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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long and satisfyingly

i was wondering if a book of such length about court cases would be a finnisher. It is! so much information in laymen terms but not like a lecture. worth it

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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A classic well-read

A True Crime classic that birthed Bugliosi as an author (check out his books on the Kennedy murder) and Scott Brick doesn’t overdo being Scott Brick.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Amazing.

This was a well structured, well narrated telling of the chilling events and the trials of Charles Manson and his former followers.

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Loved it!

Couldn't put it down (figuratively)! Absolutely recommend to anyone who is interested in this type of work.

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  • KP
  • 2019-08-16

Fascinating topic, boring book.

The author, came off (to me), as cold, inhuman and pretentious. Once the book moved into the actual trial, I felt bored and uninterested. If I wasn’t so stubborn about fully finishing books I start, I would have stopped listening at about hour 8 (out of a tedious 26 hours).

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Long but never boring

I was worried to try this book as the length, subject, and author intimidated me into thinking it might be a lot of law jargon that I wouldn’t understand, but I was happily wrong! The narrator Scot Brick’s voice makes this listen intriguing and exciting without adding too much flair to the easy going but factual flow of Bugliosi and Gentry’s words. I have always been interested (as so many people are) in the Manson murders and this book tells you all you need to know and more about the exact details of the case and the 9 1/2 month trial that followed. To know what had to go into getting evidence to convict Manson blew my mind. I highly recommend this book.

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Captivating read

Fantastically written book by Bugliosi. Captures not just the infamous story of the Manson murders but of his life and the family's lives. Brick does an excellent narration, allowing the listener to feel.

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The definitive story of the Mason Murders

The definitive story of the Manson murders. Thorough and extensively researched, with amazing first hand accounts, this book is unbelievably detailed while never being boring. Often witty, Bugliosi narrates the novel wonderfully while providing insight into every aspect of this topic.

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A fantastic recounting of the Tate LaBianca murder trial

The exhaustive work that went into the trial, and the book written by the prosecutor, are presented in great detail. This true crime novel is of such quality, that it is the stick by which all similar works could be measured, and the majority would pale in comparison too. Fantastic writing that grips you from start to finish. I believe this might be Scott Brick’s finest work as a narrator of audio books.

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  • Laura
  • 2013-11-26

A familiar story from a unique perspective

Being of a slightly younger generation, I wasn't all that familiar with the Manson murders before I listened to this audiobook. I knew who Charles Manson was by reputation, of course, but otherwise came in fairly ignorant of the exact nature of his crimes and their impact on society. So if you already know a lot about the case, I suspect this review won't help you decide whether you want to give this book a try.

I tend to love nonfiction that gives the reader/listener insight into the author - particularly when the book is not an autobiography. Something about understanding the author's process of writing the book or connection to the work compels me more than if I feel the author is just trying to provide an accurate blow-by-blow description of an event. My reviews of Ron Chernow's biographies of Washington and Hamilton speak to this skill as well, in that Chernow inserts himself just enough into the narrative that you remember that someone with an opinion is there, someone who you can imagine pouring over the details to piece together this story.

Vincent Bugliosi brings this story to life in much the same way, but the experience is heightened by the author's unique role in the Manson case as the lead prosecutor. Thus, this is not just a rehashing of a crime scene - though Bugliosi does recreate the crimes in a way I found powerful and moving. Rather, this story is one only Bugliosi could have told. He describes his thought processes in detail as he tries to show us the challenge facing him in making a case against Manson that would convince a jury to not only put Manson away for life, but hand down a death sentence. I loved, loved, loved this perspective.

I'm not a lawyer, but I've edited the writing of many a lawyer, and I know how difficult it is for many lawyers to explain legal concepts, particularly details of court proceedings, in plain language - without boring the reader to death. Bugliosi is particularly skilled at making the reader understand why various legal details were both important and interesting.

Scott Brick is always good, and he's exactly the perfect narrator for this book. His stern voice is expressive without being emotional, which strikes the perfect tone for such a harrowing story.

Yes, the book is long. But I feel like you can probably tell if you're the sort of person who is going to enjoy a 27 hour story about the details of a grizzly, historically significant murder trial. You might not be, and that's okay. I would urge you though, if you're intrigued but unsure about whether the book can hold your attention that long, to give it a try anyway. You might zone out for parts of it, but I can promise there will be many, many sections you'll find so fascinating you won't want to stop listening.

43 of 43 people found this review helpful

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  • karen
  • 2012-06-22

Everything I remembered about the case was wrong..

I was two years out of law school in 1969, working in the governor's office in Sacramento. In Northern California we were still living in fear over another monster, the Zodiac Killer -- another vicious apparently 'random' killer who was never identified. Unlike the Zodiac, Manson and his family were captured -- which made his case all that much more interesting, garnering the attention of almost everyone for months on end. I followed it closely -- or thought I did. I read Bugliosi's book soon after it came out and remember loving it, loving access to the details about the "family" he provided that I hadn't known before.

How time changes things. What I loved about the book in the 1970's were the personal elements, biographical details about the "family's" lives, who they were, how they got caught up in the insanity, much of which hadn't been widely available at the time.

Now, listening to Scott Brick's elegant, almost respectful, narration, I see something entirely different. Now -- in light of another judicial fiasco out of Los Angeles -- what captures my attention was the horrendous incompetence of the Los Angeles judicial system.

Now, all I can do is compare the Manson case to the O.J. Simpson case, in which (if you can believe this) bad as it was, the LAPD comes off looking pretty good as compared to Manson. In Manson, there were so much mismanagement, elemental mistakes, goofs and just plain incompetence of the LAPD, it's a wonder any of them were convicted of anything.

There's no question in my mind that if Manson went to trial today in LA, on the evidence available back then, he would never be convicted. Juries back then were, I think, more rational, more justice-based, than they are today. Today, I think the defense would be able to capitalize on the unbelievable errors, loose ends, mishandling of the evidence, incompetence in handling the evidence -- from everyone, the medical examiner, the police, and the detectives. Today, a jury would focus in on all those errors and mistakes. Back then, the jury focused on the big picture. Did these people do what they were alleged to have done? In short, they kept the defendants on trial. They didn't feel the need to try the LAPD instead.

Much credit goes to Vince Bugliosi himself, of course. His oft-repeated frustration with the total lack of trial support he was getting makes for fascinating reading. Working 14 hour days, being forced into doing much of the leg work himself after the LAPD failed or refused to do it -- or just lost it, after they did do it -- you get a real feel for the seat-of-the-pants lawyering that was possible back then. The world has changed. That wouldn't work anymore -- and on the whole, life in the US is the poorer and more dangerous for it.

All in all, "Helter Skelter" is a fascinating look at a monumental trial that still plays ranks high in legal mythology. It's a key part of American cultural history that's well worth reading, rereading or listening to.

118 of 123 people found this review helpful

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  • J. Hasley
  • 2011-09-28

Best inside scoop to a trial

This is an amazing story. The fact that it is true...never quite reaches believable. But it is. I was only 9 when the murders happened. I remember the pervasive fear. This book doesn't explain it all---How could it? Not even a book by Manson himself would accomplish that. But this book is as close the mark as we can get. It adds to the horror if one has actually heard Manson speak and realize how charismatic he could be. The authors turn the array of clues and facts into a compelling story. I think it's one of the best True Crime books out there and the audiobook is a job well done.

32 of 33 people found this review helpful

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  • California Vegan
  • 2011-10-20

Peace, love and butchery--what a contrast!

As someone who remembers the murders and the circus that followed, I was not sure that I would be able to sit through such a lengthy rendition of the story. When I saw that Scott Brick was the narrator, I knew it would be a breeze. His style and pace are brilliant. Even when I listen at double-speed on my iPhone, I can grasp every syllable, and in this book, every syllable is relevant.

Written during the time-period in which the crimes took place there is not a lot of time wasted setting up the ambiance of the time, which was quite unique. I think that this still comes across thirty-odd years later.

Never a fan of Vincent Bugliosi, finding him arrogant in most interviews I have seen, I have now learned to appreciate how much work and skill went into getting convictions in an impossible case. This is especially impressive when you realize the way the Tate investigators botched the case from the start.

The writers weave each thread into a tapestry that captures this dreadful part of history. I am so glad Audible made the unabridged version available.

36 of 38 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • 2012-06-05

Masterful, start to finish

A compelling true crime tale is nothing unless it's told with the proper organization, discriminating and orderly presentation of details and all sculpted into a story arc. "Helter Skelter" sets the bar in each of these areas.

I read this book as a teen and it stuck with me these thirty-plus years. Seeing it on audio, I was wondering if I would be interested in giving it thirty hours of my life. Man, I'm glad I did.

It was so intense, at times I thought I'd have to stop listening. It gets in your head a bit. By turns, this book is horrifying, fascinating, sad, edifying and, ultimately a history lesson on crime in America, the 1960s, cults and the judicial system, not to mention Manson and his Family..

I can't recommend it highly enough. Just don't listen in the dark.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Larry
  • 2011-09-16

What a great book.

This is one of those books that just grabs you and won't let you go. I've read it at least 3 times in the last 30 years and now I can just listen to it while I waste my life stuck on the freeway. And to have Scott Brick do the narration is awesome. He really keeps it alive, although the book itself is just plain fascinating. I've been holding out for the unabridged version and here it is. 10 stars!

61 of 66 people found this review helpful

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  • Sandra
  • 2011-10-06

Enthralling Listening

I must say that as an avid book reader, I was doubtful whether I could ever get used to audio books. But I have certainly done so. As someone who travels a lot as part of my job, listening to books in the car has made the trips so much more enjoyable - and this is an engrossing read! Helter Skelter is not the type of book I usually read, but I do vividly recall the Sharon Tate/LaBianca murders and thought it would be interesting - and how! Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry have done an excellent work on the entire tale from the awful murders to the final sentencing and beyond. Yes, it is a terrible thing which happened and the book doesn't flinch from that but overall one is left with a gripping and well-researched story which brings all the individuals involved to life.

By contrast with hardcopy books which one reads for oneself, the role of the Narrator is so vital in making an audio book enjoyable or not. Scott Brick does a masterful job at this. His reading speed is just right as is his tone and inflection. I would certainly look for books narrated by Mr Brick again. His reading is pivotal to the accessibility and overall enjoyment of this book. Five stars all around.

38 of 41 people found this review helpful

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  • Polly Poizendem
  • 2017-03-10

~ ESSENTIAL Manson ~


One of my first audiobooks - I have listened to this MANY times, and STILL do when the mood strikes. There are very few that can top this riveting classic gem. It's a **must-have** in every true crime library. Period. If you are new to this genre, don't EVEN think twice about getting this.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Erdahl
  • 2011-09-21

Engrossing book with fine narrator

I have read and reread this book many times, and have always been horrified, saddened, but have always had to read from end to end. Scott Brick's narration is clear, crisp, and well suited for the material. Excellent to have it finally on audio.

21 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • randall
  • 2011-10-09

Thought you knew everything about Manson?

I thought this book might be old rehash. It was NOT. A total detailed factual account from A to Z on the case. Murders, investigation, trial and background. Few books have you sitting on the edge of your seat. This would be a great around the camp fire scary read. One of my best audible purchases I've made. Total addiction thru out the story. Can't wait to re listen cause you will no doubt want to go thru this at least twice. I don't know what was more shocking... the murders or the terribly botched up investigation that followed. So many hard clues, and so many people wanted to talk, but the detectives just did not care to listen. Shocking that this case was ever solved by such botched investigation.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful