What can I say? Vincent Bugliosi isn't just an amazing attorney but an amazing author as well. I've already read And the Sea Will Tell and loved it. It was so detailed, so thorough, and yet written in a voice that kept it from being stultifying or dry. Because of that experience I found myself awfully excited to get in to this one and I was not disappointed.
I am an encyclopedia of serial murder and yet this book showed me how little I actually knew about Manson, his Family, and the murders they carried out. I knew of course that a group of his murdered the Tate group and the LaBiancas, but the murder of Gary Hinman, Shorty Shea, and potentially others had eluded me before this. Linda Kasabian's involvement and her testimony shocked me. What a brave girl she was. The idea behind the Helter Skelter motive struck many as crazy as first, but the way Vincent put it together made it so clear.
I also enjoyed the description of the trials; so many antics, personalities, wild claims. Reading about defense attorney Irving Kanarek's unique way of dealing with the proceedings (essentially being as obstructionist as possible, earning him several sanctions) alone would be entertaining enough for me to recommend this book.
Ultimately the horror visited upon the victims was so much worse than I thought, and it made me hate how Manson has become almost an anti-establishment symbol to some. He was nothing of the kind. He was a serial murderer, an abuser, a virulent racist and misogynist that should be remembered for being what he is, a jumped up little psychopath who has only a kind of animal cunning at his disposal. He was not a visionary, nor did he have some strange ability to hypnotize most people. When challenged, he would shake in his shoes. He chose people he knew he could easily mold, getting them involved in drugs early on. Many of his followers were very young girls (Leslie Van Houten was only 19 at the time of trial, if I recall).
And that is what struck me throughout: the huge thread of misogyny tying it all together. Many of those girls came to Charlie because they wanted more than what their middle class upbringings had taught them to accept. Those upbringings were often talked about in glowing terms but really, it's clear they were oppressive. The nicest thing Pat Krenwinkel's father could say about her was that she was "obedient." The true tragedy on the part of these followers (other than the murders, obviously) is that they merely traded one misogynistic experience for another. At trial, Manson told Vincent that Sadie/Susan, one of his most devoted followers and killers, was "a stupid bitch" and "after she had the kid and lost her figure I didn't care about her anymore." Vincent summed it up nicely, saying that while the girls would murder and even die for him, he cared for them not at all.