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I've been fairly obsessed with the Manson case for years, particularly its implications regarding the covert operations being carried out at that time. I thought I knew about as much as anyone out there...and then I read this book. This work is about so, so much more than the Manson Family. The author apparently sacrificed a lot to conduct decades of research, but I hope he knows that from my perspective anyway it was infinitely worth it.
This book goes as long as any book I can thin of in shedding light on the secret influences of that most revolutionary of decades called the 60s. I dislike using words like "important" when talking about books. It sounds pompous to me. But, there's no way around it. I think this book is important reading for people to understand this nation's history, particularly the history of its intelligence agencies and how they acted (act?) from the shadows to shape the nation. This isn't a partisan issue. It's a real shame that the subject has been turned into a "pro-Trump" or "anti-Trump" talking point. This stuff crosses the aisle. Though, I guess I should add I actually sometimes find myself sympathetic to things like COINTELPRO and CHAOS...because whether or not they were "good" or "evil" really depends entirely on whether or not there actually was a concerted Soviet campaign to undermine U.S. culture from within.
If that effort really existed, then COINTELPRO and CHAOS, ugly as they were, might have helped save the nation. If there was actually no Soviet/revolutionary influence and the hippies were just hippies, then those programs are irredeemably evil. As with anything, the answer likely lies in the middle.
But, surely I am rambling...I thought this book was absolutely fantastic. I'm going to move on to Days of Rage now and then read this one again. It's very rare I read a book twice cover to cover. That's about as high praise as I can think of.
(I am shelving this book as unfinished and unrated for now. As I have eye surgery scheduled for this week and next I need to switch to something shorter and less demanding in time and details. It is almost 600 pages of small print.)
Well, I went back to the book and found it tedious, and was feeling I had spent the entire 20 years of the author’s painstaking research and interviews tagging along behind him or listening in. I feel 20 years older than when I started the book. If there is anything about too much information, this seemed to be a prime example. Trashing the reputation of the victims was revealing but unfortunate.
I remember the murders and trial and read the book Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi when it was first published, and so was anxious to continue. Those familiar with the horrific murders have already learned that the Polanski mansion where the Manson murders took place was previously the residence of Terry Melcher, record producer and son of Doris Day. Melcher knew Charles Manson.
What Tom O'Neill reveals in his 20 years of meticulous research and interviews is that Polanski's home became a hangout for famous celebrities and big-time drug dealers. Some of these drug dealers knew Charles Manson. A-list actors, other celebrities and criminals wandered through the mansion almost at will. Sharon Tate, the beautiful actress and pregnant wife of Roman Polanski was subjected to abuse, and the mansion became known in some circles as a place of orgies, rape, heavy drug use and other depraved activities. The author quotes the saying, " Live weird, die weird."
It is evident that O'Neill rejects Bugliosi's conclusion about the motive, and feels this was not a random act by an unknown gang of hippies. He cites legal misconduct, poor police investigation, mind control experiments and cover-ups. What were the connections between the uneducated, illiterate Manson and some of the rich and famous celebrities and hardened criminals who frequented the Polanski home? How was Charles Manson able to exert such control over former peaceful hippies? He suggests some tenuous connection between the CIA drug-induced mind control experiments and the power Manson exerted over his followers.
As the author claims, there are some details written about the case which were wrong, but I don't feel I learned much new which was relevant.
I lived through the Manson Murders time period & am about the same age of many of the Family. I remember reading about the incidents at the time; mostly we heard the Helter Skelter theory, but there is so much more. The author details a lot of incidents & relationships we never heard about at the time. A bit of an eyeopener. And gets one thinking.
I was really looking forward to this. But was I ever disappointed. Just a collection of rumors and gossip and nothing else. He is trying to make it pump up as some sort of Revelation about the Hollywood and government conspiracy. Yes there was and still is a lot of drugs in Hollywood, I could have told him that. And yes all those drug dealers and users are connected. And of course government is investigating it all. Slow clap! When at some point he was quoting a hair dresser who cut some c list celebrities hair as his source I should have given up.
I saw the writer on Joe Rogan's podcast and figured I'd give the book a shot. I'm only halfway through the book but so far I'm blown away. Admittedly I was skeptical at first but the author does a great job of "showing his work" and walks you through the many interactions that lead to his final conclusions
Even though there is no "conclusion" per se, the journey this book takes you on is is incredible. It is well written & researched. I couldn't put it down! Even though it's quite long, I finished it in a few days. Some reviewers have implied that the author was trashing reputations but I did not get that impression at all. I felt that he was simply trying to shed some light on the events of that period in history & I believe he did an excellent job! I hope there will be a sequel.
He goes on this merry journey for 20 years telling us his hardships along the way only to say in the end that he has no idea what happened. It was very disturbing how this man had no problem telling terrible stories about people that are no longer here, including the Manson victims. That's half of the book, the other half is conspiracy theories. He really took the cake when he challenged Vincent Bugliosi, prosecutor and author of Helter Skelter. VB was very nice opening his home to him and driving him around showing him landmarks involved in the Manson case. In other words he gave him his time. O'Neill turns around and indicates how put out he was and that he had to give a Hail Mary pass. Excuse me, remember you were the one that came knocking on his door. He comes across incredibly stupid and arragont challenging VB about the murders. To give an analogy. It was like he was challenging a man that had been to the moon and telling him, "You got everything wrong, I may never have been there but this is what happened and I want you to answer for it." Who does he think he is. He makes clear that he had a long exhausting day, well if you don't want the truth, don't bother people. Can you imagine how Bugliosi felt. The only crime about this book was that it was allowed to be published. Penquin dropped ONeil' for good reason, it was a terrible book. I didn't buy this book to read about the adventures of Tom O'Neal who I have no interest in and now I have any less interest in him.