Book Review #4

An Exclusive Look Into the Crimes and Trial of Charles Manson:

The Motive Helter Skelter

By: Shauna Onofrietti

A healthy human mind is considered intricate and intriguing, so it is only natural that menacing sociopaths such as Charles Manson in the novel “Helter Skelter” provide readers with an obsessive interest.

“Helter Skelter” was written in 1974 by Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecutor from Manson’s trial, and Curt Gentry. This 600 paged piece of literature is the most detailed, affluent works of true crime I have ever read.

True crime is one of my absolute favorite genres, because I’m just your typical, average young adult – dangerously fascinated with sociopaths, psychopaths and all things serial killer related.

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Manson sticking his tongue out at photographers.

In 1969, Manson and his “family” took the reign of terror in Los Angeles, California. Manson proved himself extraordinarily manipulative, powerful and essentially insane.

On Friday, August 9, 1969, Manson told the members of the Family: “Now is the time for Helter Skelter.”

If you’re a Beatles fan unfamiliar with the mind of Manson, let me just say that yes, “Helter Skelter” is a direct reference to The Beatles’ song. And believe me, you will not want to frolic in the strawberry fields forever when you discover why.

Helter Skelter is fundamentally a term for a race war in Manson’s mind. He whole-heartedly believes he is Jesus Christ resurrected, and he convinces the Family that this is indeed true. He also claims that when the “black man seizes power” most of the world will come to its demise – except him and the Family, who will survive by living in dark caves in the middle of a California desert.

Once this situation occurs, Manson would eventually be given full reign of the world and be in complete control of everyone and everything. So why not follow him now?

On the warm summer night of August 8, 1969, pregnant actress Sharon Tate was holding a small party with several of her closest friends. And this party ended in a human slaughterhouse being discovered the following morning.

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Image of aspiring actress and victim, Sharon Tate.

Sharon Tate

Sharon Tate was due to give birth in two weeks when she was murdered on August 8.

Victims at Sharon Tate’s house 10050 Cielo Drive in Bel Air included Tate and the unborn yet fully formed baby in her belly, Jay Sebring, Voytek Frykowski and Abigail Folger. One victim, Steven Parent, was difficult for the police to identify at first.

The police investigation faced various obstacles during the hours following the discovery of the bodies. Meanwhile, on the following night, more murders were committed in another county.

On August 10, 1969, two additional victims were discovered dead at 3301 Waverly Drive. Married couple Leno and Rosemary LaBianca had been brutally killed, in a relatively similar way to those at Cielo Drive. Despite the obvious similarities, the police failed to find any connections for months. And even then, they were skeptical.

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Three prominent female members of Manson’s Family carved x’s in their foreheads to signify their support for Manson who carved his own forehead a few days prior.

In regards to the eventual trial, members of the Family attempted to deter the prosecution, Manson himself endlessly complained and the months that followed were astoundingly brutal. With three women charged with crimes and forced to combine into one trial, along with several other Family members on trial for unrelated crimes, they mainly viewed it as an entertaining game of sorts.

“Helter Skelter” can be gruesome with intense detailing of the crimes. If you are not into true crime, nor have a strong stomach, I would not suggest divulging into the crimes and trial of Manson and the Family. This is coming from someone who has strong experience with the genre: I usually do not experience a stomach churning quite as often as I would if I were not immune to this amount of substantial detailing, but the motions inflicted upon Sharon Tate and her baby by Family member Susan Atkins genuinely made me sick.

Otherwise, Bugliosi creates a perfect timeline of events and allows readers to feel like investigators – we learn facts as the police discover new leads, evidence and build a case against Manson and his Family who are living in squalor on an abandoned movie ranch.

“Helter Skelter” can get repetitious when the situation demands for it, but it is not over-bearing. It is usually a nice summary to remind viewers of imperative details. Meanwhile, the crimes committed by Manson and the Family were grizzly and horrendous. There are heavy descriptions on the subject, so I once again warn those with a faint heart. Every brutality is spread before readers in graphic detail.

On another note, I will never be able to listen to the Beatles’ songs without Manson’s interpretations puncturing their way into my brain.

I would overall rate this novel a 10/10. I thought I thoroughly understood the Manson case. Oh man, was I wrong. I completed “Helter Skelter” several months ago and still find myself thinking about the case and recollecting the smallest details about people mentioned in the book. It is even more frightening to think that these things really happened. 

I am lucky enough to own an original copy and luckily in this day and age, finding a vintage copy could be done relatively cheap if you do enough research.

Movie trailer from 1976 film edition of Bugliosi’s “Helter Skelter.”

    Female Manson supporters/Family members sing on the corner during his trial.

Book Review #3

“The Pickwick Papers” by Charles Dickens:

The Legendary Author’s First Novel

By: Shauna Onofrietti

“The Pickwick Papers,” also known as “The Posthumorous Papers of the Pickwick Club,” was Charles Dickens’ first novel, serialized in 1836 and printed in book format in 1837.

There is no denying that Charles Dickens is one of the most successful and celebrated writers in history. With 15 books and a wide range of short stories and plays, it is an honor to share a birthday with Dickens, as I myself am an aspiring author.

Most first novels are just that – first novels. In most cases, an author will either publish one magnificent first published work and become forgotten, or will have to endlessly attempt to make their creativity surge and their writing amplify. As a huge Dickens fan, I will do my best to review “The Pickwick Papers” without being biased, hence why I will avoid describing his additional work to society.

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At 24-years-old and a Parliamentary reporter, Dickens was commissioned by Messrs. Chapman and Hall to conduct a series of descriptions to accompany “cockney sporting plates” drawn by Robert Seymour. “The Pickwick Papers” was originally intended to be a simple ironic and comedic daily comic in the newspaper, with Seymour’s images being the main focus. Picture novels were prominent in England during the time, but Dickens typically ignored the basic outline for the story and constructed it into something absolutely brilliant.

This altered the ordinarily simple comic. Dickens flawlessly executed his words to flow in a magically humorous way that centered around contemporary adventures in England, eccentric characters with ironic personalities, and the injustices the supposed “justice system” offered people of the 1830s.

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A copy of my own “The Pickwick Papers” from the late 1800s. Look at that magnificent cover!

Within “The Pickwick Papers” there are a variety of primarily central characters that are key to the adventurous tales that take place throughout the novel. In its entirety, every single character is an absolute oddball, with intricate oddities and eccentricities that establish the comedic tone of the story.

Samuel Pickwick is a business man and the chairman of the intimate Pickwick Club. Pickwick and his three fellow members of the Pickwick Club, along with his servant Samuel Weller, venture off to explore England’s many hidden stories. Pickwick often lands himself in situations that the viewers find humorous and he finds absolutely awful.

One of Pickwick’s traveling companions is Nathaniel Winkle who is known as the sportsman of the group. Ironically, readers witness him attempt to prove this ability multiple times, to which he fails miserably. Winkle is uncomfortably trapped in circumstances and becomes nervous, usually hurting himself and his companions in the process.

Tracy Tupman is a middle-aged bachelor who considers himself to be a hopeless romantic. He yearns for womanly affection, but often desires more than one woman at once. Augustus Snodgrass also presents ironic characteristics, as he often presents himself as being a poet, yet has never written a single line of poetry in his life.

The fellowship also brings along Samuel Weller, a sarcastic and hysterical servant who passionately presents his job with all he can muster. He is probably my favorite character in “The Pickwick Papers,” as he is usually the comedic relief and I enjoy how devoted he is, no matter what the circumstances contain.

Along their journey’s routes they come across many complicated occurrences, particularly with the man named Alfred Jingle. Jingle is a wondering rascal who causes mayhem at Dingley Dell, a popular location in the tale.

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When you flip through the last few pages of “The Pickwick Papers,” you will certainly have the satisfaction of having explored various adventures; it genuinely feels as if you yourself traveled on this journey with these idiotic characters. I believe one of the most interesting things about this first Dickens’ novel is his knack for connected episodic adventures, rather than just one long story with a single plot.

I would rate this novel a 10/10, no doubt. It’s an excellent resource when one needs a laugh, or just wants to escape the turmoil of reality and divulge into the oddities Dickens created. I find it unbelievable that he created this masterpiece at the age of 24. The text witnesses extreme character development, along with Dickens’ own sprouting talent. This is not a novel you want to miss out on!

“What was over couldn’t be begun, and what couldn’t be cured must be endured.”

-Charles Dickens in “The Pickwick Papers.”

220px-pickwickclub_serial Want to become a Pickwickian? You can purchase “The Pickwick Papers” here!

Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812. At the age of 12, Dickens was forced to walk five miles to work every day, work for ten hours, then walk another five miles home. He only saw his family on Sundays, when he would visit them in a debtor’s prison; only a single sister was not imprisoned. 

Charles Dickens once claimed “Little Red Riding Hood” was his first love. He wished he could have married her, in order to achieve ultimate bliss.

Dickens once worked as a law clerk in the legal system. He cites witnessing many injustices during this period of time, hence a significant theme in “The Pickwick Papers” being injustices in the system.

Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome (OHS) was first referred to as Pickwickian Syndrome. This is due to the fact that a character within the story exhibits symptoms of the disease.