A journalist's twenty-year fascination with the Manson murders leads to shocking new revelations about the FBI's involvement in this riveting reassessment of an infamous case in American history.
Over two grim nights in Los Angeles, the young followers of Charles Manson murdered seven people, including the actress Sharon Tate, then eight months pregnant. With no mercy and seemingly no motive, the Manson Family followed their leader's every order -- their crimes lit a flame of paranoia across the nation, spelling the end of the sixties. Manson became one of history's most infamous criminals, his name forever attached to an era when charlatans mixed with prodigies, free love was as possible as brainwashing, and utopia -- or dystopia -- was just an acid trip away.
Twenty years ago, when journalist Tom O'Neill was reporting a magazine piece about the murders, he worried there was nothing new to say. Then he unearthed shocking evidence of a cover-up behind the "official" story, including police carelessness, legal misconduct, and potential surveillance by intelligence agents. When a tense interview with Vincent Bugliosi -- prosecutor of the Manson Family and author of Helter Skelter -- turned a friendly source into a nemesis, O'Neill knew he was onto something. But every discovery brought more questions:
Who were Manson's real friends in Hollywood, and how far would they go to hide their ties?Why didn't law enforcement, including Manson's own parole officer, act on their many chances to stop him?And how did Manson -- an illiterate ex-con -- turn a group of peaceful hippies into remorseless killers?
O'Neill's quest for the truth led him from reclusive celebrities to seasoned spies, from San Francisco's summer of love to the shadowy sites of the CIA's mind-control experiments, on a trail rife with shady cover-ups and suspicious coincidences. The product of two decades of reporting, hundreds of new interviews, and dozens of never-before-seen documents from the LAPD, the FBI, and the CIA, Chaos mounts an argument that could be, according to Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Steven Kay, strong enough to overturn the verdicts on the Manson murders. This is a book that overturns our understanding of a pivotal time in American history.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
The Manson Family murders have fascinated true-crime fans for decades, but magazine writer Tom O’Neill uncovers a conspiracy that paints the chilling events of 1969 in a whole new light. In 1999, O’Neill signed on to write a cover story about the legendary crimes. The inconsistencies between his interview subjects’ version of events and the official story were staggering—and pointed to the fact that Charles Manson was far more plugged in to the Hollywood scene than anyone who took the witness stand wanted to admit. Did the prosecution withhold evidence tying the cult leader and killer to L.A.’s rich and powerful set? After spending 20 years fully exploring all kinds of rabbit holes, O’Neill emerges with more jaw-dropping, shocking information than could have ever fit in one article. Chaos kept us absorbed from start to finish. O’Neill’s engaging and personal tone makes the story feel believable no matter how wild his revelations get. The blatant cover-up that he alleges isn’t just egregious, it’s frighteningly plausible. If Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood piqued your interest in the dark history of the Manson Family, this is a page-turning next step.
In his riveting debut, journalist O'Neill, assisted by coauthor Piepenbring, offers sensational revelations about the Tate-LaBianca murders at the hand of Charles Manson and his so-called family in Los Angeles in 1969. What began as a feature assignment for Premiere magazine on the 30th anniversary of the crime turned into O'Neill's 20-year obsession with the murders. He questions the official narrative of the case, that Manson hated blacks and wanted to make it look as though the murderers were black revolutionaries, for instance, by writings pigs, a popular slang term for cops at that time, on the walls of both houses in the victims' blood. O'Neill interviewed more than 500 witnesses, reporters, and cops in the course of his meticulous research. O'Neill suggests that drug dealers who knew Manson may have hired him to initiate "a vengeful massacre" on actor Sharon Tate and the other victims. O'Neill also uncovered the inexplicable leniency shown Manson and Susan Atkins before the murders by their parole officers when they broke the terms of their parole yet were never jailed for the offenses. In addition, O'Neill posits that Manson might have been one of the subjects of the CIA's LSD/hallucinogens experiments. True crime fans will be enthralled.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Excellent page-turning stuff. This book had my head spinning. One of the best non-fiction crime books I’ve read in a long time. The level of commitment to get this book published is frankly jaw-dropping—and the proof is in the proverbial pudding.
First book I’ve read in 10 years.
Only complaint I have is that I finished it. Killer reporting.
Compelling In Its Details, Refreshing In Its Lack of Finality
It’s impossible to read this book and come away believing that it’s anything less than a labour of love. Far too many paths of least resistance were eschewed to view its writing cynically. The cynicism comes wholly from the damning picture it paints of the political and intelligence apparatus, at least in Los Angeles if not in the United States as a whole. What makes it all the more compelling is that O’Neill refrains from painting us an alternative final picture that he cannot support from evidence, however tantalising it might be to do so. Instead, he makes it incontrovertible that, whatever colours are in the palette, Helter Skelter isn’t amongst them.
It’s regrettable that this book has received so little attention and has garnered no journalistic follow-up. Despite being the embodiment of the us versus them, none of the players are relevant to the current political landscape, hence it is unimportant. This reader hopes that other researchers take up O’Neill’s torch and continue searching for the truth.