A new book about the Manson murders called Chaos: The Secret History of the 1960s by Tom O’Neill with Dan Piepenbring is due out in 2019 from Little, Brown and Company, EW can announce exclusively.
Timed to the 50th anniversary of those harrowing events, Chaos began as a project O’Neill was working on for a magazine in 1999. But, as the publisher notes in the release, “Trying to get to the bottom of what really happened swallowed up the next 18 years of his professional life.” O’Neill interviewed not only Charles Manson himself (they spoke three times by phone), but also prosecutor and Helter Skelter author Vincent Bugliosi — plus numerous attorneys, judges, cops, journalists, and victims’ friends and family.
The evidence O’Neill found, the publisher teases, “contradicts the narrative as we know it: sketchy LSD trials on the hippies of Haight-Ashbury, a dodgy and uncooperative LAPD, and the fact that Manson was given a virtual get-out-of-jail-free card by the federal parole authorities during the period he formed his family in San Francisco.”
While we still have a while to go before the book’s 2019 release, O’Neill told EW what it was like interviewing Manson, and why he thinks we’re still so collectively fascinated by the events of August 1969.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where did your interest in the Manson murders begin?
TOM O’NEILL: I was never interested in the case, hadn’t even read the book about the murders, Helter Skelter, by prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi. I was assigned to do a story for a magazine to commemorate an anniversary of the crimes and, upon reading Helter Skelter for the first time, and then interviewing Bugliosi extensively, discovered that he had withheld — even covered up and changed — information about the crimes that significantly altered the narrative. Then I was hooked.
What was it like to interview Charles Manson?
A game. I wasn’t allowed to speak to him in person because he was in the hole (solitary confinement), so it was pretty frustrating not being able to look him in the eye and call him out on his B.S.
Why do you think, nearly 50 years later, we’re still so fascinated by these events?
Because a group of young women and men, most of them with no criminal history, went out and killed complete strangers simply because, as Bugliosi would have you believe, they were told to.