Showing posts with label Restless Souls Review by Starship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Restless Souls Review by Starship. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Starship Reviews Restless Souls, by Statman and Tate

First off, I must say that I believe there to be a lot of truth in this book.  A whole lot of truth.  A story about the basic destruction of a whole family touched by tragedy…and not just any tragedy, but a result of perhaps the most notorious crime of the century.  It’s an incredible story of a journey that none of us would ever want to take - not to mention have to take in that way.  We don’t have any choice at what life throws us, and all of us will be tossed a tragedy or two or three in our lifetimes, but most of us will be able to deal with these tragedies without the glare of the television cameras, the reporters with their questions, flashbulbs popping, books written, films made, and, not least, internet bloggers like me commenting on it some 40 plus years later.

Nine people for sure were murdered in the summer of 1969, but they were certainly not the only victims of the Manson Family.  One could argue we all are victims as all these years later we spend time obsessing over it…but let none of us forget that at the forefront for victimization come the surviving members of the victims’ families, and until Debra Tate gets her act together to tell her story, Brie Tate and Alisa Statman are what we have to consider.

This reminds me of the concept of there being victim’s victims.  The book "The Hour I First Believed" by Wally Lamb, which takes place post-Columbine and concerns the troubles one of the surviving Columbine teachers has as a result of PTSD and how these troubles affect not only her life, but her husband, her career, co-workers etc…and how those people are in turn victimized by her actions is a pretty good example of this.  I think it offers no comfort really, but it explains realistically what can happen to people who are traumatized by such events.  And, unfortunately it strikes me that we see this sort of thing more and more these days.  Certainly PJ, Doris, Debra and Patti were also victims.  And to me it looks like they victimized each other over the subsequent years as well.  Not on purpose, I’m sure.  More on this later.

So back to Restless Souls.  It certainly was written for one clear purpose: to serve as a treatise for why those convicted of the Hinman-Shea-Tate-LaBianca murders of 1969 can never ever be released from prison… even if they’re dying from cancer, after having one leg sawed off.  It makes the case that essentially none of the convicted killers have been rehabilitated, none of them are sorry, none of them have ever even said they are sorry, and that even if they were truly sorry and born-again Christians and all that stuff, that they should recognize that they still must pay for their crimes, and the only way to do that is to remain in prison and to die there.  Just like Susan Atkins finally did.

Doris Tate became the public face of opposition to the killers release.  She became involved with Parents of Murdered Children, and founded the victims rights movement in California and, of course, her influence here has been felt world-wide.  PJ Tate was too private of a person to want to do this…and the book says he rather would have had the killers released so that they could be executed Charles Bronson style, perhaps even by him.  The Tates became estranged from their daughter Debra, and she is hardly mentioned in the book.  But when Doris fell ill and eventually died, the Tates’ daughter, Patti, took it upon herself to oppose parole for the killers, appear on television shows, etc.  And Patti did this until her own untimely death from breast cancer.  The book was written by her daughter, Brie, along with Alisa Statman who apparently became Patti’s lover after her divorce from her husband.  Brie states that she will carry on opposing parole but so far she has not been allowed as her Aunt Debbie is recognized now officially as next of kin.

Readers are to believe that the book was compiled from notes and unpublished manuscripts by Doris, PJ and Patti, and later on Brie.  Alisa Statman freely admits that she expounded on these notes when there are holes to be filled, and herein lies all of the problems the book has.

It’s the oldest trick in the book for fiction writers who include real life events and real people in their work to focus on the people who are no longer living.  After all, dead men or women tell no tales, or file lawsuits for that matter.  Putting words in their mouths holds little risk for the author.  I fear that Alisa Statman has co-opted this strategy for her non-fiction story, and it’s a shame really.  Why feel the need to ‘enhance’ the truth?  This case doesn’t need to be made any more interesting.  The actual truth is compelling enough.

The most obvious example of this is in ‘Patti’s’ recounting of the events at Cielo Drive the night her sister Sharon and four others were murdered.  The set-up is that Patti is steeling herself to carry on her mother’s work as a victims’ rights activist and in opposing parole for the convicted killers.  We are told that Patti had never even once read Helter Skelter, but she sees it on a bookshelf, opens it up, finds that Vincent Bugliosi has autographed it for her father, and that her mother has left her a note inside inspiring her to continue.  So Patti begins reading, and then proceeds to give us a detailed accounting of the events of August 9, 1969 that none of us have ever heard, and certainly one that Vincent Bugliosi never himself wrote.

Why?  The only reason I can think of is that Statman worries that the original accounts of the murders don’t make the killers look bad enough.  So let’s write an account to make them look even more evil. As if.

Usually the adage goes that if one doesn’t get the little things right then can one be trusted to get the big things right?  Believe me, this is not a little thing.  It’s a huge thing.  But don’t worry, there is plenty of other little things that are wrong too.  Katie already pointed out that it’s claimed that PJ Tate went AWOL in the 50s in order to see Sharon after she was born, when Sharon, of course, was born in the 40s.  My personal favorite is this: There is only one way in or out of Benedict Canyon, south into Beverly Hills or north toward the valley.  Ummm, doesn’t that actually mean there are at least two ways?

The book reads like a Greatest Hits version of Tate-LaBianca.  Nothing is left out, so whatever your personal favorites are, they’re in here: Did Manson and others go to Cielo after the murders?  Did Garrettson hear more than he let on?  Linda Kasabian is just as guilty as the rest.  Did orgies happen at Cielo?  Was Mama Cass involved? John or Michelle Phillips?  Was Billy Doyle tied up and whipped after screwing up a drug deal for Jay and Voytek?  Candy Bergen says so.  Actually, according to the book, one of the first questions PJ Tate was asked by a defense attorney at the trial was if he had knowledge of Jay ever using a whip on anyone in a sexual manner…but the question is ruled out of order.  Too bad actually.  We may just have learned something of substance had that line of questioning been allowed and followed up on.

So the Trial transcripts are readily available, correct?  Anyone know where they are?  Let’s check on this to make sure we are not being sold any snake oil here.

PJ Tate is depicted as some kind of superhero.  He conducts his own investigation which results in the police being able to bust up a major drug ring in the Bay Area.  He himself interrogates Roman, Steve McQueen, Warren Beatty, Billy Doyle and Mama Cass.  He has others in his trusted circle interrogate the Phillips’, and one of them, while keeping Roman under surveillance, observes him searching John Phillips’ Rolls Royce.  He and Manson see each other outside court. PJ gets to intimidate him.  PJ observes members of the Straight Satans motorcycle gang (possible connection to LaBianca, anyone?) hanging out at the Cielo Drive gate and follows them to Spahn Ranch weeks before the Manson Family are rounded up. (Since there are no dates associated with this, it is hard to tell for sure, but I would think that Manson and his inner circle would have been out at Death Valley by this time.)  But the best is, we are told that at a parole hearing that PJ Tate attended for Tex Watson, that the corrections officers mistakenly allowed Tex into the room where PJ was waiting.  So of course, PJ moves to kill him, and of course Tex is terrified, but then Sharon’s voice tells PJ to cool it, so he stands down, and an officer comes in and takes Tex away to the right room.  I will say straight up I don’t believe that for one minute.  I know the cops are incompetent, but I really don’t think they’re THAT incompetent.

For the record I don’t believe that the Army commissioned PJ Tate to take Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald into custody either.  But if they did I would have to certainly reconsider whether or not a government cover-up took place in the Fatal Vision murders.

So wherein lies the truth?  Again, I believe the greater truth of Restless Souls lies in the stories of the survivors trying to go on: Their struggle to live meaningful lives in the wake of their shared tragedy.  To love others; partners, children, each other, perhaps even themselves.  I fear that all this got the best of them.  I found it a depressing story.  I find myself wondering about all of them, but Doris especially.  Did she ever have a single happy moment again?  I really hope she found a way to be happy in loving her husband, children, grandchildren…but the book really doesn’t say, and the Doris I know from TV doesn’t ever show me that either.

So my biggest criticism of the book is that Alisa Statman doesn’t really give us an idea of her relationship with Patti either.  Were they happy together?  Again, I surely hope so.

My own mother-in-law has a large number of children.  One of them died tragically young.  Make no mistake about it, today she suffers still more than 20 years later.  But early on she realized she had other children and grandchildren to live for and so she went on with an optimism that is incredible to behold.  I really wish the Tate family would be like this.  Perhaps they are, but again I get no sense of it from this book.

All of this points out how hard healing can be.  After Columbine, like two days later, a newspaper headline read THE HEALING BEGINS…as if it could ever really be that simple.  Mourn for a day or two and then let’s heal.  The Tates’ story, I fear, is one where any sense of healing may never be realized.  And that in itself is a terrible tragedy as well.

Thanks Starship!  Great Review!!

===================================================================
I’ve been doing a LOT of thinking…

There’s something about this book, that just doesn‘t “sit right“ with me. 
Until now, I haven’t been able to put a finger on what, or why. 
After much thought… it’s finally come to me. 


It’s not the book itself, or even the contents… but, the way it’s marketed. 
The marketing does not accurately represent, what one finds inside. 
The marketing is misleading.  Allow me to expound...

We are led to believe, that this book is straight from the Tate’s. 
Alisa simply compiled and published it for us.

The front title---
Restless Souls:  The Sharon Tate Family’s account of Stardom, the Manson Murders, and a Crusade for Justice. 
(underneath in smaller inconsequential italic: Alisa Statman and Brie Tate)

"The Sharon Tate Family’s Account". That’s pretty explicit.

On the back cover of the book, (hand-in-hand with the front cover) Alisa clearly states:

“By combing through all that information and then reconstructing the work into a four-decade, cohesive narrative, my goal was to chronicle their lives with historical accuracy in even the finest details… Now, after three generations’ time, this is finally their story”.

She clearly states: “My goal was to chronicle their lives with historical accuracy in even the finest details”.  Also: “This is finally their story”.

But immediately upon opening the book, Alisa begins to backpedal. 
In the book’s introduction, the statement from the back cover (above) is repeated verbatim. 
Only this time, the statement includes an extra sentence. 
The extra sentence is a disclaimer. It reads:

“Nevertheless, with four of the five key witnesses to this story gone, there were a few times when I was left to fill in the gaps with my personal interpretation“.

I repeat: “There were a few times, when I was left to fill in the gaps with my personal interpretation“.

We later find, this happens more than a few times.

Following the book’s release, when pressed on the embellishments regarding PJ Tate, Alisa backpedals even further.  She states:

"The numerous attacks comparing PJ’s manuscript, Five Down on Cielo, to what’s in Restless Souls is a useless endeavor because only a single paragraph was lifted from it. The rest came from conversations with PJ, 20 years after it was written".

So essentially… barring a single paragraph… the entire PJ section of the book, comes from (at best)… conversations with PJ… that were held 20 years after his manuscript was written.

This really differs from the "firsthand" tone expressed on the front and back covers.

Lemme tell ya somethin‘… (as Fire Marshall Bill would say):
Most men will definitely exaggerate stories of such nature, after 20 years... especially if a woman is listening.  It’s a pride thing.  Heck… I can even picture the scene. The man’s older… his daughter is gone.  What’s he got left but stories?  All men do it.  The bass they caught, always gains weight, with each passing year.
Heck… my 4 pound bass from 1984... is currently weighing-in at 10 pounds! LOL
In a few years… I’m gonna have to switch the story to saltwater fishing, because freshwater bass don’t get any bigger than 10 pounds, in my state. LOL 
Throw-in a few shots of bourbon in front of the fireplace… (maybe Alisa was wearing an attractive dress that evening)… and suddenly, PJ is relating stories of grandeur!  He’s Columbo!   : )
I submit, that if everything PJ related were true… he would have been arrested.
Trespassing on private property… insulting investigating policeman, etc. Let’s get real.

Bottom line:

When you couple my concerns mentioned above… with the way everyone in the book speaks like Ernest Hemingway (Alisa in this case)… with the noteworthy embellishments and errors… it’s apparent (to me), that Alisa “filled-in many more gaps”, than the title, back cover, and promotion would suggest.
More importantly...
Alisa filled-in many more gaps, than I had expected, when I purchased the book.
Therein lies my source of disillusion with the book, which I heretofore could not pinpoint.

It’s a good read, but the title and premise are clearly distorted for marketing purposes.

This book is not 100% “Tate”.
It’s 70% “Tate”, and 30% “Statman”.
Or maybe even 60-40 or 50-50.  We’ll never know for sure…

The title of the book, should actually be:

Restless Souls: Alisa Statman’s Recount, of the Tate Family’s Tragedy.
(underneath in smaller italic: compiled with the aid of Tate home movies, audio and video recordings, journals, letters, and personal conversation).

THAT title... would have been an 100% accurate depiction, of what one could expect within the pages of the book.  Truth in advertising, as it were…

I also submit, that Brie Tate (Ford) likely penned no more than 5% of this book. 
Her involvement with the book (and promotional tv circuit)... was a keen marketing ploy to further pad the “Tate” name on the project.
"We're here today, with Brie Tate, niece of Sharon Tate... who co-authored a book". 
Sounds GREAT doesn't it?!  Deceptive marketing, plain and simple.

The completely frank (and accurate) book title which I offered (with "Statman" in the forefront), simply wouldn't have sold as many books.  Statman?  Who is she? 
Heck... my honest title, may not have sold any books!

The American money train rambles on...

With my candor, I would have been a complete failure in the marketing field.
So what's new, huh?!  ; )

Peace Readers... Lynyrd