O’Neill’s dottiest character is himself, a lonely obsessive hoarding Manson ephemera in his cramped apartment, with 190 binders full of notes on his shelves, plus six extra stacks of unfiled documents, each of them four-feet high, littering the floor. He begins as a dutiful gumshoe like Chandler’s Philip Marlowe plodding down the mean streets, but he ends closer to the justifiably paranoid taxi driver played by Mel Gibson in Richard Donner’s thriller Conspiracy Theory. As he admits, the loose ends are still not tied up and with so many of the culprits dead they probably never will be. O’Neill’s intricately sinister “secret history” often sounds incredible; that doesn’t mean that it’s not all true.
None of these questions produces conclusive answers. There is always a connection O’Neill just can’t make or a key witness who refuses to speak to him. Nearly 500 pages later, his investigation ends with the dampest of squibs: “What do I think really happened? The plain answer is I don’t know.”
He concludes: “I haven’t found the truth, much as I wish I could say I have. My goal isn’t to say what did happen — it’s to prove that the official story didn’t.” The Manson mystery, if there really is one, has yet to be resolved