Cover Image: Helltown

Helltown

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I enjoy true crime stories. Always have. This one is fictionalized in part and that part I did not care for.  Also, there was a lot of foul language. I did not enjoy this book. 

My thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book via Net Galley.
Was this review helpful?
Helltown by Casey Sherman reads like the literary version of Zodiac or a Netflix True Crime documentary: suspense, intrigue and chills on every single page. The book weaves a tale that not only focuses on the murders and Costa’s reign of terror but also sheds light on the changing times of the Cold War era and the effect the killings had on people such as literary giant Kurt Vonnegut. 

Sherman weaves the narrative fantastically and allows readers to not only see the perspective of investigators and journalists such as Vonnegut but also dives into the cracked psyche of Costa and the cult of influence he had around him as he committed the heinous acts. The book never dragged and kept me focused on the exploits of each main character and what it was like living not just in “Helltown” but also the 60s and the changing ideas. 

This book is chilling and reads much like a blend of Helter Skelter and a Stephen King novel as you read about the horrors committed by Costa but also the effect it had on people, the town and the country all before Manson ever even brought the family together. 

Overall Helltown is a must read for true crime readers and I highly recommend this chilling, suspenseful true crime story!
Was this review helpful?
While Tony Costa's story was compelling, I felt the background on Vonnegut and Mailer was much too long. Those chapters weren't nearly as interesting and really weren't necessary. The parts about them writing about the murder trial could've been included without that much background and irrelevant information about them and their feud. Further, the editorialization at the end concerning the woman in the dunes went a little overboard. The author did not specify that he was theorizing about the case and that none of what he included about Strawberry Blonde or the murdered woman was fact until the acknowledgments section, which I found very off-putting.
Was this review helpful?
It took me a long time to read this book as real life got in the way so every night I had a few minutes of time to read about these horrific murders before I would fall asleep! Yes I fit all the memes! Lol!!

This book is about Tony Costa, the man who killed at least five women in Cape Cod in the late sixties. I had actually never heard of him or this case. The author did a very good job detailing the crimes and the times but I felt the book went on too long. This was largely because he chose to novelize the book, using a fictionalized format to tell the story. I imagine some people like that better but I find I don’t. I don’t care for made up dialog and conjecture when relating true crime events. I find it hokey and I don’t trust it. I feel as though the writer can dupe you into thinking what he wants you to think though in this case I imagine the story was probably close to the facts. There was a completely non factual description of another murder later in the book. 

The other reason the book was long was that there was a significant amount of information regarding Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut in the book. Oddly both famous authors lived on Cape Cod during that time and were caught up in the murders, the killer and the local environment itself. They both wrote about the crimes. This was certainly interesting given the fact that both men also wrote fictionalized accounts of true events including Mailer’s The  Executioner’s Song which is about a real killer on death row. Learning about some of the crazy things that happened to these men, especially Mailer was unexpected. Overall I felt it was kind of a gimmick to throw all that stuff in and made for a very long book. 

Not a bad true crime book but definitely not my cup of tea. I will admit to wanting to know more now about Vonnegut and Mailer just out of curiosity but otherwise I can’t say it left me glad I had read it. There have been like three books on Tony Costa recently which I find odd. Lol! I have The Babysitter but I haven’t seen great reviews on that either. I think I’ll wait awhile to read it. 

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I am a self described true crime junkie and am disappointed that I have never heard of this case before. The book was well written and kept you hooked on the case of four dead young women. The story tie ins to the community were well done and didn't take away from the story of Tony Costa and his crimes. Would recommend this story to all who enjoy true crime.
Was this review helpful?
This historic case review is worthwhile and the research seems solid. The dialogue was stiff at times, but overall, it makes a contribution to the field of criminal justice, forensic psychology, and true crime lore. The addition of the famous writers and their ego competition was fascinating.
Was this review helpful?
Helltown by Casey Sherman was a bust for me. I'm not the type to not finish a book but after reading about 30% of this book I couldn't do it anymore. 

It seemed like to me there was 2 different stories to follow and I could not keep them both straight. I didn't understand why we were talking about 2 authors in several chapters and then go right back to the killer. I have no idea if they ever tied together but I wasn't interested in finding out. 

Thank you Netgally for an ARC of this book for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I admit it. I’m a sucker for true crime stories, and serial killers are part of that. I’d never heard of Tony Costa, but after reading a bit about Helltown, subtitle the untold story of a serial killer of Cape Cod, I was ready to read. Fortunately, Sourcebooks and NetGalley were willing to provide a copy of Casey Sherman’s new book in return for my review, so I was all set! 

It takes place in the late 60s, in Provincetown, Massachusetts. “Hippies” are everywhere, teenagers with long hair are roaming the streets, strumming their guitars. People preach the message of  peace and love, but Tony Costa doesn’t seem to get the message. Known to many as Sire, he is the leader of the local counter-culture movement, a guy who appears to “speak eloquently” and hand out hallucinogens by the handful.  In reality, he is filled with rage and soon young females start to disappear. 

Local writers Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut are competing to become the great literary icon of the day, and both of them see Costa as the way to make that happen. Helltown is a fascinating true crime story that captures the late 1960s, and shows the reality of Provincetown during Costa’s killing spree. Fascinating, addictive – and I wonder how readers from a generation that didn’t live through that time will see it. In any case, I am a boomer and I loved it. Five stars.
Was this review helpful?
First of all, I overall enjoyed the book. Before reading “Helltown,” I had never heard of Costas. I was intrigued reading about the serial killer despite the book being quite graphic at times. Although the graphic parts were hard to swallow at times, I felt they were needed to help readers grasp the gory. Due to the nature of the book as well as the fictionalized parts of the book, I do feel it would make a good micro series on a streaming network.
Was this review helpful?
In Casey Sherman's latest true-crime novel, "Helltown" follows the gruesome murders committed by the Cape Cod Killer in the 1970s--Antone Costa. Sherman also focuses on two famous authors, Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer, relationship with the killer and rise to fame. Sherman isn't shy about the disturbing and graphic details of the murders as well as Costa's horrific inner monolog with his alter ego. "Helltown" does an excellent job of getting into the mind of the killer. Both writers, Vonnegut and Mailer, have a personal relationship with Costa. Sherman elevates a classic true-crime novel through introducing the lives and works of these two famous writers. 

While some readers may find this novel too disturbing, I appreciated the thorough research into the psychological disturbances of Costa. Additionally, the unique history Vonnegut and Mailer have with Costa's trial was well integrated. Sherman's writing style created a fictional, well-paced narrative. I'd recommend this novel for fans of true-crime.
Was this review helpful?
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of Helltown by Casey Sherman. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks for this ARC.

Helltown is about one of the early serial killers whose story was overshadowed by the Manson murders. By combining the details of his kills and the historical context seen through the viewpoint of two famous writers, we get a layered story. 

I give this book 4/5 stars for sharing a murder topic that I had never heard about before. A quick warning that there are some very graphic details about the murders.
Was this review helpful?
This book bills itself as a nonfiction, true crime story of Tony Costa, a serial killer on Cape Cod.  But it’s actually a broader reflection on two famous Cape Cod based writers, Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut.  In fact, in the beginning more time is spent on Mailer’s and Vonnegut’s backgrounds than the killer.  It’s not until I was into the book that I realized both writers took Costa as a possible subject which was why they were being highlighted.  Vonnegut saw Costa as a way to write a book as successful as Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.  
The parts devoted to Costa’s murders are gruesome in the extreme.   At times, the writing is from the POV of a victim, which I didn’t care for.  For example, “There was something different about him, something dangerous.  His eyes were determined, not playful anymore.”   It lent a fictional quality to a nonfiction book which seemed overly dramatic and unnecessary.   Many other scenes are detailed without any footnotes to back up the supposed “facts”.   He’s also often identified as “the killer” instead of by his name, another thing that just struck an odd note.  
Neither Vonnegut or Mailer comes across as a decent person.   Mailer’s misogyny and abusive nature has long been known,  but I was surprised to find Vonnegut was equally problematic, although Sherman lays the blame on Vonnegut’s PTSD.  
As the book progresses, the author attempts to tie in other events of the day, like the moon landing, the Manson murders and Chappaquiddick.   These stories have minor tangents to the murders but dragged the story down.   
The Author’s Note at the end finally explains that “Helltown is a work of fact told with elements of fiction storytelling.  The author admits to creating dialogue and imagining scenarios with Costa’s disciples.  He even cites Mailer and Vonnegut as inspirations in writing this way.   That’s fine, but then the book should not be billed as nonfiction.  And it irked me to no end that every time he puts thoughts in Vonnegut’s voice, he ends with “and so it goes…”.  
At least The Author’s Note did explain that Tony’s alter ego (which is never explained during the book) was based on his access to Costa’s unpublished book.  
 My thanks to Netgalley and Sourcebooks for an advance copy of this book.
Was this review helpful?
This was an enjoyable true crime/history read. Readers should go in ahead of time knowing that it is part truth, part fictionalized narrative. The author includes the note at the end, but my advice is to put that up front. I was able to figure it out just by saying to myself: yeah, there's no way we know x, y, or z for sure. Nevertheless, it was very well written, fascinating, and I found myself totally immersed in that time period.

The book is about Tony Costa, dubbed the "Cape Cod Vampire," a serial killer who operated in Provincetown and murdered (at least) 5 women. The story follows the killer as he hunts for victims, attempts to cover up his crimes, and then faces trial after capture. The narrative alternates between him and two famous authors of the time period: Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer, both of whom lived in the Provincetown area, and their quest to compete for fame and to write about the gruesome subject: Costa himself.

Again, I enjoyed the writing style and the narrative aspect, but readers really should be wary of treating this as a totally nonfiction book about Costa and these murders and trial. It isn't that at all. But it opens the door into that time period in history, particularly to these somewhat more overlooked crimes (since the Manson murders occurred around the same time).
Was this review helpful?
This review will be posted on July 6, 2022 to: https://instagram.com/amandas.bookshelf

I'm conflicted about how I feel about this. The book is clearly well-researched and investigated by a veteran journalist. Especially of interest was how these murders impacted local authors Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Neither of them come off especially positively here, but that's more on them than the author. Both were living on the Cape at the time of the murders and were impacted similarly, though to varying degrees, by them. I thought it was interesting to learn more about them and how they ended up using the murderer and his crimes for source material in their writings (Vonnegut in a Life magazine article and Mailer in a novel). However, I wonder if Sherman's detail on the gory nature of the crimes was necessary. Did he need to provide grisly details in the narrative at the time of the murders, when the bodies were found, when the bodies were autopsied, *and* during the trial of the murderer? It was salacious and unnecessary to repeat the details as they offered nothing new to the narrative since we first learned of them. I think authors who use and profit from murders owe it to the victims to treat them with as much dignity as possible. That aside, anyone who is interested in history, especially the counterculture of the 1960s, and true crime will appreciate the intersection of both in this. #Helltown Rating: somewhere between 😐 / meh, it was ok and 🙂 / liked it
•
This book is scheduled for publication on July 12, 2022. Thank you @sourcebooks for providing me this digital ARC via @NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Helltown is a true crime novel about the infamous serial killer, Antone “Tony” Costa who plagued Cape Town in 1969. Costa was responsible for the brutal and grisly murders of at least 4 women at that time. Unfortunately due to lack of forensic evidence, Costa was convicted of only 2 murders for which he was to serve 2 life sentences.

While Helltown was interesting from the true crime angle, the author indulged in some creative liberties by recreating the dialogue that MAY have occurred between all parties involved. While the insertion of the dialogue may have added some artistic flair, I for one did not appreciate it. I would have preferred just the facts.

In addition to the creative dialogue, the author inserted a few tangential narratives. Dedicating complete chapters to storylines about Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Norman Mailer, Chappaquiddick, and Charles Manson. I didn’t understand the point of these tangents except that it just added to the total word count and acted as fillers for an otherwish shorter crime story. Needless to say, I skimmed those tangential chapters to get to the meat of the story. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much meat left in the narrative.

The author has conducted extensive reasearch as evidenced by the footnotes and references, and I appreciated that. However, I still found it to be just an okay read. Two satisfactory stars.

I received a digital ARC from Sourcebooks through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.
Was this review helpful?
I always enjoy a true crime read about a case I've never heard of. The twists of this case were surprising and the way that Costa ran this town was revealing about how things are not what they seem. I am going to keep an eye out for Casey Sherman's books going forward!
Was this review helpful?
Hell Town is about serial killer, Tony Costa, who targeted young women in the Cape Cod area in the late '60s.  The book also spends a lot of time on the relationship between writers, Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer.  As a true crime fan, I found those parts of the book dragged for me.  I was more interested in learning about Tony than I was the writers. But I would say that the book is well written and I would definitely recommend it true crime readers as well as fans of Vonnegut and Mailer who want to learn more about their relationship. Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks for the advanced reader copy.
Was this review helpful?
Whew! What a wild ride. This is the story of Tony Costa, the Cape Cod killer. Part of the true crime novel includes two rival writers' stories, Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer and their involvement/history with their career. 

This book is split into those two aspects above and then I'd say the telling of the actual murders that took place and the trial for those murders. 

I really liked the true crime part of this book and how we are walked through the occurrences. It's VERY graphic for those who need trigger warnings, this is your warning. I, however, didn't care for the historic part of the writers. I can see how telling Vonnegut and Mailers stories tie into the book, but it just wasn't for me. Which is why it lost a star. 

If you like journalism, graphic true crime, and need to get to the beach soon, then read this book! Cape Cod sounds and looks BEAUTIFUL and someday I hope to visit. 

Thank you for the opportunity to read this netgalley!
Was this review helpful?
I am an absolute true crime junky!  I had little knowledge of Tony Costa and the Helltown murders so was really excited to dive in & get all the gruesome details.   The book focused on the acts of Tony Costa, as well as two local authors Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., & Norman Mailer.  The book was a bit of a slow start and honestly I don't think the Mailer/Vonnegut parts added anything exceptional to the book-they just seemed extra & the book would have been less distracting without it.  Taking out those parts this book is 3.5⭐ for me.
Was this review helpful?
This book is not for me. I signed up for a nonfiction true crime novel about Tony Costa. What I got was a messy, inspired by true events borefest.
Was this review helpful?