Cover Image: Helltown


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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This review will be posted on July 6, 2022 to:

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Helltown is the first official true crime book I've read, and I'm glad I did.
Thank you Sourcebooks and NetGalley for the digital review copy.

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If you are a fan of true crime and find the 1960’s of interest, this book is for you. Sherman creates a compelling story and crafts a tale that merges two key authors with a serial killer.

The story of Tony Costa is brutal and his actions gut wrenching. The rivalry of Mailer and Vonnegut is fascinating and the intersection of the three was a book I couldn’t put down.

Thank you to NetGalley and the author for an advance release copy in exchange for an honest review.

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A great deal of this book is about Kurt Vonnegut and Normal Mailer, two writers who apparently were obsessed with the Tony Costa case. Having background on them makes sense and add to the story. But, not this much. There are entire chapters dedicated to each man's life; their strengths and vices, their marital discord and struggling with finding their voices and their places in the world. That all belong in other books. It not only doesn't bolster this story, it detracts from it.

The book opens from Tony Costa's POV after he was imprisoned, and it was interesting and made me want to read more. It references the book he wrote, but we never get to see or read any of that book. That brief scene is all we get about him in prison, and there has to be a lot more to tell. How did this monster deal with being caged? How did he adapt to prison life, or given that he committed suicide, did he ever adapt?

The story that follows Costa and his victims is well done, and you find yourself on the edge of your seat, waiting for them to find the bodies and then figure out it is Costa. The political intrigue with the district attorney was also interesting and is definitely a part of the legal system that needs to be brought to light more.

Overall, I'm giving this book three stars because slogging through all of the unnecessary info on the two writers just took up too much time and was annoying. If 80% of that material was removed you would have a solid true crime story.

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**Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this title in exchange for a fair and honest review**

DNF @18%

I really wanted to get further with this book, I very rarely DNF but this was so dense and meticulously reserached that it felt like I was reading an academic paper. Maybe I didn't read the blurb properly when I requested it but I was expecting information about the investigation into the killer (perhaps that comes later), I wasn't expecting to wade through the thoughts of a serial killer during and after his crimes and to have chapters about 2 authors that felt completely unrelated to the plot.

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We travel back in time to the Age of Aquarius ♒. Hippies , drugs 💊, free love 💕, far out music 🎶 (Rolling Stones, Fifth Dimension, Beatles), ✌️ peace ☮️ and groovy times. Ah, the memories.
During these happy times there was also evil lurking about. Serial killers ( Manson, Cape Cod Vampire, Zodiac Killer, Ted Bundy, Boston Strangler).
Not many are aware of the Cape Cod Vampire, Tony Costa or the murders of Truor.
The author takes us on a journey to learn more of Costa and how he butchered innocent women along with his side-kick Cory. His split personality and his obsession of necrophilia. The gruesome and gory details are not for the faint of heart.
Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. are dueling writers that lived near Costa. They give their perspective of Costa and how they got involved with the case.
Thank you Netgalley and the author for a digital copy. Read and reviewed voluntarily and the opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.

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I read this book for free in exchange for my review. This book was about Tony Costa, the 60’s era Charles Manson. I had read a book about him previously and couldn’t wait to dive in to this one. This book follows Tony Costa and two writers who are trying to get to his story first. I would look up trigger warnings before diving into this. Tony Costa was by no means a gentle man 🥹!

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I judged a book by its cover and was blown away by the way Casey Sherman structured this book. This was everything I’ve ever wanted in a true crime novel! The author did an outstanding job researching the life of the gruesome serial killer, Tony Costa, and gave readers an inside look into the history of events that occurred in Cape Cod in the 1970’s.

The author gave us a tour of Cape Cod and took us alongside Tony Costa, who was living the hippie lifestyle. He was charming, handsome, and women trusted him upon meeting him. He was an awful man with a sick mind that preyed on women and I’ll never stop thinking about what kind of person he was and what he did to those poor women.

I had no idea who Tony Costa was upon reading this book and found myself completely obsessed with this novel. Now that I’ve finished reading, I want to go back and read it again but a little slower this time.

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Helltown takes the reader to Provincetown, Cape Cod Massachusetts in 1969. In the era of Charles Manson a charismatic young man, Tony Costa, becomes the leader of a "cult" of women. Preaching about love, he is a serial killer.
At that historical moment Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer are on the cape competing for the role of best author.
Sherman takes us into the year and the pursuit of Costa.
A spine tingling true crime story

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