Cover Image: Helltown


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Member Reviews

I never understood the deal with Mailer and Vonnegut. This story has alot of unnecessary details. It did feel like it was fiction more than true crime. Maybe it would've been better without speculations oh what the victims were feeling and without the unnecessary writing about the friction/feud between the authors and more on the history/biography of the killer.
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A definite purchase for libraries with a strong True Crime Reader Base, an interesting look at a lesser know serial killer
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The 1960s and 1970s were some of the most prolific decades in American history for serial killers. Serial killers seemed to roam the great American landscape throughout these decades in a more prominent way that we don’t really see in future decades. While there are still serial killers these days, the 1960s and 1970s really shaped how investigators profile and hunt these vicious killers. A lot of the methods that were introduced during this time period are still in use today. Some of the famous serial killers from this time period include Charles Manson, the Zodiac Killer, Ted Bundy, and the Boston Strangler just to name a few. While you don’t hear much about Tony Costa, this book is his story. In 1969, Tony Costa is living in Provincetown in Cape Cod. He is a hippie, he is a drug user and dealer, he seems to be charming and has amassed a following of teenagers. These followers call him the Sire and he is their leader. While not essentially a cult in the true sense of the word, his followers believe in him and support him in everything he does.

This book tells the story from Tony’s point of view and also from the investigators as well. While this is a “true crime” novel, there is some fiction as the author provides commentary from Tony himself and what he was thinking as he viciously murdered four women. This book takes the reader briefly through Tony’s childhood and leads the reader up to the moments before the crimes, during the murders, through the investigations, and ultimately to Tony’s trial. While some of the fictional narrative of Tony seems a little overdone, the rest of the book and how everything weaves together was very well done. True crime is a hard genre as the author has to tell the story in a way to entice the reader, but stay true to the known facts. Sherman has nailed this and this book is good read if you are looking for something that is not overly fictionalized but well versed in the facts of the cases.

While in some parts of this book, I found the story dragged a little, I was fascinated to learn more about a serial killer that I knew nothing about. Serial killers, the investigations and profiling of them, and the mechanics that cause and encourage them to kill has long been an intrigue of mine. I have always wanted to learn more about why serial killers kill, why they choose the victims they ultimately murder, and what causes them to commit these atrocious crimes. While the side stories of Vonnegut and Mailer seemed a little excessive, this book was a great read. Sherman has several other true crime novels out there that might be worth checking out as well if you are into true crime like I am.

Overall Rating: 4 stars
Author: Casey Sherman

Series: N/A

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Publication Date: July 12, 2022

Pages: 468

Genre: Nonfiction/True Crime

Get It: Amazon

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review. I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.
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This book surprised me with how graphic the details were of murder. The writing was intriguing and captivating. I was very immersed in this story!
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Story of the book-

Provincetown, Massachusetts, has a thriving hippy community. Tony Costa is in the center of the long-haired adolescents who are preaching love and peace while strumming their guitars as they wander the streets. He is known as Sire to a select number of enamored young ladies. He is the charismatic head of their counter-culture movement and gives out hallucinatory substances like candy. But a dark, uncontrolled hatred that lurks underneath his amiable exterior is just waiting to erupt. No one on Cape Cod is safe from Tony Costa, who is the most dangerous person there.

Costa’s inherent charm and excellent looks first shield him from suspicion when young ladies start to vanish. However, when more deaths are found, the police zero in on him as the prime suspect. While Tony Costa and the drug-soaked hippie culture he represents are their next promising subject, local authors Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer, two of the greatest American writers, are locked in a desperate race to secure their legacies as great literary icons. They each launch their independent investigations that fuel their rivalry.

My review-

Helltown is a groundbreaking true crime story that transports us back to the turbulent late 1960s, reveals the secrets of a notorious serial killer, and unravels the connections between Costa, Vonnegut, and Mailer in the seaside city that played host to horrors unlike anything ever seen before. It is immersive, unflinching, and shocking. Beginning with two authors—Vonnegut and Mailer—and finding ties to Tony Costa, I must admit that I thought these connections were unnecessary. Helltown was intriguing from a real crime perspective, however, the author took considerable artistic license by rewriting the possible conversation between all participants.

I just wasn’t into this book. This novel felt way too fabricated to me as someone who enjoys actual crime. When it comes to guessing the emotions of the murderer and victims, the author took a lot of liberties. As a result, this had a considerably more literary tone than a non-fiction book. This did not work for me since what I like about true crime are the facts and specifics rather than the sentiments. The killings and the trial occur, but a lot of the other information seems to be fake. A lot of the relationships, personal thoughts, and speech are made up, along with the clichéd banter. This is stuffed to the brim. To be fair to the author, I just don’t read real crime the way you do. I prefer my true crime to be factual, and clinical, and to have a glossy section full of mildly salacious images sandwiched in the center.

Additionally, HELLTOWN moved about from one character to another, apparently unconnected character, and their tale, and it just got confusing and superfluous, with the parts barely coming together by the end. There may be fewer serial murderers today than in earlier years because of how murders are handled today, which is very different from how they were probed in the 1960s and 1970s. This was a work that combined elements of fiction and non-fiction, making it an excellent real crime book. These killings were described in a graphic manner that did not leave much room for the imagination. I adore real crime novels, so I felt a little let down by this one. I believe that the two authors’ blending of factual and creative elements only changed the course of the book.
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I have decided to read books this year (2023) that are either true stories, based on true stories, or about real people.  This will include reading some books about real serial killers, like this one.  Helltown tells the story of Antone "Tony" Costa, who was convicted of murdering 2 women in Provincetown, located at the tip of Cape Cod.  He murdered more but there was not enough evidence to support those murders.

Be forewarned - this book is graphic.  The author very graphically describes the murders of these two women.  I actually had to skip over those parts.

Tony Costa's murder spree took place in 1969 and 1970.  He was a drug dealer in Provincetown but also snitched to the local cops as to who else was dealing drugs in town.  He was called "Sire" by his followers in town and had even drawn the attention of authors Kurt Vonnegut, Jr and Norman Mailer.  The chapters that included these 2 authors was not necessary, in my opinion, but I kind of see why the author included them.

There is a brief mention of the Sharon Tate murders and Chappaquiddick as these events both take place during the timeframe of this book.
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This book was based on something local to me. While I thought the coverage was good, it was just ok. Not something I think I would really reread or recommend
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Shelving this one as a DNF :(

I so wanted to get into the story and I really tried but the whole thing just didn't make any sense to me.  I thought it was a true crime read but it seemed to be more of a rambling story about two authors who didn't much like each other, Mailer and Vonnegut.  I'm not sure if I missed something, and maybe it would have been revealed if I'd finished the book, but I had no clue what on earth they had to do with the storyline of a serial killer and why such lengthy chapters were devoted to them.

The other thing that confused me was rather than being a True Crime read, the chapters that were devoted to the actual killer read more like a fictional story rather than a  non-fiction read.

The writing itself is really good, it's just the storyline wasn't for me at all - sorry :(
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I had high hopes for this book after reading The Babysitter: My Summer with a Serial Killer by Liza Rodman. However, this book was fairly dry and hard to stick with, and I ended up not finishing it at 20%. I probably could have stuck with it if there was 1) a better tie-in between Norman Mailer, Kurt Vonnegut and Tony Costa; and 2) if the descriptions of the murders weren't so... descriptive. I found a lot of the details around the killing to be way too graphic for my taste, and just couldn't stomach reading any more (especially knowing that I had 80% more of this to read before finishing).

If asked, I'd highly recommend the alternative story by Rodman vs. this one.
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This is a perfect mix of historical fiction and true crime. The language is great and descriptive and the character of Tony Costa is very well-written. The author gets into his head and shows things from his point of view. I love the way this book combined narrative and true events, keeping me engaged even it was factual. There are intriguing subplots relating to the victims families, Norman Mailer, and Kurt Vonnegut. I appreciate the alternating timelines with other characters, but they sometimes seem to have no relevance.

Thank you to the publisher, author, and NetGalley for providing me with a digital ARC!
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Hell Town is based on serial killer Tony Costa, who murdered women in and near Cape Cod. The author takes us through different perspectives from the killer, his believers, three writers, and detectives.

The writing is great. Sherman is descriptive and gives information in an organized way. I’ll be honest, this book creeped me out. That’s a sign of good writing.

However, I didn’t need all of the extra information from Charles Manson to Ted Kennedy and to the witchcraft, which just felt out of place. I also could have gone without Vonnegut and Mailer’s points of view. They both seemed like horrible people, and I didn’t need more negativity in a book already based on horrible crimes. 

The author has so much promise, and I look forward to looking into his books more in the future.

I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley for my honest review.
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This is a true crime novel about an infamous serial killer, Tony Costa. In all honesty, I had no idea who he was before hearing about this book. Apparently he brutally murdered multiple women across Cape Cod in the 1960s.  While I did learn a little bit more about these crimes, some things in the book were much more fictional than realistic. There was dialoged placed where we could not possibly know if that was something truly said. I feel like it was definitely a blend of both- a fictional story maybe based on some true events. That said, I can appreciate the fact that the author had the idea to blend a fictional world with a factual event. It is a different kind of spin, if you will. I am a forensic psychology major so I always enjoy a good true crime novel. Anywhere I can learn something new or see a new perspective is where I want to be. I think I was most excited about it because I expected it to be true true crime, but alas, that is not what it was entirely.

Thank you NetGalley & Sourcebooks for providing me with an E-Arc in exchange for my honest review.
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I felt like the book dragged in parts that were not necessary. Definitely an interesting story that I was not familiar with. If you are interested in serial killers POV, this one reads pretty easily.
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Unfortunately this one just wasn't for me.  I was not able to finish it.  Maybe one day I will go back and give it another try.

Thank you to Netgalley and Sourcebooks for the gifted copy.
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I'm a serial killer junkie and I didn't know this story!! Apparently in the late 1960s, there was a serial killer on/in Cape Cod, Mass.  You can tell Casey Sherman did extensive research for this book and it was truly satisfying!
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Hell Town wasn’t exactly what I expected. The book is interesting and does relay details about the crime but it mostly focuses on two different authors trying to make their 15 minutes of fame off the details. I like my true crime to be more focused on the actual crime so in that aspect it was a bit disappointing. I do find the fact that seemed to be a focus telling. It’s sad when a tragedy happens and it becomes about other people rather than the victims. Still a decent read but could have been better by sticking to the facts of the crime and how it was solved.
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I didn't really know anything about these Cape Cod murders, before reading this novel.  It was very educational, and gave good insight to the murders.    God rest the souls of the victims, and prayers to the families.
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I thought the book was interesting, that it gave a view of what life was like for some people in that time period in Long Island. I was interested in the crime. I thought there was a little too much going on by including how the crime affected two rival authors. When I read a true crime  I want to read about the crime, not about authors lives. Which I now have a lower option about both authors. It made me feel like there wasn't enough material to make a full length book. I'm sure people who are interested in the authors would find this book informative about a piece of Vonnogut and Miller's lives, and how the crime effected them .
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I completely devoured this true-crime story about the Cape Cod Vampire, Tony Costa. I'm surprised I've never heard him because I grew up in Massachusetts and two towns away from where he was in prison. Aside from the horrifying by engrossing trip into Costa's head, I really, really enjoyed all of the connections to Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut who where both living on the Cape at the time of the murders. Great book!
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Helltown: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer on Cape Cod - Casey Sherman
"Before Charles Mason, there was Tony Costa" Yikes! Helltown is the true crime story of Tony Costa, a serial killer on Cape Cod in the late 60's. Young women begin to disappear, but charismatic Tony is not a suspect at first. That doesn't last long and soon the police start their manhunt to capture him. I thought I would have really enjoyed this one, being a true-crime junkie. But it just didn't grab me like I had hoped. There was a lot of speculation on how people thought and felt and the whole bickering between Vonnegut and Mailer, I felt, was unnecessary.
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