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Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson Paperback – August 5, 2014
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The New York Times bestselling authoritative account of the life of Charles Manson filled with surprising new information and previously unpublished photographs A riveting almost Dickensian narrative four stars People More than forty years ago Charles Manson and his mostly female commune killed nine people among them the pregnant actress Sharon Tate It was the culmination of a criminal career that author Jeff Guinn traces back to Manson s childhood Guinn interviewed Manson s sister and cousin neither of whom had ever previously cooperated with an author Childhood friends cellmates and even some members of the Manson family have provided new information about Manson s life Guinn has made discoveries about the night of the Tate murders answering unresolved questions such as why one person near the scene of the crime was spared Manson puts the killer in the context of the turbulent late sixties an era of race riots and street protests when authority in all its forms was under siege Guinn shows us how Manson created and refined his message to fit the times persuading confused young women and a few men that he had the solutions to their problems At the same time he used them to pursue his long standing musical ambitions His frustrated ambitions combined with his bizarre race war obsession would have lethal consequences Guinn s book is a tour de force of a biography Manson stands as a definitive work important for students of criminology human behavior popular culture music psychopathology and sociopathology and compulsively readable Ann Rule The New York Times Book Review
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Furthermore, if you're looking for an unbiased account of Manson you'll need to look elsewhere. The author's blatantly obvious dislike of his subject is all too evident from the word go and grinds on throughout the entire book.
Well written as one would expect but same old same old.
On the upside, there's lots of early-days original reporting. The new material on his childhood is illuminating, and so is the stuff from Gregg Jacobson dealing with Manson in L.A. And I really admire the way Guinn has woven the cultural times into the narrative. It does provide some much needed context for the Manson saga, even if it does seem like a good bit of it is by-the-numbers window dressing.
Also, there's a lot of guessing. On pages 28 and 29 alone, we get "perhaps," "but more likely," "surely," "it is unlikely," "probably," and "may have been" -- all of them code words for, gee, I really don't know but I'm going to look at this situation this way, because it well serves my overall thesis.
Also, the PR machine makes a big noise about the interviews with Krenwinkle and Van Houten but quotes from the pair are far and few between. Maybe they just didn't have much to say.
I am no Manson apologist, but, sadly, as readable as this book is, it is not the last word on the subject (sigh; one wishes it were), nor is it very good journalism. The 45th anniversary of the T/LB slayings comes next year; maybe we'll get the final word then, and I for one certainly hope so. It about time we're done with this creep, once and for all.
Manson as the prototype of the psychopath grew up with an eye to mining the social unrest for his own advancement. Grandiose, he longed to be a part of the new ruling class in LA, the famous. "We're us, there are no rules, we get to do this." Confident in his own superiority, he simultaneously worked his wealthy, celebrity friends and cultivated a "family" of the disaffected to do his bidding. Although in the end, his pretensions as the return of Jesus passed reality; Charlie was, and is, an uncanny observer of the currents of the times. He used this knowledge to manipulate his world, and he was successful for some time. His gory murders among the elite and the upper middle class of Hollywood resonated deeply with the fearful conservatives of America.
To this day, one can find young people who find his actions attractive. One can still buy Manson tshirts, and his regular parole hearings are still accorded news coverage. It has always been a fascinated puzzle how such a scrawny man was able to command the actions of so many people, especially the daughters of the nation. This book uses careful scholarship and meticulous recreation to attempt an answer. The prose moves smoothly, and engages the reader. The character development leaves us with the fully formed Manson before our eyes. The reporting of the events of those times is done seamlessly with the story. In fact, one is lulled at times in the knitting of the two phenomena. Discussing the more lurid material carefully, the discourse never stoops to sensationalism. This is a book for those who remember and those who never knew.