I’m a bit of a true crime junkie. I really don’t know what this says about me, but I’m not going to dig deep into my psyche to figure it out. I do know that I’m not alone in this fascination. One day, I was listening to my local sports radio station, and they were interviewing a local author named Jeff Guinn. (Yes, I realize this isn’t sports, but they do other stuff to, like win several Marconi awards, so I give them a pass) about his new book about the Jonestown Massacre. During the interview, Guinn mentioned he had also written a book about Charles Manson. I hopped over to Amazon, put both those books on my Kindle wish list, bought the Manson one when it dropped to $1.99, and found a spot for it on the 2018 book challenge in the “book about a villain” category.
I’ve seen prison interviews with Manson and some of his followers. The followers have clearly learned their lesson, ashamed and remorseful, but Manson remained a lunatic. I was intrigued as to how he got to the point of delusion, and this book was a great place to start. Manson had a terrible childhood. Absent father, absent mother, being shuffled around, in and out of trouble, had very little love given to him, on and on. He left home at a young age, trying to make it on his own. He ended up in California with a mission to be a famous songwriter/musician. He was able to latch onto one of the Beach Boys for awhile, but that didn’t work. He got hooked up with a record producer, but that didn’t work, either. Mostly because Manson’s music was awful. However, Manson was a charmer. During the 1960s, everyone was free, using drugs, wandering around, especially in Cali. Manson was charming and persuasive and clever, so he gathered a “Family” and bid them to do his work. Mostly, he had them steal food from dumpsters, but they also sought out wealthy kids with credit cards to join the Family. Charlie was emotionally abusive, especially to the women, but they couldn’t leave him. They were essentially verbally beaten into submission.
Once the Beatles came out with the White Album (side note, not its real name, but universally referred to as such, also my favorite Beatles album), Charlie knew they were speaking directly to him. It was his job to create “Helter Skelter” in the world. As punishment for the record producer not signing him, Charlie sent his followers to the producer’s former residence to create chaos. This is where Sharon Tate (8 months pregnant with Roman Polanski’s baby) lived. She and some friends were brutally murdered. The next murder was of a business owner and his wife. They weren’t famous, but Charlie wanted the police to think the Black Panthers were behind them, so he had them stage the crime scenes.
After much confusion, the Family was discovered after having left evidence behind, and trials were a circus. Some members turned on others to get immunity, but there are still a few in prison. Overall, this was a very well researched, fascinating book. I’ve never read anything about Manson, so I was pleased at how well documented his life was. I highly recommend this one for anyone interested in Manson’s life.