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Charles Manson: Life & Times
The most chilling crimes of the nineteen sixties
I once tried to read a book about Charles Manson. Usually, I can read and appreciate almost any book but I had to give up on the one I started because it was badly written nonsense; just someone cashing in on Charles Manson's notoriety. This book though, by Jeff Guinn, is a different matter altogether.
How could such an evil person exist?
We are accustomed to reading about some incredibly evil people in history, but by the nineteen sixties we considered ourselves to be a civilized society. How could America produce a person like Charles Manson? That is what the author's main motivation was when embarking on this book.
The real family
Manson's commune of killers was known as his 'family' but the author contacted - and interviewed - members of Manson's real family to find out more about this early life. The 'facts' that we had been told - largely from books like the one I had to throw away - were false.
They were instigated by Manson himself and perpetuated by journalists and writers who chose to take the word of a maniacal killer rather than conduct their own research.
A blighted childhood?
One example is that Manson, in common with so many other criminals, spoke at length about his unhappy and deprived childhood and his mother who, according to him, was a prostitute. In fact, according to the author, the young Manson was spoiled as a child and was given everything he wanted by his doting mother.
Anyone who remembers the Manson trial will remember those seemingly mad, staring eyes that supposedly gave Manson his special powers over women and led them to do everything he asked of them, including committing brutal murders.
Some people wondered if he was possessed by the devil. Others thought that he was a reincarnation of Rasputin. Most people thought his powers were somehow mystical. According to the author, this was due to Manson, when in jail in his earlier years, studying the self-help books of Dale Carnegie such as How To Win Friends & Influence People.
What did Charles Manson do?
What were his crimes? I tend to forget that not everyone was around in 1969 and might not be aware of the horror of his deeds. The video below explains.
Meet the author
Here Jeff Guinn is shown talking at a bookstore. He explains that the period in which the Manson events took place - the late sixties - are now either being forgotten or misrepresented.
He explains that during the sixties, people were almost accustomed to waking up in the morning, turning on the news on television and hearing appalling - or incredible news. World and society leaders were being assassinated. There was a terrible war that was, as he describes, dividing the country. There was racial violence to the extent that had never been seen before.
To counterpoint this, it was a time when wonderful literature and music were being created. A man walked on the moon. The world was advancing at an astonishing rate and for the people, horror was mixed with wonder.
And then there was Manson.
At a time when American women were reputedly burning their bras, Manson was running his family as a strict patriarchal society in which the women members were subservient.
He tells one story in this video which encapsulates the way in which Manson had control over his family.
Manson had told them that there was going to be a huge race war in which the black population would annihilate the whites. At this time, he told them, he and his family would hide in the desert and at the same time, have the ability to turn themselves into fairies or elves.
Then,when the war was over and the black people found that they were unable to run the country, the Manson family would emerge as their leaders.
The family believed this.
And yet, in the late sixties when one of the women said that she had heard that a man had walked on the moon, they laughed and wouldn't believe her.
What many people don't know is that Manson saw himself as a musician and songwriter. In this book are some of his lyrics, poems, his court testimony and other notes and clipping from Manson and the 'family.
There has been a lot of nonsense written about Manson over the years but this book appears to genuinely and accurately portray the writing of Manson and his followers.
© 2013 Jackie Jackson