Cover of Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson
Rated 3.87
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Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson

By: Jeff Guinn

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Trade

Imprint: Simon & Schuster

Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9781451645163

Other Formats:

Electronic | Trade Paperback

On Sale: | Pages: 495

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The most authoritative account ever written of how an ordinary juvenile delinquent named Charles Manson became the notorious murderer whose crimes still shock and horrify us today. 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 Mansons childhood. Guinn interviewed Mansons 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 Mansons life. Guinn has made discoveries about the night of the Tate murders, answering unresolved questions, such as why one person on the property where the murders occurred was spared. Manson puts the killer in the context of his times, 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, relocating to Los Angeles in search of a recording contract. His frustrated ambitions, combined with his bizarre race-war obsession, would have lethal consequences as he convinced his followers to commit heinous murders on successive nights. In addition to stunning revelations about Charles Manson, the book contains family photographs never before published.
Jeff Guinn, the author of well-regarded books on Bonnie and Clyde and the shootout at the O.K. Corral, plays it smart in this biography. Guinn is at pains to say that he's gleaned some fresh material, having tracked down some Manson relatives who had not previously spoken publicly, but he doesn't rely too heavily on claims of flashy revelations. Instead, he takes a long view, beginning with a measured, in-depth study of Manson's early years, attempting to answer the question of how this monster came to be.... While it's too much to hope that this book will be the last word on the subject, Guinn has managed against all odds to offer a fresh take and a worthy complement to the first-hand immediacy of Bugliosi's “Helter Skelter.” Guinn's wide-lens approach fleshes out a great deal of background and offers new insight to those who lived through that turbulent era, and provides essential context to those who didn't.
—Washington Post
Though most of the literate world knows what's to come, Guinn ably maintains suspense. Even if “Manson” is occasionally tedious, recounting over and over the Family's peripatetic adventures — garbage diving for food, stealing, “creepy-crawling” into people's homes at night — it stands as a definitive work: important for students of criminology, human behavior, popular culture, music, psychopathology and sociopathology, and compulsively readable for anyone who relishes nonfiction.
—New York Times
Guinn...does a workmanlike job of taking us through the basic plot... Guinn can't keep himself from overstatement, framing music as the central motivation when it was just one face of a tangled psychosis, in which for both Manson and the Family the line between reality and fantasy grew irrevocably blurred. As "Manson" progresses, this becomes increasingly problematic, as Guinn seeks to explain the inexplicable.... To his credit, he's dug up some new information...but his portrayal gives Manson too much credit and paradoxically not enough.
—Los Angeles Times
Guinn has successfully brought Manson and his "family" back to our attention in this fascinating tome. He hunted for clues to Charlie's skewed personality by interviewing relatives, friends and acquaintances from Charlie's youth, even some of the actual Helter Skelter participants.
Mr. Guinn is fascinating in his use of hindsight, and it allows him a more probing view of his subject than earlier biographers had.... When the book follows Mr. Manson to Los Angeles and describes his followers' well-honed mooching methods, it is on much more familiar ground. But here again, context works to Mr. Guinn's advantage.... This book overlaps somewhat with “Helter Skelter,” the 1974 account of the Manson trial written by the prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi. That book is full of small details and verbatim testimony. Mr. Guinn's much broader yet more streamlined book draws on Mr. Bugliosi's present-day recollection of courtroom events. Instead of inundating readers with trial maneuvers, Mr. Guinn homes in on the tight suspense and drama of the trial, not to mention the bits of inadvertent comedy.... “Manson” tells stories so well that it is sure to attract attention to Mr. Guinn's earlier writing.... To the great credit of this new book, “Manson” is a lot more fathomable than the Guinn bibliography.
—New York Times
Mr. Guinn interviewed Manson's acquaintances, friends, fellow inmates and court bailiffs, and seems to have read virtually every scrap of documentation about Manson and his times. He charts the development of Manson's ability to manipulate, an ability honed through years of research and practice. And he gives concise, forceful accounts of Manson's time and place.... Mr. Guinn has written many other books, notably "Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde," a finalist for the Edgar Award. This book on Manson will add to Mr. Guinn's reputation as an author who can both research and write well.
—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Throughout, Guinn adds the historical context necessary for understanding the secret to Manson's success.... But the whiff of an agenda is detectable. Guinn seems disapproving of the Sixties.... Guinn overlooks the establishment's complicity.... Politics aside, Guinn's account of Manson's evil is a splendid, comprehensively researched companion to Helter Skelter, the riveting blockbuster by ex-prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi (his debt to which Guinn acknowledges).... One does not envy Guinn. He faced a daunting challenge: a subject without a single redeeming feature. But he did well. He has given us an American nightmare from which we have not yet fully awoken.
—Miami Herald
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