And although there were times I found it deeply disturbing and had to take a break from it, Jeff Guinn’s account of the notorious murderer’s life is a riveting read.
Like most people, I knew the bare bones of the story that made headlines more than 40 years ago, but this is more than just a re-hash of those terrible events which saw nine people, including the young actress Sharon Tate, who was eight months pregnant, brutally slain in Tate’s Los Angeles home in 1969.
Instead, the author takes us back to Manson’s childhood, his crimes as an apparently harmless juvenile delinquent and the times he lived in. The book contains the first interviews ever given by Charles Manson’s sister and cousin and includes family photographs.
But most of all, it sets Manson in the context of the 1960s, the politics and social mores of that era. It explains how Manson used his charisma to persuade young impressionable women (and a few men) that he was their saviour and would protect them from the apocalypse that was to come through a race-war he believed would end civilisation as they knew it.
Among the information I’d never heard before was Manson’s obsession with becoming a musician “more famous that The Beatles” and how he ingratiated himself with bands such as The Beach Boys.
Intensive research is at the heart of the success of this book, and it shows. Like me, you may feel the need to walk away from it from time to time, but it’s a fascinating glimpse into a particular slice of history.
That said, I’m glad I borrowed this book from a friend. I’m not sure I want it permanently on my bookshelf.
Manson, The Life and Times of Charles Manson, by Jeff Guinn, Simon & Schuster (UK), 2013.