Review: Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson

December 16, 2013 Whitney Review 1 Comment

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Manson: The Life and Times of Charles MansonManson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson by Jeff Guinn
Published by Simon and Schuster on October 6, 2013
Genres: biography
Source: Netgalley

Based on new interviews with previously undiscovered relatives and filled with revelations and unpublished photographs, this is the most authoritative account of the life of Charles Manson.

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 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 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.

Manson is sick and twisted. Yet he is very complex and I felt Jeff Guinn excelled in exhibiting the life and times of Charles Manson.

The first thing that comes to people’s minds with Charles Manson is the LaBianca/Tate murders. This biography explains how the makings of this came to pass beginning with his childhood. With reminisces from family members and persons who knew him as a young man the reader is given a vivid portrait of who he was and not who he became.

I would love to say that Charles Manson wasn’t always a rotten apple as he did try to turn over a new leave several times by getting married and holding a job, all the things acquainted with a normal life. Unfortunately, he could never stay on the straight and narrow. By understanding Manson’s surroundings and how his environment may have shaped his perversions Jeff Guinn does an excellent job.

Unavoidably, we creep up the timeline of Manson’s obsessive nature of becoming a leader and musical star.  The question I always ask myself is how he was able to recruit persons into his family. Guinn describes that due to a novel read in prison, How To Win Friends and Influence People he learned how to pursue the weak and vulnerable, convincing them that they could lead a better life under his guidance. All this with pure charisma. This makes me think of what an unusual person Charles Manson really is and from a psychological standpoint a very interesting study.

I consistently had to take breaks while reading Manson, it is a very heavy novel and while an interesting read, it is a lot to take in. While I enjoyed the novel as a whole I was most intrigued by how he expanded his family and was able to influence them into such heinous actions. Another thing was that Jeff Guinn focused more on the trial rather than the Tate/LaBianca murders as it gave a full picture of the crime at hand.

As I have stated throughout this review, Manson was an eye-opening look at the man so many consider a monster and because of the disturbing subject matter I’m not sure if I would recommend it to everyone, but is a must for a fan of true of crime.

On a last note, Manson’s creepy crawl had me up late into the night both from fear and the need to read one more page.


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