Dig deep into the mind and motivations of one of the most famous killers in history, Charles Manson, in this fascinating book.
“Charlie” represents the dark underside of the ’60s, the antithesis of Peace and Love – but as this excellent book points out, the light and dark weren’t so far apart in these tumultuous times.
This book starts at the beginning – actually, before the beginning, with Manson’s mother’s family, her own law struggles and her unexpected pregnancy that begat “Charlie” – which is what they always called him.
Unlike Manson’s telling of the tale later (he was a notorious liar, this is clear), she wasn’t a prostitute and he wasn’t abandoned. But she was a party girl who left her little boy with a series of babysitters, from family to strangers. So, in a sense, maybe Charlie was abandoned.
He himself ends up in reform school, then jail, then prison, again and again. With little real schooling and a manipulative personality, and an overinflated sense of his own musical ability, Charlie sets out to become a famous rock star. And he collects girls to make his plan come true.
Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys is part of the story, of course, as is Doris Day’s son Terry Melcher, one of the biggest record producers in LA at the time. That part of the story is well-worn, and many other books go over this ground, including “Helter Skelter.”
The most interesting thing about this book is the development of Manson’s methods – a jailhouse mélange of pimp schooling, Scientology and Dale Carnegie – and the slow buildup of events that lead to the famous murders. The impending doom carries some weight as we head into the Tate-LaBianca killings.
The trials follow, and although amusing and infuriating, the dread of the previous chapters is gone by this time. But the book really wouldn’t have been complete without them.
Reading this soon after Manson’s death, this book gave me a fresh look at a strange time in history, one that becomes increasingly dark the further away we are from it. Manson’s murders weren’t the worst or the most, but they seem to have taken the lid off decades of hell that have followed.
If you can take it, this book is recommended.