My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“Believe me, if I started murdering people there’d be none of you left!” – Charles Manson
Is Charles Manson Crazy Or Just A Good Actor?
According to Manson, he did not kill anyone or order anyone to be killed.
I challenge you to do a quick search on Amazon using the words “Charles Manson” do you know how many results pop up in books alone? It’s utterly astounding! Currently 1,848….yes, 1,848! That is an average of thirty nine books per year that have been written and published about this man since his infamous Helter Skelter rampage. This is a man who nearly fifty years later still continues to terrify and compel public curiosity, why is that? The Manson Effect in many ways helps explain the fascination people have with this diminutive yet scary man.
So, why out of all those search results should you pick this book above all the others to read? Simple; it’s easy to read and it makes you think.
Too many books on the market today that have taken on this now larger than life character have opted for a complicated psychological approach to Manson, they want to analyze and delve inside his twisted brain in an attempt to understand why he and his “family” did what they did. I understand why they want to do this, I really do; but unless you are a medical doctor this makes for some pretty dull reading.
Then of course you have the books where the author chose to take a more personal approach, those books are often quite slanted towards the authors’ own opinion. For example, the most famous book by Bugliosi, Helter Skelter, is written from his perspective as prosecuting attorney during the trials. Don’t get me wrong, it’s understandable that he would interject his opinion, it is his book about his experiences, but it doesn’t leave the reader much room to form an opinion of their own.
This time the author approaches the material by presenting the reader with the facts surrounding these gruesome events in the form of actual testimony; she wants you to think for yourself. She also provides the reader with background not just on Manson himself but his family, the victims, the investigation, the trial, and subsequent parole hearings. The reader is allowed to immerse themselves in actual unedited testimony in order to place themselves mentally in the room while these events unfold and experience the mind set of Manson and his “family” members in a viscerally disturbing manner.
The testimony I read sent me back to my youth; I was a very young child when Manson and his “family” set into motion events that shocked and terrified a nation but I remembered clearly listening to Walter Cronkite on the CBS evening news during dinner as he introduced a segment showing video of the Manson trial and I watched as Manson and the girls were removed from the court room after he had threatened the judge subsequently disrupting the trial. All of this came back to me easily as I read.
Occasionally, but not too often, the author interjects her thoughts about Manson and his “family” and it’s fairly obvious what her opinion in general is, but I believe she does this largely in order to encourage discussion. She keeps these opinions to a minimum and seems to do this in such a way that the reader is challenged to think and form their own conclusions.
Often, after a chapter or a lengthy court testimony she poses questions and invites the reader to interact in a conversation on the books’ Facebook page. Is this simply a marketing tactic for the book? I’m not sure, but if it is I like it and feel that those who participate would probably have some very interesting discussions while also having the opportunity to interact with the author herself.
So, now we get down to…did I actually enjoy this book? Honestly? Yes, in a very morbid way I did. I say morbid because while reading the testimony I found myself actually drawn in by the truly intelligent ravings of a madman. Much of Manson’s testimony is hard to follow as he rambles but even through it you can see how his personality is/was magnetic; it’s all too easy to see how some drug-addled youth could be drawn in by this mad con-man posing as a modern guru. You may not completely understand what it is he is trying to say…but there is something about the obviously scary intelligence behind his words that keeps you riveted, even if you’re thinking this man is a raving lunatic the entire time.
Manson has a talent for twisting words and situations that makes the reader/listener actually begin to wonder if what he is saying makes some sort of twisted logic. Rationally, a well-adjusted person knows what he is doing is verbal manipulation, a type of brain-washing if-you-will, but I can absolutely see how someone on an LSD trip would start hearing him and begin thinking what he said was acceptable. He truly does have that personable magnetism that when misused is truly dangerous.
Within Manson’s logic he truly believes he has been incarcerated for something that either he did not do (simply because he wasn’t personally present during many murders), or that by basic animal law (not human law) he had the right to do. He still believes the law as written had no right to keep him longer than 17-18 years because that was the maximum penalty for someone committing the crimes he believes he was found guilty of. He doesn’t accept responsibility for what he caused others to do. In his view his “family” members committed murders out of their own free will, therefore they should take the rap for it, not him; even though each testified that he gave them specific orders to kill. See, twisted logic.
So, would I recommend this book? This is where I feel guilty…actually, I would. Why you ask would I feel guilty about this? Well, it’s because I hate giving killers/terrorists/criminals publicity; naturally that would cause me a bit of conflict since Manson himself has been the recipient of so much attention throughout the years. Still, yes, I would recommend this book. I found it interesting, compelling, extremely well edited and informative, in short…a really good read even with the sense of dread and disgust that I had as a I read.
If you are someone who wants to learn more about these horrible events or simply wants a glimpse into the mind of a charismatic mad-man download this book, participate in the discussions on Facebook, let the author know what you think. Oh, and don’t forget to write a review of your own as well, I can’t wait to see what other readers think of this too.