I should state that I've read Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry many, many times. In my younger days, I was fascinated by the facts of the case. That fascination has waned a bit, but I still seem to latch onto any new information I can. That book remains one of the few that I've read more than once. Therefore, I think I have a pretty good handle on the details as Bugliosi presented them. However, looking back on it now, I think Bugliosi's presentation style and ego hampered that book and perhaps distorted some of the facts. It's going to be hard to write this review without comparing it to that book.
As for this book, I really enjoyed it. I was surprised by all of the new information that Guinn was able to assemble. By talking to others who hadn't spoken to an author before now, Guinn was able to present some new information about Charlie's life, "the Family" and of course, the murders. Perhaps some of this information was just new-to-me because it's amazing that some of this stuff wasn't known before. It has been over 40 years.
I loved that Guinn presented the material chronologically. I had complaints about authors doing this with other true crime books, but in this case I was happy about the way it was presented. It really helped the facts and events in order as they happened rather than a mishmash of random happenings. The book also answered some questions that I had, some regarding the sequence of events. I won't go into them here because they won't make sense if you don't know the details of the story.
I loved that Guinn didn't editorialize the material. He presented the information in a clear, concise manner without adding his own two cents into the mix. What a welcome change from the other book.
This book focused more on Charlie's failed attempts to garner some interest from the music industry and his intense desire for a music career and less about the Helter Skelter, the race war that was supposed to come about from the Tate/LaBianca murders. It had me questioning whether or not that war was the main motive for the murders. I don't know if there will ever be a definitive answer to that.
Guinn doesn't just write about Manson and his Family; he also presents lots of information about what was happening in the world at that time, a very chaotic time in American history. I'm not a huge history buff, so a lot of the information was new to me. It was all fascinating. I also learned more about LSD than I'll ever need to know. I hadn't given the drug that much thought, but I did have some misconceptions about it that Guinn cleared up.
My one disappointment was the trial portion of the book. Although it was condensed quite a bit, that section repeated too much of what Helter Skelter had to say about it. There were a few new tidbits of information presented, so it wasn't all bad. This book wouldn't be complete without it, so I guess I can't complain too much. It's really my fault for reading the other book too many times.
Here are a few of my favourite quotes:
...compares Charlie to a cancer cell because he thrived by eradicating everything around him that was healthy. (page 399)
The unsettling 1960s didn't create Charlie, but they made it possible for him to bloom in full, malignant flower. (page 399)Highly recommended. If you want to know more about Manson and his Family, in my opinion this is the new go-to book.
For more information about this book, please visit Simon & Schuster's website.
I'd like to thank those nice people at Simon & Schuster for this review copy.
Manson: The Life and Time of Charles Manson by Jeff Guinn, Simon & Schuster ©2013. ISBN 9781451645163(Hardcover), 495p, includes index and various appendices.