Monday, August 19, 2013

Book Report: MANSON - The Life and Times of Charles Manson, by Jeff Guinn

First, let me lead in with this: This book was not written for us. Manson aficionados will read this book cover to cover and learn little they didn't already know. I learned little. I was also amused by a few errors that I found - however they were minor. For instance Guinn states that Joel Pugh was the father of Sandra Good's son. There were others, but you get my drift. I was also concerned that he stated as fact that Manson went to Cielo drive murder scene in the we hours of August 9, post crimes. This has never been substantiated.

But there were some positive things. For instance, he went into much more detail than any author so far into Manson's childhood. I enjoyed this part of the book. He connected the various stages of his early life in places like Moundsville and McMechen, WV. Guinn clarified for me the personalities and situations of his relatives - particularly his mother,  Aunt Glenna and cousin Jo Ann. Charlie was clearly already violent and incorrigible with his mother serving time locally for armed robbery. He had me feeling sorry for these people who were flawed but were trying to do the right thing.

Another positive for me was the picture Guinn painted regarding Manson's prison "education". He highlights that Charlie read Dale Carnegie's self-help book How To Win Friends and Influence People. Manson clearly internalized this book and course. Manson took this knowledge to San Francisco in 1967, where he used Carnegie's methods on young girls who were down on their luck and desperately searching for something.

I also thought Guinn did a nice job describing what Manson MAY have been thinking and feeling as the Spring and Summer of 1969 advanced. He describes in nice detail the stressful chain of events that  Manson banked on going his way in hopes for the career in music he needed to afford to keep his cult Family together. There was Kaufman, Jacobson, Dennis Wilson and ultimately Terry Melcher. When Melcher passed on him, his hopes of becoming a star were extinguished. Charlie then feared the unthinkable - he would become lessened in the eyes of his Family. Also, with the Family's healthy fleet of dune buggys and supplies having eaten up the lion's share of the money sucked from recruits and the number of Family members increasing there was the problem of decreasing expenses (i.e. ridding himself of useless members) while trying to acquire enough money for the eventual move to the desert. He had to act. He had to somehow prove his infallibility.

In the end, it was like playing a whole game that ends in a tie. Glad I played, but ultimately not fulfilling. Your mileage may vary.