Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Book Review: Charles Manson Behind Bars: The Crazy Antics and Amazing Revelations Of America's Icon of Evil

It’s worth mentioning before I begin that few things bother me more than spelling errors in a published book. This one had scores of them. There’s really no excuse when you (Guillermo Mendez) have an experienced co-author (Mark Hewitt). I lost my shit when the chapter devoted to Manson’s time at McNeil Island spelled it “McNeal Island”. No excuse, sorry. Aside from spelling errors it did other things to irritate me and make me sorry I spent my Sunday reading it - like referring to Richard Ramirez (The Night Stalker) in the present tense. The sonofabitch is dead!

Instead of writing a short, traditional review I’ve decided to let the book speak for itself mostly in its own words. If you have any plans to buy it, don’t. It sucked. Truly.

Willie Mendez met Manson in 2003 when he was transferred to Manson’s unit at Corcoran during the twenty-first year of his own incarceration for the near murder his cell-mate who was a convicted child rapist.

Charlie nicknamed him “Boxcar” after Boxcar Willie Nelson.

Shortly after Mendez’s arrival, Manson began conversing with him from the next cell.
He was just over five feet tall, and no more than 140 pounds. His yellow, state-issue jumpsuit was creased with wrinkles. The old man reminded me of my own mortality. Is this how I will look when parole is granted to me? Will I look like that while I am still waiting to be released? With the exception of his pasty-white skin, he could easily have passed for my tiny grandfather.”
Mendez being a large, imposing figure was surprised by Manson’s diminutive stature:
“In appearance, he was more an affable grandfather than a physical threat. If he were intentionally blocking a doorway, he would not even slow me down. One swing and he would be stretched out on the floor. A knife probably wouldn’t give him any advantage over me, not even an exceedingly large knife.”
But, he said his size was deceiving:
“Rather than being impotent, he revealed himself to be a person of great inner constitution and determination. His eyes gleamed with a focus that was piercing. His stance always demanded respect and fear: he carried himself with a strong presence, yet remained coiled like a rattlesnake giving the impression that he could strike out at any moment.”
Mendez stated that although he had made the acquaintance of many well-known prisoners, that Manson's stature was different:
“Apparently, Charlie was not a mere name to be dropped. He was a celebrity’s celebrity.”
Guns ’n Roses:
“… he was responsible for creating some of the music made famous by the rock band called, ‘Guns ‘n Roses.’ According to him, a prison guard in Vacaville named Sergeant Rose really enjoyed Manson’s music. The guard happened to be the father of Axil Rose who was at the time building his band in Sacramento. Some of the music and lyrics that Charlie composed were shared with Axil who used them to make millions of dollars…. 
“…Though he was the composer, Manson never received the proper credit due him, or any royalties, for his compositions. This infuriated him to no end.”
Mendez felt that unlike others in prison, Manson was actually honest in his words:
“He spoke from the heart, and I could tell that it was painful for him to describe his early years. He demanded the truth from me and was never satisfied with partial truths or manufactured facts. In time, I learned to accept as truth the things he told me, and to reciprocate an honest presentation of reality.”
As to the uncle forcing Charlie to waer a dress to school in response to Charlie being bullied by a bigger boy, he related:
“Once school had been let out, as his uncle had instructed him, he sought out the bully and punched him in the face. The bully was felled by the smallest kid in his grade. The fighting didn’t end, however. Charlie straddled the larger boy and began hitting him again and again. Another student ran to summon the teacher who promptly arrived to pull Charlie off of the bully… 
“…being forced to wear the dress, was now empowered to take matters into his own hands when necessary.”
On Manson’s views on the environment and ATWA:
“While he sojourned in Mexico [as a boy], he was warned to not consume any water. He was told stories about Montezuma’s revenge, the diarrhea that visitors incurred from microscopic microbes within the country’s water. This greatly troubled Manson and was one experience that led him to a deep concern for the environment.” 
“He cares about animals, plants and the entire natural realm. He loves nature: anything that is not human is important to him….
“…He couldn’t have cared less for human beings, however. He considered people to be no more than meatballs, or hunks of flesh that often did more harm than good. The human race, to him, was a bother, a nuisance, and a waste of space. He often criticized people for being brain dead or for belonging to a group of mindless followers. He pointed out that people did things that were so horrible that no animal would even consider them. Animals never caused a holocaust, never went to war over an insult, and never killed anything it didn’t intend to eat. His distain for people was palpable.” 
“Charlie viewed himself as a savior of plants and animals. Only he, the advocate for an environment that can’t verbalize its many ailments, could save nature. He alone cried out on behalf of the natural world, he believed. At times, he was at the edge of despair thinking that it was too late for us to help the world, that too much time had transpired, and too much damage had already been done.”
“I have heard the arguments against Charlie: that his philosophy is a convenient way to induce guilt and fear in others, that it is a way to excuse his own actions, and that it is a means to give him something to hold sacred in light of his loathing of all humans including himself. I don’t buy it, though. Despite his pessimism, Charlie has much to teach the world about the importance of nature, and the natural processes of our world.”
On his growing friendship with Charlie:
“Charlie would often say to me, “We are one. There is no you, me, him, they, or them. There is only one!” I heard it over and over until I was sick of hearing it. It became a kind of mantra for him. Whenever I would get angry at someone and vow revenge, whenever someone else’s actions irked me, whenever I spoke of an enemy, Charlie tried to get me to see things a different way, “We are one. There is no you, me, him, they, or them. There is only one!” Hearing that phrase impressed upon me the foolishness of all anger I harbored toward others. Over time, Charlie helped soften my rage. As the months went by, whether due to my maturing or the instruction I was receiving from my friend, I felt the urge to strike back and hurt others less and less.”
Manson's philosophy on friends:
“All of us need to help each other, or as Charles Manson would sing on the tier, “Love one another, help your brother.” One person at a time, we can make a difference. That is the revolutionary movement that is needed to correct our world’s problems.”
On Manson’e seemingly always changing appearance:
“Charlie changed his hair style from time to time. This may be a reason that others consider him crazy. He was not interested in current hair styles, fitting in with others, or appealing to anyone’s taste but his own. Once, he shaved half his head, leaving the hair on the other half long and flowing. He left his goatee intact. It looked truly bizarre. He explained to me that by attempting to be halfway between good and evil, he could control them both. Jesus had worn long hair, and the devil appears bald in most pictures. By representing them both in his body, he was praising them both. 
“I told Charlie that he had to choose one or the other. In my mind, you couldn’t be both the Satan and God. “There is no in between.” I explained to him. “It’s one or the other.” Charlie disagreed. He “wanted to be an abraxas in his own body, a perfect representation of both good and evil, possessing power over them both.”
On controlling others:
“It isn’t knowledge or wisdom that allows someone to gain control over another. It’s the character and confidence an individual displays that makes the difference. Even the dimmest of people can attract a following, he had concluded.”
“To control other people,” he told me, “you have to let them do what they want to do.” He acknowledged the contradiction, but said it was true: “If you want people to follow you, you have to let them do what they want to do. If you let others be free, they’ll follow you wherever you fly. You just gotta let them be free.” 
On Manson being treated as a tourist attraction:
“Every week, there were people who came to Corcoran to tour the prison facility. They came from junior colleges, universities, and different law enforcement agencies. All these groups visited to learn how the system works, and possibly find employment among the ranks of the Department of Corrections. In addition to these educational visits, some juvenile probation officers brought their charges to participate in a “Scared Straight” program, designed to scare the living hell out of youngsters to steer them away from a life of crime. Part of many visits included a walk past Charles Manson’s cell, as a zoo tour would include a trip to the tiger cage. Most participants never approached his cell directly, staying some 30 feet or more away from it as though they could sense danger. They hoped he was not asleep, but if he was, a guard would tap on his window. “Charlie, you’ve got some visitors,” they would say, or “Girl’s, Charlie, girls!” 
He usually got up to the window and put on a show for the guests. Sometimes, he would wave his arms around mimicking an octopus or he would jump around his cell like a monkey. The visitors usually went away laughing. Once, he put on a fierce expression, and appeared to growl at the spectators. He may have been trying to look like a grizzly bear. Even in his seventies, it was apparent to me that Charlie could still move quickly and be entertaining.”
On the beginnings of The Family:
“He looked for girls that bought into the free love atmosphere of the 1960s, ones he could continue to shape and mold. It was a numbers game, he confided in me. Sure, he had difficulty finding a girl and grooming her to trust him in everything. However, the more women he talked to (and he talked to hundreds, if not thousands), the better chance he had of finding one receptive to his teachings and willing to follow him. As his harem grew, so started the Manson family.”
On the TLB murders:
“Charlie told me that he heard nothing about the Tate murders until after the events had occurred. He suspected that it was a robbery gone wrong. “I think the girls were there to find food and cash,” Charlie speculated. “They were pretty deep into drugs at that time. I tried to get them to cool it with the hard stuff.” 
He also postulated another theory. “They may have been trying to cover up a previous murder,” Charlie added. “Our friend Bobby Beausoleil had killed a guy named Gary Hinman. Some words were written in blood on the walls of Gary’s apartment. The girls may have figured that if they committed a crime and wrote things on the walls, the police might have concluded that the murderer was still on the loose, and Bobby may have been released from prison. I think the girls went to steal, but somehow things got out of hand.” 
“I went with the group the next night.” Charlie told me. “We were looking for food and cash. That’s all we ever took. It’s not like we meant to hurt anyone. We just wanted the rich people to share what they had, just as we shared with each other in northern California. When I was done tying the couple up, and taking the food we needed, I returned to the car. 
“I have no idea why the girls killed those two,” Charlie claimed. “They never did anything to us. We didn’t even know them. I think the girls were just plain crazy. They were intending to write on the walls. That’s it. There was no plan for murder. I got blamed because they were younger than me.” Charlie sounded like an accused older sibling who was wrongly implicated in the disobedient act of a younger brother or sister.”
“I asked Charlie, one day when we were having a heart-to-heart conversation, whether he in fact ordered the killings that were committed by the Manson Family. He replied, “I didn’t have to.” When I asked him to clarify, he explained to me that leaders are able to insulate themselves from blame for what their underlings do. He pointed out that American presidents regularly claim that they didn’t order this or that illegal activity, even though they had full knowledge of what was going to take place. A president’s advisors will take the fall, if criminal activity is ever discovered. Charlie claimed similar executive privilege for himself.
“So you knew about the killings and let them happen even if you didn’t order them?” I asked.
“All I’m saying is that I didn’t have to order nothing.” Charlie changed the topic and would not answer any more of my questions on the topic.”
And oh yeh, every book about Manson needs a revelation - something new we didn't already know, right? Ok... here it is. Ready????? Charles Manson is homosexual. <yawn>