Saturday, March 25, 2017

Ed Sanders, Author Of Manson Family Biography, To Sell Massive Archive

August 28, 2016 8:57 AM ET
Heard on Weekend Edition Sunday
by John Kalish

Sanders wrote the definitive book on the Manson Family ("The Family.") He's currently working on a book about Robert Kennedy. He's decided to sell the assembled work on which he's based his research.



Ed Sanders is a kind of godfather scholar of the 1960s counterculture. He wrote the definitive book on the Manson family. He co-founded the rock band The Fugs. And his latest project is a book about Robert Kennedy. Now he's selling the massive archive of files he built over half a century to tell his stories. Jon Kalish visited Sanders at home in Woodstock, N.Y., and reports that the 76-year-old poet, musician and scholar has decided it's time to start thinking about retirement.

JON KALISH, BYLINE: Ed Sanders' archive fills 400 banker's boxes.

ED SANDERS: I have files on many things. I'm a compulsive filemaker.

KALISH: He could pass for a college professor with his bushy mustache and tweed jacket, sporting a button for Bernie Sanders - no relation.

SANDERS: This is a garage, which is packed floor to ceiling with my chronological archives.

KALISH: He's got them organized by date and subject, all carefully catalogued in a 200-page single-spaced directory. Attached to the garage is a small building that used to be his writing studio until it, too, filled up with boxes. Sanders opens one of them and pulls out a record of him performing a poem.


UNIDENTIFIED MEN: (Singing) They were the Yiddish-speaking socialists of the Lower East Side.

SANDERS: You could send one of these to Bernie Sanders.


UNIDENTIFIED MEN: (Singing) La, la, la, la, la, la, la...

KALISH: Three sheds on his property hold even more. None of them are climate controlled. One of the sheds contains 18 boxes filled with files, photographs and memorabilia Sanders accumulated while researching the Manson family.

SANDERS: Files and files and files and files.

KALISH: Manhattan publisher Steve Clay is handling the sale of Sanders' archive.

STEVE CLAY: I see Ed's archive as one of the great '60s archives out there. I love this one. This is a flyer. Protest against the rudeness, brusqueness, crudeness and violence of narcotics agents, a benefit featuring underground movies plus The Fugs

KALISH: The Fugs were Sanders' long-running band, and he's got their recordings archived too.


THE FUGS: (Singing) Well, I ride the left wing airlines, stirring up trouble at night, secret signs and secret deeds, I'm just a yodeling yippie.

KALISH: The band got its start playing at concerts and protests throughout the 1960s. That's also when he ran the Peace Eye Bookstore and became involved in First Amendment battles over obscenity.

KEN LOPEZ: Ed Sanders in particular was kind of right in the middle of a lot of that.

KALISH: Ken Lopez is a dealer who's handled the sales of archives belonging to writers William Burroughs and Robert Stone. He says Sanders' papers cover a crucial period in American history.

LOPEZ: Culturally and historically and literarily, this sheds a lot of light on important changes that were taking place. It definitely would be an archive with great scholarly value.

KALISH: Not to mention monetary. Estimates for the archive range from the low six figures to a million dollars or more. Sitting in his house, Sanders says the archive has become a part of his life.

SANDERS: I like my archive. It's a living thing. It's like a life form. It's like a big mushroom out there.

KALISH: The archive, of course, will stop growing once Ed Sanders sells it, but he's not quite ready to hand over all of his files. He'll hold on to some for a book-length poem about Robert F. Kennedy and for his unfinished multi-volume autobiography. For NPR News, I'm Jon Kalish in New York.


Suze said...

Sanders wrote the definitive book on the Manson Family


Excuse me?

starviego said...

Give Sanders credit. He was there three years before Bugliosi.

Ajerseydevil said...

The family is still one of my favorite books both versions

Matt said...

The book was entertaining and fun. My problems begin with being a fact seeker. When an author is writing what is for all intents and purposes an historical narrative and doesn't cite sources, then faces lawsuits for getting things wrong it kinda kills the fun for me.

grimtraveller said...

starviego said...

Give Sanders credit. He was there three years before Bugliosi

Ivor Davies was there before Bugliosi. As were Lawrence Schiller {kind of !}, George Bishop, William Zamora and John Gilmour. And if one takes on board the interviews that end up forming the text for "Death to pigs" so was Robert Hendrickson.

Matt said...

My problems begin with being a fact seeker. When an author is writing what is for all intents and purposes an historical narrative and doesn't cite sources, then faces lawsuits for getting things wrong it kinda kills the fun for me

I couldn't agree more. To be fair to Ed, he does cite and name some sources such as the guy that was supposedly making mescaline with Gary Hinman and another guy that he says Charlie tried to rope into committing murder.

Manson Mythos said...

I was up in Woodstock months ago. I was hoping I would bump into Sanders eating a bean pie or something. But alas, no run-in with the group grope, jello orgy master.

I would be very interested in some of his stuff. But you'd you be shocked by how these anti-capitalists socialist hippies suddenly love money when it comes time to selling.

brownrice said...

Hopefully his archive'll be bought by a university or college or some such (Ginsberg had a good line in selling off his & his friends' old letters to unis). At least then it'd be accessible. If it goes into a private collection, it's unlikely to be publicly available.

Unknown said...
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orwhut said...


Mr. Humphrat said...

Couldn't Sanders anonymous sources be explained by the sources fear of reprisals given the early date of interviews for The Family? And couldn't the factual failings also be attributed to the early stages of the knowledge on the case, it being very much an ongoing "investigation" of facts? I notice in his hodgepodge style in the Sharon Tate book he often throws theories out there, then says it is inconclusive. Maybe that's him being more careful. I would imagine some of the sources were caught up the talk going around and thought it was true at the time.
It is my favorite book on the subject because of it's very well done style, and rye humor with it's subjects. And you really do learn so much and get a flavor for that group, despite the flaws.

Sun King said...

The book itself sure has had a long run with umpteen reprints. Even after lawsuits reprints continued.

I know someone must know this, how many different covers did this book have in the USA over the years?

Rock N. Roll said...

I think his writing is wonderful, it turned me on to his other projects which I also love. He seems more open minded than most. Plus he's really funny.

FrankM said...

From an earlier post to another blog

On the face of it Ed Sanders is the most unlikely person to undertake a piece of investigative journalism, and the fanciful full title of his book (The Family: The Story of Charles Manson's Dune Buggy Attack Battalion) should perhaps alert us to an equally fanciful approach to his self-appointed task.

He was born a couple of years before me, in 1939, and has often been referred to as ‘a bridge between the Beat and Hippie generations’, being known as a poet, singer, social activist, environmentalist and publisher as well as an author. He wa best known to me in the 60s as a founder Fug and the guy who exorcised the Pentagon.

The brief period into which he dipped into Manson territory was something of an anomaly really, and my take is that he was attracted by the messianic qualities then attributed to Manson. You have to remember that for a period Manson was a cult hero, with his face not only on the cover of Time magazine but more importantly for the time on the cover of the Rolling Stone, which ran a surprisingly uncritical, upbeat article on him.

If Sanders thought this was a man who was continuing in the vein of Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Corso and Ferlinghetti then one can see why he went after him with a view to documenting his lifestyle and that of his apparent acolytes. That would justify a far looser approach to his ‘journalism’, and his total lack of footnotes or other attributions.

It also raises the question of how a reader should approach his book. Writers set out with unclear intentions sometimes, and some books do not easily fit into categories. Bruce Chatwin suffered because his books did not slot into a neat, previously known niche, and perhaps this might be applied to Sanders’ The Family. Like Chatwin, Sanders combines events we know to have happened with conjecture and urban myth. Which is which is not clear, and perhaps – for his purpose – it does not matter. If his intention was not to produce documentary evidence but to recreate fancifully the spirit of a milieu, then who are we to criticize his artistic endeavors for not meeting criteria they were not designed for. It would be like buying a short-sleeve shirt and complaining it had no cuffs.

Read up on Sanders (if you are interested) and you’ll quickly see where he’s coming from. It’s not investigative journalism, and it’s not about dealing with the facts. It is about the arts, the magic, mystic arts, and about imagination and counter culture.

Just a few cents worth over this morning’s bagel and coffee.


Matt said...

Yes, but Frank he trudges on. His recent book on Sharon Tate's life was more of the same. Full of interesting language that seemed to contain "facts", but no citing of sources. He gave a nice tribute to his deceased investigative partner in the beginning of the book which was nice but I would think that after having worked with the gentleman for that long that he'd be privy to his source material and add the footnotes before going to print.

Sharon Tate was not a mysterious, messianic figure. She was a young woman with her entire life ahead of her. Any recounting of her short life deserves the footnotes.

starship said...

All I can say to Ed Sanders, that Fug, is: Pick me! Pick me!

grimtraveller said...

FrankM said...

It’s not investigative journalism, and it’s not about dealing with the facts

Problem is, by talking to people and producing a chronological story with quotes and happenings, the book is presented as investigative and definitely as factual. It's the same with Shreck's book, it's rather pointless saying at the very end that "all the opinions in this book are mine and mine alone" when for over 900 pages most of what is written is presented as fact, stuff that happened the way it is laid out, rather than "what I think happened is....." then explaining why and how.
I guess I'm just a little touchy about things being stated as fact when they're supposition or unquantifiable stories.

orwhut said...
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beauders said...

In the early millennial years I paid quite a bit of money for Sanders research on Manson. I was ripped off obviously, by the middle man, Kregg Sanders. He told me Ed Sanders (they are not related) was selling everything on Manson including Gypsy's diary. I fell for it because we had been doing business since the 25th anniversary in 1996. If anyone knows Kregg Sanders and has a phone number or current address for Kregg I would be eternally grateful. I'll probably never get my money back but I would love to try. Those of you interested in my book good news I now have an agent and if/when Manson dies and if no publisher wants it I am going to self publish it. I worked way too hard on this 1200 page book and want it read.

beauders said...

P.S. some of you may be dealing with Kregg Sanders and aren't aware of it. Somehow---he received all the unsold copies of "Love Letters To Secret Disciple" from the author. That's how I met Kregg, he was selling the book for $25.00 a copy. I did a search on the book through Powell's Books here in Portland and they gave me his name and phone number, come to think of it, that's how I found Bill Nelson as well. If you have bought an unread but worn copy it probably originated with Kregg. Please let me know any addresses or phone numbers associated with the book.

beauders said...

P.S. I know he lives in Danville, Illinois.

orwhut said...

With your book being 1200 pages, please see that it's printed on light paper. I'd like to be able to hold it up when I read it. I never got through, Death to Pigs, because it's so heavy.

grimtraveller said...

orwhut said...

I'd like to be able to hold it up when I read it. I never got through, Death to Pigs, because it's so heavy

A few books I have are like that. I do a lot of my reading in the bath and over the years I've learned to cultivate ways of balancing the books like Death to pigs and The Manson file on the sides of the bath or on my laps or with my arms propped on the sides or whatever. It's initially uncomfortable but as I stay in the bath for 2~3 hours, it obviously works !
The books that drive me up the wall are the ones that have pages that come out easily when you bend them. Props to Nicholas Shreck's publisher for managing a 950 page book that keeps together no matter how much I bent it.

beauders said...

if/when Manson dies

If ? Do you know something we don't ? ☺

beauders said...

Sometimes I wonder if the man is ever going to die. Bit of a Freudian slip.

grimtraveller said...

Suze said...

Sanders wrote the definitive book on the Manson Family

Excuse me?

For a number of people, I suppose it is. It was out long before "Helter Skelter" and as far as I'm aware, "The killing of Sharon Tate," "Five to die," "The garbage people," "Witness to evil," and "Trial by your peers" were never either huge sellers or well known and influential either when they were released or subsequently {thanks to "Helter Skelter"} so I can understand why for some people Sanders' book might be viewed that way, even with the numerous reprints. I guess it's a bit like me thinking the Original series of Star Trek is the definitive effort, despite all the spin offs, continuations and movies that followed.
Personally, aside from that lame book "by" Laurence Schiller, I think the other pre "Helter Skelter" books are infinitely better than Sanders' one and should be part of the TLB "canon" as it were. They are hugely underrated, especially in retrospect.

JC said...

I appreciate a lot of work that Sanders has done.
The Family is eminently readable, but hardly definitive. I think its greatest contribution may be its influence on the bop writing style of the great James Ellroy. Ellroy has never acknowledged this influence, but it is unmistakable to the astute reader.

James1983 said...

Actually Sanders wasn't "sued" for the comments he made about the process church in his book. The process brought up charges and his publisher didn't want to spend time and money going to court over the books comments so they just removed them. The original comments in the process church are still in the UK version of the book that actually did go to trial and the PC lost the claim. There's too much mis/disinformation on this subject. Those who try to discredit sanders work always bring up that point which isn't true at all. The publisher of his book balked at the first mention of a lawsuit, if I remember right it was a small publishing house.

James1983 said...

Honestly if Sanders quoted his source as Jimmy the dope dealer, would anyone be any further convinced the account was truthful? The people Sanders was interviewing and getting his material from was more than likely people who didn't want their name out then or now. If you knew Manson and had a story to tell Sanders, then would you have given your name and requested it being printed in his footnotes? Of coarse not. Cool blog BTW

grimtraveller said...

Jeremy James said...

Honestly if Sanders quoted his source as Jimmy the dope dealer, would anyone be any further convinced the account was truthful?

That's an interesting point but both Bugliosi/Gentry in "Helter Skelter" and John Gilmour & Ron Kenner in "The Garbage People" used either AKAs or aliases and these don't detract from whatever is said about those people or by them. Putting a name of some sort gives the account legs. The fact that there's an actual name against someone that says they used to manufacture mescaline with Gary Hinman means that one can't say absolutely that Hinman never did. The fact that Ed Pearce says Charles Manson tried to get him to kill someone means it can be taken more seriously than someone unnamed. Unnamed seems sensationalist.

If you knew Manson and had a story to tell Sanders, then would you have given your name and requested it being printed in his footnotes? Of coarse not

Again, good question. On the other hand, would not Manson know generally who was spreading which stories by the content of them ?

James1983 said...

1 Being unnamed isn't at all sensational. People want their identities being protected for obvious reasons. Remember Sander's book was written in 71 (I believe). This was when Bruce Davis and many other of the cult members were still on the loose doing "their thing". There were a few suspicious deaths during and after the trial. Prosecutors were looking for people related to the family to prosecute for any reason they could find, that's another reason to stay anonymous.

2 it depends on how many knew. I'm sure more people knew what was going on than advertised by the media. Also the related deaths could have been the outcome of people with loose lips that didn't care about their anonymity. There's a lot of loose ends to this case and it's surprising that most people stayed quite about it, that includes Davis, Watson, hell everyone from the family didn't offer much unless it was screened and filtered by the media and those that didn't want certain things being advertised. Thanks for posting as I find this case fascinating for the fact that Manson has clear ties to government intelligence and the process church via the esalen institute (not sure if I spelled it right. Robert degrimston was known to give speeches there.

James1983 said...

I'd also like to give a little credence to Ed Sander's sources. In his revised edition of the family one of his sources talked about dead bodies being brought by hearses into parties for obvious reasons. He states that the house where they were brought was owned by a famous toy inventor. Google the man who invented the Barbie doll to learn of his debaucheries that have come to light since Ed wrote the book.

grimtraveller said...

Ed Pearce

Sorry, Charles Pierce.

James1983 said...

I should have been more clear. It was Jack Ryan who invented the Barbie doll, hot wheels etc and lived in Bel Air (10 min drive to Laurel Canyon) and owned the infamous "orgy house". Actually a book was written about it since his death in 1991. This is the man Ed Sanders said he got info on about hearses bringing dead corpse to his parties. If he would have named Ryan in 71 people would have scoffed, not so much now though lol.

James1983 said...

Barbie dolls and toy cars isn't all Mr. Ryan created, he also created missiles too! In Tom Clancy's 2010 book titled "Jack Ryan" there's mention of Barbie dolls to the books character also named Jack Ryan. I don't believe in coincidences. I'll let you folks ponder on that for awhile.

James1983 said...

One last comment as I thought I'd tie all this back to the Manson case. In 1975 Jack Ryan married socialite Zsa Zsa Gabor. When the police searched the Polanski residence after the massacre it is said that sex tapes of orgies and other debaucheries were found, among the people on these tapes was Zsa Zsa Gabor. Or coarse this is rumor as none of these tapes have surfaced, but I think it's weird the same names keep popping up among these "syncronicities". I've come to the same conclusion as Ed Sanders, and that's that certain alphabet agencies were involved in the whole Manson story. Not too many regular Joes get to invent children's toys and design missiles while not being involved with said agencies. Then you have the founder of Eselen who was a "former" intelligence agent and the LSD kingpin who's black BMW ( I believe) Manson drove around in. He was a known intelligence agent as well. The main question is wether or not Manson was an unwitting dupe or knew what he was involved in. You look at his known mob ties in the pen and you have to think he at least thought of it. There's no doubt he was treated like royalty in prison.