This new book, published on July 29, opens, “21 years ago, I went to meet Charles Manson in the visiting room of Corcoran State Prison. He was just as special as I expected him to be.” The last sentences of the book: Charlie “is like a drug, and his followers, junkies visiting him every weekend to get another hit of the Manson formula. What the formula was exactly? I cannot tell you and no one ever will.” The rest of the book? A combination of interviews with Manson, Squeaky, Sandy, ex-cons and others who loved him the most. Lots of pictures, letters from fans, artwork and poems. It’s a quick read and and it mentions little about the sheer brutality of the crimes. My initial opinion? I almost threw up reading it. I was disgusted that the author is a smart, modern woman who seemed to believe Charlie's nonsense and based a book on the opinions of Charlie, wackadoodle Sandy and Squeaky, and others known for making crappy decisions. I finished the book feeling dirty and embarrassed and wishing I’d never decided to write this review.
Then, I decided to read the book again.
The second time, I read it as a young, empathetic girl might have interpreted it - someone who knew nothing about the crimes. Here’s why: Since I started learning about this case, I’ve been fascinated by how Charlie influenced normal, smart girls to do things they’d never ordinarily do. I am similarly fascinated by how Hitler convinced smart people to obliterate the Jewish population and how anyone would willingly behave horribly to further a cause. I’ve often wondered whether I would have succumbed to Manson's charms, had I been an impressionable girl in the late sixties. So, the second time I read the book was to gain the perspective of a Manson groupie.
And I kid you not, I was charmed. I get it now. If Manson presented himself like the book represents him, I can totally see why the Family members fell for it. In the book, he is a loving, weary old man who wants to be understood. He’s been persecuted all his life. He feels awful about how everything went wrong in the summer of 1969 – he just wanted to support the decisions of the Family. Many of the other inmates and guards have grown to respect him. He doesn’t know why strangers adore him, but he tries his best to be what his visitors want. Mostly, he wants to die in peace.
Then, I decided to read the book again.
The third time, I read it with a critical eye. Is it different than the other Manson-related books? Yes. It’s written in a softer voice. The tone of the book is very gentle. The whole thing is about Manson’s last twenty years, written by someone whose goal was to present him as a human and not a monster. The book doesn't go on and on. It has lots of pictures I hadn’t seen. Was there anything surprising in the book? Yes. Manson claims to have had recurring nightmares during which he is haunted by the ghost of Sharon Tate, and he keeps trying to reason with that ghost. He also says he wants people to forgive him for what he and the family did. Is the book believable? Meh.
So...who should read the book?
If you are pro-Manson, add it to your collection right away. It is, by far, the most sensitive pro-Manson book I’ve read. You’ll love everything about it. You’ll feel sorry for this old man who’s been in prison all these years for what he said is Tex’s crime. You’ll be proud of good ole Charlie and happy that someone captured his last years so well.
If you want to learn more about the facts of the case, stay far away from this book. You’ll learn nothing. Instead, read Helter Skelter. Read Restless Souls. Read Deb’s new book about Shorty. Watch all of Stoner’s videos. Watch Six Degrees of Helter Skelter. Read every blog entry on this site and on Col's old site.
If you are anti-Manson and think he is delusional and dangerous, you’ll be very offended. Do not read this book under any circumstances.
If you think you know every single thing about this case, read the book to gain a better understanding of how Charlie captured the hearts of the Family. As you read it, change your perspective to that of a young, impressionable, questioning teenager. It may help you understand Charlie's charm.
This book is available on Amazon.