Monday, November 29, 2021

Book Review - Jeffrey Melnick


Dr. Melnick's book, on Kindle, was a Black Friday purchase for me. I paid $13.99 and received a $1.40 credit Amazon will screw me out of by not automatically applying it to the next Kindle purchase I make after I forget there's a code to retrieve or something similarly exhausting. 

In euros and rupees that's one million and seventeen million, respectively. Pounds I haven't worked out yet. I enjoyed Charles Manson's Creepy Crawl over a long weekend of endless Thanksgiving leftovers and football. 

Many Manson books start the same way. "Charles Manson was born on November 11th or 12th, 1934. His mother Kathleen was a dancehall girl specializing in the Lindy. She sold her private parts and little boy for draft beers and pickles from a barrel behind the bar. A head rolled down a set stairs in front of Kathleen once at the prison, blinked three or four times and said, 'Helter Skelter.'" 

Melnick graciously spares us that tiresome routine. It's been done to death and a lot of it is malarkey. I made genealogy trees for both Charlie and Mary's families and my findings support none of that red-haired prostitute business. The traveling head story I can neither confirm nor deny. Sounds fishy to me but what do I know? My job is removing heaving bosoms from romance novels and explaining how no one likes fifteen commas per sentence.  

I know this is a deal breaker for some readers but Melnick's book also lacks the secrets everyone craves about 8/8 and 8/9.  However, if you can look past his egregious omission, Melnick's book is an absolute page turner filled with endless citations that open conservatively a million rabbit holes if you're interested. From Allison Umminger:

"Jeffrey Melnick's Creepy Crawling is a compulsively-readable guide to the American fascination with the Manson Family. Expertly weaving psychology, sociology, history, and pop culture, Melnick's work covers everything from the Family's Freudian roots to its continued commodification, from Joan Didion to Nicki Minaj. We know the Manson Murders have been part of the cultural landscape for the past fifty years, but Melnick shows us why. The book is a must-read not only for those fascinated by the Manson Family, but anyone fascinated by America."—Allison Umminger, author of the highly acclaimed Manson novel American Girls

From author Dana Spiotta:
"A capacious, witty, and insightful take on how and why we are still so fascinated by Charles Manson and his Family. Melnick is a keen reader of high and low artifacts, and he is wonderfully precise in tracing all the Manson-related references and ramifications from 1969 to the present. He has a gift for presenting complex ideas in savvy, compelling prose. A must read not just for Manson aficionados but for anyone interested in recent American pop culture."--Dana Spiotta, author of Innocents and Others

I definitely had to look up capacious. The word simply does not exist in Ohio. 

CMCC is surely for you if you dig pop culture. If you've already read the book, I'm interested in your thoughts. Oddly, dude has Barbara Hoyt introducing Susan to Charlie in SF during the Summer of Love. Not sure if I noticed any other mistakes but that one made me chuckle. 

Melnick spends over five hundred pages discussing why we're still talking about Manson today. I sometimes think I know why I'm here. Nature/nurture. Sex. Drugs. Rock n roll. The warm California sun. 

And I mean who could walk away from all the love Donna Jean gets on the blog? Plus there's my spending account. The hearty email banter. My ability to click "Publish" when trolls can only post comments. 


But what about you? What keeps you in the Manson study or keeps you returning to it for periods of time?

Victim advocacy? Wanna save Sexy Sadie? Have a thing for black busses? Why this world out of all the others? Just as a side note, I will in no way judge you if you're in Manson because you like photos of naked women shooting machine guns. 

I have a second question today for anyone who wishes to participate. Pretend for a moment we're allowed to use the Magic 8 Ball (M8B) from Lookout Mountain. Not some knockoff from this Spencer Gifts 1969 Holiday Catalog. 
I'm talking the real M8B locked away deep within Counter Revolution HQ. Let's say Col Tate, Mae Brussell, Nixon, and Diana Ross approach you at a Benedict Canyon cocktail party and allow you to ask the M8B one single question that will be answered completely and truthfully. The only rule is you can't ask the reasons behind that bloody weekend in August of 1969. Anything else regarding Manson and ephemera is fair game. 

The biggest publishing house with world rights, and same goes for the Hollywood crew with the most juice worldwide, are waiting in the wings to make you the richest creator of all time if you can convincingly crack the cases. 

What do you ask the M8B?


Aside: The Ed Sullivan performance linked above is the Supremes' final tv appearance as a group. Diana was going solo even though their song was the top Soul Single in the country. Loneliness is a backup singer. 

Guenther and Whitely are out in Wisconsin leaning on Marioche and holding the Sword of Damocles above her head around the time the Ed Sullivan show first airs. Charlie enjoyed Christmas Dinner in the clink. I can't figure out where Pooh Bear is during the holiday season of 1969.  

Sword of Damocles is a great line but sadly not mine. I can't give the backstory because someone somewhere else in Manson will get mad at the person for saying hello to me and banish them from their realm for eternity. So goes life in this gory time tunnel where students of the crimes conduct their research alongside the envious and unhinged. 

Both of those words at various times are synonyms for Manson "expert" btw. Be shrewd all ye newbies. Check sources and install a rear-facing camera. A suit of armor probably isn't a bad idea, either. 
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I think that's it for me this week. Melnick's book is one I wish I read sooner but I was off chasing other rabbits when he published. Enjoyed it regardless. Better late than never, I suppose. 

My world is open woods and oak leaves as we wrap up 2021 here in old Ohio. I know the holidays are rough on a lot of people but we will push through this month right here together. At least four more indecipherable posts are nearly ready in my drafts folder. Pop culture, music, hippie sex. Maybe even a Santa cap on Karate Sue.  

Please be kind to drive thru and retail workers this holiday season wherever you are. +ggw

If the fumes don't getcha, the 350° oven (176.7°) will.
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38 comments:

Dan S said...

Not having the secrets to 8.9 and 8.10 being a deal breaker: lol.
Stupid exchange rate joke not funny. Cut half the jokes and i think the nerds would appreciate it...
As for why I'm here: just trying to get the col to rip me a new one!

As for creepy crawlies, didn't we leave off with some doubt they even happened?

TabOrFresca said...

GreenWhite,

“You know” (Sherry Cooper imitation), there are more obscure books such as “The Manson Murders - A Philosophical Inquiry”, edited by David E Cooper.

I was able to pick up a new hardcover copy of “Creepy Crawling” for $5 and I still am living after reading it (not quite as good of a statement as Brenda saying “You’d think that they were swallowing poison “).

I still have it but I don’t rate it in my top 25. I remember two positive things: 1. He used endnotes; 2. Nice b&w photos of pictures of Barkers Ranch.
I need to find my note(s) and will get back to you.

“What do you ask the M8B?”

I only care about the little things; who did what, when, and why?

My question, “Exactly when, where, and why did Stephanie Rowe start living with Manson and his girls“?

If I were given a second question, it would be same question but concerning Stephanie leaving.



GreenWhite may only be interested in the answer to big questions that solve the big mysteries. Just this once I’ll go out on a limb.

Question 3072. “Tex, even though Manson gave you some pointers - as you consulted with him before you left, I’m sure that Tate was your idea and your show. Why Tate? Why go there?”

I never had “Creepy Crawlers” but I had the “Johnny Toymaker” “starter set” that allowed you to bake plastic toy parts. The starter set allowed you to bake (using a standalone oven) the body of a race car, which you attached to a (supplied) frame with wheels. You could also buy add-ons for a boat and bugs. Never had the add-ons.

Dan S said...

M8B only does yes or no questions

Dan S said...

I guess you'd have to guess at dates and motives and you could narrow it down via magic 8 ball

GreenWhite said...

Well, Dan. The McGowan M8B is magic. And my jokes rule.

*I'm not a robt

GreenWhite said...

I actually had the wrong cover and link lol. Little too much holiday vaping methinks. I'm not sure if they're two separate books or just an update but I read the most recent.

GreenWhite said...

ToF - I'm not interested in the big questions. I think it was a terrible awful shame but probably agree with Dan S when he said something like unhinged Tex went and practiced the nihilism Charlie nonstop preached.

You don't think Melnick cracks the Top 25 Manson books? I really enjoyed it but I know it's not the typical "research" all the "experts" crave.

I might join you in asking a smaller question. Likely I'd ask about Karate Dave lol.

Ima Fibbin said...

I've always wondered what became of the babies, especially Susans. We know he was adopted, but is he okay now? Being such a small baby, and under the conditions he lived in, I wonder if he had any health concerns. Does he know his background, and if so if he's willing to talk a little about his life if given the opportunity to remain anonymous?

GreenWhite said...

Good question, Ima. I've been tracking Pooh Bear's movements around California in 68-69 and was really paused by the fact that Zezo just disappeared into the system. Also, imagine what would happen to the foster parents today if he disappeared from his crib one night because Sadie came and stole him away into the night. They'd be toast.

Hope life is good down by the river. I imagine you're already hearing shotguns taking out the antlers.

Ima Fibbin said...

Green White,
Yes, hunters everywhere. The deer come to my property because they know they're safe here. I shoot them with my camera. I have numerous pics over the years of wildlife.
We know how Mike Brunner turned out, but I also wonder about Dennis DeCarlo.

GreenWhite said...

Good for you, Ima. Don't let those fatsos hunt on your property! Kind of a weird coincidence but I talked to Brunner about reaching out to DeCarlo this morning lol.

Peter said...

M8B are there victims we don't know about.

GreenWhite said...

Oh wow heck yes.

Jay said...

I thought the book was pretty interesting. As far my interest in the case, it started with Helter Skelter back in high school. Kind of fell away from it for a while, but it would get rekindled every time a new movie or parole hearing popped up. Eventually I discovered the whole slew of new books and research available. I know she is extremely polarizing, but Sadie just fascinates me on many levels.

tobiasragg said...

My M8B question: "Yo, Chuck - reveal your deepest fear!"

I'm feeling pretty sure I know the answer to that one, but it would be interesting to ask, anyway. And perhaps revealing.

On Melnick: I found myself wondering "why are the reviewer quotes confined to fellow Manson authors? Where are the REAL book reviews?"

And then I did some checking and found that there are none.

Ah.

I DID dig this gem up, "This is a large soft cover, the same size as a hard cover" - so thank you, ChuckW, Walmart Shopper.

On Creepy Crawls: I have begun to suspect that this is another "Shorty is resting in nine different places" Manson myth. I say this because, while everyone talks ABOUT the Creepy Crawls, no one seems to remember actually DOING them.

Sadie said that the closest she ever got was swiping a credit card from a random car's glove box. Didn't sound like there was much crawling involved, though I guess that's kinda creepy.

Patty tells us the closest she ever got was riding along on a dune buggy theft run. Though, of course, she was saying this to the Parole Board so - yeah . . .

Van Houten, she denies all knowledge. Surprise.

Tex? Most of Old Tex's recent responses were along the lines of "these days, I creep for Jesus!" and that's of no use. Tex DID admit to watching TV over the shoulders of a fat, middle-aged pair of couch potatoes one lifetime ago, but this was an "as told to" Rev Ray tale, so who knows?

Squeaky and Sandy, maybe THEY Creepy-Crawled! Someone should ask them! Stimson, you here? Nudge the old broad awake and pick her brain! No, wait - they're all nuts anyway. Nevermind.

We HAVE heard from a few minor celeb types who CLAIM they were actually Creepy-Crawled, but I tend to file those into the same "I was supposed to be at Cielo . . . " file the rest of that bullshit lands in.

See, I WANT Creepy-Crawling to be true. Simply because it's such a cool idea. Can you imagine? You wake up one morning and suddenly the refrigerator is refrigerating in the guest room. That's pretty awesome stuff. But then I remind myself that these were people in search of a mythical hole in the desert and who could not dispose of a couple of murder weapons properly and I realize that this, too, is probably the stuff of legend. Perhaps they should have tossed the evidence into the black hole and moved to Texas under assumed names. Then at least I'd find this whole Creepy Crawl stuff a bit more believable.

As it stands, I am still coming to grips with the fact that this large soft cover, which is the same size as a hard cover, was on offer at Black Friday prices and I missed it.

Ah well, back to Bugliosi . . .

Dan S said...

Just read michelle mrs patton oswalt's "I'll be gone in the Dark" and i was quite stuck by the creepy crawling going on. The Visalia Ransacker (add a 4th sobriquet --fifth if we include Joseph-- to EAR/ONS/GSK) was absolutely creepy crawling: moving things, watching people sleep. And there was a group of kids in the book doing it in canada that were presented as more harmless

TabOrFresca said...

GreenWhite said:

“You don't think Melnick cracks the Top 25 Manson books?”

For me that is definite in fact in doing a quick list, it wouldn’t make the top 35 and I’m not even including 2 somewhat interesting books that the expert bloggers consider to be interesting reads (I haven’t read either RH’s or Shreck’s book (I paid for Shreck’s 2nd Edition a year ago but he has not sent it)) and I probably forgot a few. BTW, I don’t consider Didion’s book to be much of a read either.


1. Helter Skelter
2. My Life with Charles Manson - Watkins (online)
3. Will You Die For Me - Watson (online)
4. The Family - Ed Sanders
5. Goodbye Helter Skelter - Stimson
6. Manson In His Own Words - Emmons
7. Chaos - Tom O'Neill
8. In a Summer Swelter - Simon Davis
9. Witness to Evil - Bishop
10. Trial By Your Peers - Zamora
11. Reflexion - Lyn Fromme
12. 5 to Die - Ivor Davis and Leblanc
13. Child of Satan Child of God -Atkins
14. Desert Shadows - Bob Murphy
15. Member of the Family - Dianne Lake
16. The Killing of Sharon Tate - Schiller
17. Garbage People - Gilmore
18. Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson” - Jeff Guinn
19. “The Shadow Over Santa Susana” - Gorightly
20. More to the Story: The Manson Family - H Allegra Lansing
21. Squeaky: The Life and Times of Lynette Alice Fromme - Bravin
22. Now in the Only Thing That is Real - Neil Sanders
23. The Myth of Helter Skelter - Atkins
24. Charles Manson Now - Marlin Marynick
25. Taming of the Beast - Ed George
26. Manson Behind the Scenes - Bill Nelson
27. Tex Watson - The Man, the Madness, the Manipulation- Bill Nelson
28. Crucified, The Railroading Of Charles Manson - White (online)
29. Riding on your fears - Curt Rowlett (online)
30. The Manson Myth - Jackson Howard (online)
31. Coming Down Fast - Simon Wells
32. Hunting Charles Manson - Lis Wiehl
33. Manson Exposed - Ivor Davis
34. The Manson Women and Me - Meredith
35. the Long Prison Journey of LVH

JFeatherStone1 said...

Whatever do you mean Dan.. GW is the wittiest of the witty. Dont you see all her obscure references? So funny.

GreenWhite said...

Dan S - There is (I might be off on the number) a ten part EAR/ONS writeup on reddit from a few years ago that I thought was amazing. The author's handle is Nerdfather.

https://www.reddit.com/r/UnresolvedMysteries/comments/65375l/the_visalia_ransacker_part_1/

GreenWhite said...

ToF - I was reading Didion's "Slouching Toward Bethlehem" yesterday a bit. Liked it a lot. Even the cheapest image of her on Getty Images is $175 for the small one. A lot of what is available there look like photos that didn't make it into articles about her and whatnot.

Thanks for your list. It's certainly an informative year of reading if anyone wants to deep dive.

GreenWhite said...

Phony Featherstone - No one from the NY Featherstone family would ever be a lowly lonely troll like you. Shame on you for using their name. So brave on the Internet but ya never know when one of them might notice.

GreenWhite said...

Any Manhattan Houlihans' notice that troll using Mickey Featherstone's name to harass women online? Do these comments show up on Google?

Dan S said...

Good tip. So glad they caught the guy. It can't be said enough! And the stupidd hang dog look on his face: It should be a tourist attraction to slap his face in the stocks

GreenWhite said...

That series had me walking around the house making sure the doors were locked.

Dan S said...

Yeah no sh:t. I LIVE in Sacramento. I work in la riviera right by state college. I come home every night and find wifey left the door unlocked. I'm like, "Have you ever heard of Richard trenton Chase?" (She hasn't of course)

Dan S said...

Bugs is convinc9ng me. He's a waskally wabbit. Lone shooter maniac oswald. Thank god ruby got him so oswald couldn't write manifestos etc. LHO did inspire me to tell my wife to clean the floors everyday (isn't that awful?)

As for the book review: (and i quote my favorite tv programme Garth Marenghi's Dark Place) "I'll say one thing for the fellow: he's very thorough."

orwhut said...

Speaking of Oswald, has anyone heard from Leary7, lately?

Monica said...

What has happened to this blog?!?! Im not sure if i like it or not. BUT KUDOS FOR KEEPING IT GOING.

TabOrFresca said...

GreenWhite,

My version of the book is from 2018 and is titled “Creepy Crawling - Charles Manson and the many lives of America’s most Infamous Family” (419 pages). The last chapter is titled “Wrecking Crews”. It starts off with:
[quote]
“We’re the wrecking crew”. That is what David Herrle has Tex Watkins say in his crazy-quilt book of poems ‘Sharon Tate and the Daughters of Joy (2014).
[end-quote]

Watson gets referred to as Watkins a number of times. An easy mistake to make, but I believe when you publish you read and understand what you wrote.

When I recommend or speak very positively about a book (or DVD) I will do so only when I intend to read (or watch) it again many many times (every 1-3 years). Also, if I wouldn’t be willing to pay for it I will not recommend it.

I think Melnick could be an interesting guest at a barbecue or party. He has researched a bit on Manson’s so called art and influence on society. But I don’t buy a lot of it for there is too much “liberal arts” and not enough science.

He thinks the whole country was feeling the effects of Manson and his circle during the 1970’s. I disagree.

In the chapter titled “He’s a Magic Man” he implies that all horror films from the 1970’s are Manson inspired, including “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. I disagree.

There are a lot of interesting coincidences in the book.

Interestingly enough, this book was not self-published, and because of that there is a high chance that your public library system will have it. If you’re curious then go that route and if upon reading it you believe you’ll read it again and again - buy it.

One interesting piece of trivia. At the college Melnick teaches at there are twins on the Mens Basketball Team named “Charles and Charlie”.

GreenWhite said...

ToF - Not a bad take at all. I like how Melnick discusses the runaway issue in America alongside his cultural narrative and Manson story. I've wondered a lot why it's impossible for society to develop any kind of empathy for the Manson women who weren't killers - Sandra Good - for example, and how Melnick points to their commune being a sexualized family as well as an incestuous family with all the father brother stuff as the reason we can't feel for Ruth Ann or whomever. So that was really cool I thought. It's tough to come up with something to write about every week for me. Creating a book that way was pretty clever Idk. That's probably what you mean by Liberal Arts tho lol!

I also liked the encapsulated 50's and 60's in there since I didn't live through them. Didion. Peter Coyote, etc.

But yeah Barbara Hoyt introducing Sadie to Charlie was a hoot. Melnick would get his ass handed to himself here but his next book would be better for it.

TabOrFresca said...

GreenWhite said:

It's tough to come up with something to write about every week for me.

You’re doing okay and thanks for your efforts. As I remember it the first few years of this site were somewhat slow, with an occasional very good article.

Then there was some big hype about Max joining the team. I don’t remember many articles by Max but I remember that he rubbed some readers the wrong way.

Then DebS came along and she wrote top rate articles. As a side effect the articles written by Patty, Ann, and Matt got much better.

Then George Stimson began to write articles frequently, and he put a different spin on how things are looked at.

Then Grim and MHN started to comment and there was interesting discussion.

Things even got better when David started to write articles. The Apex being the seven part series “A look at the evidence”.

One of the more interesting (but overlooked and now lost) thing were the comments made by SAG and a few other trolls. Some of those comments required myself to wear a different hat (or look at it from a different point perspective and winder why no one else brought it up).

At one time LSB3 was churning out a lot of short articles with the focus on discussion. Lynyrd’s article were short and to the point. For a while now it’s common to see mostly comments about “soap operas “ from two women.

Dan S said...

The horse is dead, people. Move on....now, who was the zodiac?

TabOrFresca said...

GreenWhite said:

I've wondered a lot why it's impossible for society to develop any kind of empathy for the Manson women who weren't killers - Sandra Good

I think everyone knows someone like Sandy. Sandy talks and talks and talks. And then defies the laws of physics and speaks faster than she can think. Her talking, in the form of letters, is what got here in trouble (and sent to prison).

In “The Bourne Identity”, there is a line that could be used to describe the violent threat that Sandy poses.

“Well, why don't you go upstairs and book a conference room? Maybe you can talk him to death.”

I believe that Cathy Gillies was another non-threat. She appears to be a more quiet easy going free spirit. But she made a comment about “wanting to go”, that is to take part in the murders. I believe that statement to be a lie or a mis-remembering of facts that are influenced by later events.

TabOrFresca said...

GreenWhite said:

“But yeah Barbara Hoyt introducing Sadie to Charlie was a hoot.”

While Melnick does use endnotes, he only uses them to list the source and does not elaborate in them.

I believe that Melnick got this information from the book “Female Serial Killers” by Peter Vronsky. This is endnote 20 in the introduction. My public library does not have access to that book and I don’t plan on buying it. So the question is who got it wrong, Vronsky or Melnick?

Atkins did have a friend in SF named Barbara, but not Barbara Hoyt. This Barbara was living in a house with Ella Jo Bailey and maybe 10 others; the house where Atkins met Manson. So Atkins may have been at that house because she knew Barbara. This Barbara left SF on the bus with Brunner, Fromme, Krenwinkle, Bailey, Atkins and Manson. Barbara left the bus soon after. Tony Davis then came, stayed a while, and left. Dianne Lake came and stayed, etc.

Maybe Vronsky or Melnick conflated the two Barbaras?

GreenWhite said...

ToF - Definite conflation and you get 1000 green points for using the word. I found the pdf for free for Child of Satan online. I love being able to digitally search the books.

Matt said...

TabOrFresca said...

One of the more interesting (but overlooked and now lost) thing were the comments made by SAG and a few other trolls.


SAG won't be trolling anyone any longer...


tobiasragg said...

GW - wasn't Cappy said to be one of the most cutthroat and (wannabe) murderous gals of the lot?

I cannot remember where I read these things about her, but she WAS going to off old granny as a land grab maneuver that was foiled by a flat tire, of all things.

On Tex, recalling the above comments, my impressions are formed mainly through his own writings (well, dictations) as well as a number of interviews with former fellow prisoners. These dudes may well have had their own agendas, so I cannot attest to the accuracy of these observations, but they do/did seem to fit a pattern.

Oh yeah - on Jesus H. Christ - yes, Tex avoided that one until he had no where else to turn, really, pretty much holed up in prison and facing a lifetime of - nothing. Christ becomes a pretty handy bestie when you're hard up like that.

Come to think of it, this may well be another Watson characteristic - that of running blindly toward the cliff without a thought for the future and then plunging into the next thing without handrails or limits. He goes to LA with zero plan other than to get the hell out of Denton, Texas. He runs that race until he's broke and without a place to stay, which leads him to Spahn. Another blind run through those ten months lands him into prison, where it's Jesus all the way.

What a pitiful life story, when one thinks of it.

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