When it comes to all things Manson related, the truth is often stranger than fiction. While there have been quite a few attempts at film dramas, there aren't a lot of novels and stories that deal with Manson and company. Kind of surprising considering the people and events involved.
There are two types of fictional treatments to look at: stories directly about the people and events, albeit in a fictional context, and stories based on the people and events. The latter will feature characters that may be easily recognizable as being based on Charlie, Squeaky, Sadie, etc., but the stories do not directly mention the crimes or the people involved directly by name, and the events will often be similar to what actually transpired.
The books that are directly about the Manson Family will obviously be held to a different standard than ones that are loosely based on the events. Readability will also be factored in. No point in taking the time to read it, if it isn't ultimately entertaining. Oddly, a majority of these books are directed towards the young adult (YA) market, and they often have a feminist slant. For the first post, I thought I would tackle two that deal directly with the Manson Family.
First up is the short story 'Charlie's Girls' by Laura Elizabeth Woollett, which appears in the short story collection The Love of a Bad Man (2016). The book itself is a collection of short stories from the point of view of the wives, lovers, etc of various bad men throughout history.
'Charlie's Girls' starts right smack in the middle of the murders on Cielo. We are not sure who is actually narrating the story, other than one of the 'girls.' At first it seems like it could be Katie or Sadie, until they are in the car (being driven by 'Darling') leaving the residence, and the narrator mentions what Tex, Sadie, Katie, and 'Darling' are doing. The addition of an unnamed fifth person at Cielo totally destroys the credibility. This one is not worth it, particularly since it is only 10 pages. Check it out at the library if you are really interested.
Next up is the novel American Girls (2016) by Alison Umminger, which goes by the much better title My Favorite Manson Girl in the UK. this one is marketed toward the YA market, and it definitely does have a feminist slant. The story revolves around a young woman, Anna, who is in high school and moves to Hollywood to spend time with her older half-sister. The older half-sister is an actress and is working in B Movies. Her director puts Anna to work researching the Manson Girls for a project. The book is mostly about Anna interacting with the various people in her life, but a decent amount of it is her musings on the Manson Girls. These observations make the book worth reading. Some key passages:
- when discussing Mary and Katie: 'it's not like either of those girls had crazy written all over them- more like ugly with a big fat side of alone.'
- referencing Sadie: 'Atkins was like a lot of the other Manson girls- their lives were kind of screwed up, but definitely not screwed up enough to go out and start killing people.'
Sharon Tate- 'I kept going back to that part of the murder- a bunch of okay looking girls killing the really beautiful one. Not because it was creepy, but because it wasn't so terribly hard to imagine after all.' When someone says a friend of hers reminds her of a Manson girl, she muses that she 'was more like Sharon Tate. Pretty, but pretty boring.'
Barbara Hoyt- 'looked every bit as crazy as the crazy girls.'
One of the best lines is when she refers to the Family as 'Manson's battalion of zombie bimbos.' That would make a great title for a B-Movie.
Anna's overall take on the Manson girls is that they should never have been the Manson girls. She doesn't excuse their behavior, but she does feel that they weren't monsters, and that the right turn of events could have turned even her into a Manson girl. They were the children of America at the time.
There are only a couple of errors as far as the history of the events- the author has six people killing the LaBiancas, forks in both of their stomachs, and the killers wearing the LaBiancas clothes
American Girls is worth a read, mostly for Anna's commentary on the girls and their place in society. Her observations are sharp and funny and thought provoking. The point of view of a teenage girl works well, since she is very close in age to the Manson girls, and can relate to them on some of the same levels.
Next up: The Girls and Cold: a novelized biography of Susan Atkins.