Book Review: Manson by Jeff Guinn

A couple of months ago we watched the Tarantino film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood starring Brad Pitt and Leonardo Dicaprio. We found it to be a hugely enjoyable film, and if you’ve seen it, you’ll know that much of it involves an alternative version of the Charles Manson Family, one where Sharon Tate isn’t killed.

Apart from the Beatles link with the song Helter Skelter, I knew very little about Charles Manson, so one of the books that my lovely and amazing wife bought for me for my birthday was ‘The life and times of Charles Manson’.

First impression of the book is how well researched it was, with interviews with as many people as possible, including his estranged sister. Manson had a troubled upbringing, but it was obvious to most people near to him that he had some serious problems.

I won’t go into too much detail about his life, except to say that it is all covered very extensively in the book. Manson definitely created a cult and could easily have ended up as another Jonestown, although Manson never managed to brainwash as many followers as Jim Jones. However Manson’s ‘family’ were prepared to say that he had nothing to do with the murders to save him, even if it meant the gas chamber for themselves.

Other details in the book explain how no body really knows if there were any other murders committed by the Family. Additionally, Manson and the detectives all come across as slightly inept. It took months for Manson and the Family to be arrested, despite many of the members boasting about the killings. Additionally, crucial evidence handed into the police wasn’t investigated until Manson had already been arrested.

I took my time with this book, never reading more than one chapter a day, partly because the murders were brutal and shocking, and partly because it isn’t fiction. I gave the book 5 stars on Goodreads and I would say that it is the definitive book about Manson.