cover image Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson

Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson

Jeff Guinn. Simon & Schuster, $27.95 (512p) ISBN 978-1-4516-4516-3

The notorious mastermind of the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders emerges as an all-American ghoul in this riveting biography. Journalist Guinn (Go Down Together: The True Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde) tells how an ex-con distilled California's effervescing counterculture into the Manson Family freak show, recruiting a following of rootless teen waifs who worshipped him as Jesus Christ and did his bidding without question, whether in LSD-fueled orgies or killing sprees. The author's richly detailed but well-paced narrative fleshes out the demented logic behind the crimes: prompted by misfired drug deals, Manson conceived new murders in order to deflect attention from his involvement in previous crimes%E2%80%94and to instigate the "apocalyptic race war" he had prophesied to his followers. But Guinn, who unearths eerie photos of his subject as a clean-cut bridegroom, teases apart the twisted strands of normalcy in Manson's sociopathic charisma, which honed itself on fundamentalist Christianity, Dale Carnegie precepts, and starry-eyed self-promotion. (Manson's main goal, which brought him into the orbit of Beach Boy Dennis Wilson, was to score a record deal.) Guinn's portrait is an absorbing true crime saga and a searching exploration of the anomie, broken homes, and crazed hopes that led lost souls to mistake Manson for the answer to their prayers. 16 pages of b&w photos. Agent: Jim Donovan, Jim Donovan Literary. (Aug. 6)