Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson

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Overview

The New York Times bestselling, authoritative account of the life of Charles Manson, filled with surprising new information and previously unpublished photographs: “A riveting, almost Dickensian narrative…four stars” (People).

More than forty years ago Charles Manson and his mostly female commune killed nine people, among them the pregnant actress Sharon Tate. It was the culmination of a criminal career that author Jeff Guinn traces back to Manson’s childhood. Guinn interviewed ...

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Overview

The New York Times bestselling, authoritative account of the life of Charles Manson, filled with surprising new information and previously unpublished photographs: “A riveting, almost Dickensian narrative…four stars” (People).

More than forty years ago Charles Manson and his mostly female commune killed nine people, among them the pregnant actress Sharon Tate. It was the culmination of a criminal career that author Jeff Guinn traces back to Manson’s childhood. Guinn interviewed Manson’s sister and cousin, neither of whom had ever previously cooperated with an author. Childhood friends, cellmates, and even some members of the Manson family have provided new information about Manson’s life. Guinn has made discoveries about the night of the Tate murders, answering unresolved questions, such as why one person near the scene of the crime was spared.

Manson puts the killer in the context of the turbulent late sixties, an era of race riots and street protests when authority in all its forms was under siege. Guinn shows us how Manson created and refined his message to fit the times, persuading confused young women (and a few men) that he had the solutions to their problems. At the same time he used them to pursue his long-standing musical ambitions. His frustrated ambitions, combined with his bizarre race-war obsession, would have lethal consequences.

Guinn’s book is a “tour de force of a biography…Manson stands as a definitive work: important for students of criminology, human behavior, popular culture, music, psychopathology, and sociopathology…and compulsively readable” (Ann Rule, The New York Times Book Review).

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Janet Maslin
…[a] brawny, deep-digging biography that's much more riveting than might be expected…Mr. Guinn is fascinating in his use of hindsight, and it allows him a more probing view of his subject than earlier biographers had…Manson tells stories so well that it is sure to attract attention to Mr. Guinn's earlier writing.
The New York Times Book Review - Ann Rule
Though most of the literate world knows what's to come, Guinn ably maintains suspense…[Manson] stands as a definitive work: important for students of criminology, human behavior, popular culture, music, psychopathology and sociopathology, and compulsively readable for anyone who relishes nonfiction.
From the Publisher
Manson is not simply a biography of a killer and a cultist. It's a history of American culture from the Great Depression to the close of the 20th century. It's the dirty boogie in four-four time, a fascinating study of greed, mind control, celebriphilia, sex, narcotics, racism, and the misuse of power. I lived in South Los Angeles when many of the events in this book took place. No one has told the story as accurately as Jeff Guinn. It's the story of Nixon and Johnson, Martin Luther King, Vietnam, the SDS, the Black Panthers, the acid culture, and a nation coming apart at the seams. From the first page to the last, I could hardly put it down. Hang on, reader. This is a rip-roaring ride you won't forget.”

“Brilliant. Written with deep insight and in seamless, fluid prose, Guinn’s Manson expands the story of the cult leader into something far beyond the shocking story we're used to. The best book about Manson that I’ve read . . . and I think I’ve read them all.”

“Jeff Guinn takes the reader on a fascinating, chilling visit to a dark and decadent time in American history, all the while maintaining a laser focus on the era’s most recognizable face of evil. A gifted writer and master researcher, Guinn explores the depths of Charles Manson’s twisted psyche in a brilliant effort that dramatically raises the bar on the true crime genre.”

Richmond Times-Dispatch - Doug Childers
"Fascinating. . . . Manson isn't merely a hybrid biography/true crime book, though. It's also a sweeping cultural history. . . . [Guinn] making a name for himself as a doggedly thorough chronicler of famous American criminals. Manson, which uncovers new material culled from exclusive interviews, should draw an even larger readership. It certainly deserves it."
San Diego Union-Tribune - Douglas Williams
"Author Jeff Guinn likes to dive into stories we think we know and give us much more. . . . Manson is a well-told, well-researched story that explains much about the murderer, his followers and his times."
The Huffington Post - Steve Heilig
"Biographer Jeff Guinn spent years on this book and it shows. . . . Manson will remain the definitive biography of this 'true life criminal.'"
Kirkus Reviews
Guinn (The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral--and How It Changed the American West, 2011, etc.) paints a striking, full-length portrait of one of American history's most notorious sociopaths. By 1967, 32-year-old Charles Manson had spent more than half his life in reform schools, jails and prison. Released onto the streets of San Francisco during the Summer of Love, armed with a practiced street rap--a mishmash of Bible verses, Dale Carnegie quotations, Scientology precepts and rock-'n'-roll lyrics--a philosophy of free love and even freer drugs and crude psychological insights gleaned from fellow pimps and con men, the petty hustler attracted a small following among the city's naïve, confused youth. Moving his "Family" to Los Angeles in pursuit of a music career, Manson tightened his hold on his followers and led them in increasingly bizarre escapades that culminated in several murders, most infamously the Tate-LaBianca killings, designed to kick off "Helter Skelter," a race war that would end with the Family ruling the world. Guinn takes readers on a head-spinning ride through Manson's deeply disturbed childhood, his criminal career and his brief tenure as satanic guru to the damaged disciples, mostly women, he held in thrall. Against the backdrop of the roiling '60s, the author offers inside information on life within the cult, miniportraits of its various members, and stories about the dope dealers, rock musicians, motorcycle gang members, Hollywood glitterati, record-industry honchos and hangers-on who brushed up against the Family. He concludes by effortlessly unpacking the murders, the manhunt and the trial that riveted the nation. Spared the gas chamber by California's abolition of the death penalty, Manson remains incarcerated. A handful of deluded supporters maintain a Facebook page devoted to proving his innocence and to spreading his environmental rants. A compulsively readable account of a murderer who continues to fascinate.
Dallas Morning News - Michael E. Young
"Manson is a book impossible to put down, the details so palpable that the sense of being a part of each scene is almost overwhelming. . . . Guinn manages something much more than a true-crime book. Filled with the trampled hopes and broken dreams of those who gave their lives to a sociopath, Manson is an American tragedy."
People - Judith Newman
"[A] riveting, almost Dickensian narrative. . . . four stars."
The New York Times Book Review - Ann Rule
“[A] tour-de-force of a biography. . . . Vincent Bugliosi’s book Helter Skelter led me to believe there was nothing more to learn. . . . I was wrong. . . . [Manson] stands as a definitive work: important for students of criminology, human behavior, popular culture, music, psychopathology and sociopathology, and compulsively readable.”
The Washington Post - Daniel Stashower
"Guinn has managed against all odds to offer a fresh take and a worthy complement to the first-hand immediacy of [Vincent] Bugliosi's Helter Skelter. . . . Offers new insight to those who lived through that turbulent era, and provides essential context to those who didn't. What emerges is a grim but highly compelling portrait of a 'lifelong social predator' who was 'always the wrong man in the right place at the right time.'"
National Review - Florence King
"Sometimes a book is so good that the reviewer does not know where to begin. It doesn't happen often, but this is one of those times. . . . Jeff Guinn has produced not only the best biography of Charles Manson, but the best study of American true crime since Victoria Lincoln's A Private Disgrace: Lizzie Borden by Daylight. . . . [A] consistently superb book. . . . Flawless."
The New York Times - Janet Maslin
“[A] brawny, deep-digging biography that's much more riveting than might be expected. . . . Mr. Guinn is fascinating in his use of hindsight, and it allows him a more probing view of his subject than earlier biographers had. . . . Steadily surprising.”
Fort Worth Star-Telegram - Jim Witt
"[Guinn] is now proving himself to be one of the pre-eminent true crime writers in the country. . . . Even though you know how the story turns out, you’re surprised on almost every page."
The Miami Herald - Ariel Gonzalez
"Splendid, comprehensively researched. . . . [Guinn] has given us an American nightmare from which we have not yet fully awoken."
James Lee Burke
Manson is not simply a biography of a killer and a cultist. It's a history of American culture from the Great Depression to the close of the 20th century. It's the dirty boogie in four-four time, a fascinating study of greed, mind control, celebriphilia, sex, narcotics, racism, and the misuse of power. I lived in South Los Angeles when many of the events in this book took place. No one has told the story as accurately as Jeff Guinn. It's the story of Nixon and Johnson, Martin Luther King, Vietnam, the SDS, the Black Panthers, the acid culture, and a nation coming apart at the seams. From the first page to the last, I could hardly put it down. Hang on, reader. This is a rip-roaring ride you won't forget.”
Jeffrey Deaver
“Brilliant. Written with deep insight and in seamless, fluid prose, Guinn’s Manson expands the story of the cult leader into something far beyond the shocking story we're used to. The best book about Manson that I’ve read . . . and I think I’ve read them all.”
Carlton Stowers
“Jeff Guinn takes the reader on a fascinating, chilling visit to a dark and decadent time in American history, all the while maintaining a laser focus on the era’s most recognizable face of evil. A gifted writer and master researcher, Guinn explores the depths of Charles Manson’s twisted psyche in a brilliant effort that dramatically raises the bar on the true crime genre.”
The Wall Street Journal - Daniel Woodrell
“Manson by Jeff Guinn knocked me down. . . . Mr. Guinn has become a truly great writer of nonfiction Americana.”
Library Journal
Edgar finalist Guinn reexamines the life of Charles Manson, interviewing Manson's sister and cousin, who have not previously spoken out, and gleaning new information from childhood friends, cellmates, and Manson Family members. Guinn argues that while Manson spouted incoherent race-war rhetoric, the killings were in fact related to his failed ambitions to be a rock star. Many readers will be interested in grappling with the psyche behind the 1969 killings, a signal event in American cultural history; bound to get the considerable attention the 100,000-copy first printing anticipates.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451645163
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 8/6/2013
  • Pages: 495
  • Sales rank: 513,808
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 2.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeff Guinn

Jeff Guinn is a former award-winning investigative journalist and the bestselling author of numerous books of fiction and nonfiction, including Go Down Together: The True Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde, The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral and How It Changed the West, and Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson. Guinn lives in Fort Worth, Texas.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 35 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(18)

4 Star

(8)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 35 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 8, 2013

    First of all I would like to say a few words about the last few

    First of all I would like to say a few words about the last few paragraphs in this book.
    For me Guinn manages to pinpoint Manson exactly right in those last few sentences. I actually nodded in agreement as I read them.
    The fact that the author managed to get Manson's family members, sorry his genetic family, to talk to him gives this book some extra insight. It is filled with factual info that makes a lot of things less mystical, and let's be honest the media likes to paint Manson that way, and with a great deal more realism than is usually shown in regards to this true story.
    Manson is a sociopath.
    There is nothing special about him and he doesn't possess an awe-inspiring charisma. Manson obviously learnt to manipulate at an early age and use his adapted Dale Carnegie skills. He was/is a controlling, abusive, misogynistic criminal with a tendency towards violence. If he and his cult members hadn't been caught they would have gone on to murder many more.
    They didn't though and unfortunately the vile acts they committed has given Manson and his tribe the attention and notoriety that Manson craved. Even now, after many decades his name still commands and instills a sense of evil and foreboding in people of which he is not and never was deserving.
    His fellow comrades in murder seem to get a lot of leniency from many corners. Drugs, mass-thought, fear and control can only explain a part of their involvement.
    Fact is they are the ones who used the weapons. Nobody forced Susan Atkins to stab Sharon Tate, no person held Tex's hand while he stabbed, shot and caved the victim's head in. They are just as responsible as the person who sent them there. They went without concise orders so ultimately they decided to choose to commit murder and how to do it.
    I have no pity and am not swayed by arguments that place the sole blame on Manson.

    Guinn doesn't do that. He doesn't play up to the media hype or make excuses for the poor brainwashed vulnerable females/males. He sees Manson for the role-playing manipulator he is. Even after all these years Manson still sits in prison and thrives on the attention of murder junkies, Manson fans and the media.
    Despite the fact that the flow of information could have been a little smoother this was a good book. It contains a lot of insight from sources close to Manson and people who were part of his life on a daily basis.
    I especially liked the fact that the author gives the reader all the info about Manson's rocky childhood, adolescence and early adulthood in juvenile detention or prison. that way the reader can absorb that information and decide whether it is enough of a factor to feel sympathy or understanding for Manson. The author allows us to have that opening, a door of sorts, and then right at the end he opens another door.
    The door marked 'Manson would have done this anyway, it just would have been another time and different victims' and I for one will gladly walk through that door.
    I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley.

    16 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    This is a truly fascinating look into the life of one of the mos

    This is a truly fascinating look into the life of one of the most notorious murders in America's history. It is extremely well researched and documented. At times it turns your stomach. It is a brilliantly written book.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 17, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    What an exceptional book!!! I was mesmerized by the details of t

    What an exceptional book!!! I was mesmerized by the details of the life of Charles Manson. He is such a monster and it is interesting to see the steps that were taken to create his evil over the course of his early life.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2013

    Quite a good read. It contained a lot of interesting informatio

    Quite a good read. It contained a lot of interesting information i'd not heard or read of before. The author covers the subject matter very thoroughly but keeps the pace. The book never dragged. I'm interested in reading others by this author.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2013

    Fascinating and eerie. WOW!!!

    Although I've read other books about Manson, this book added info I didn't know. The whole life story is completely eerie and creepy. It will make your hair stand up by the roots. This book was well worth the money. Also, another new novel called "The Partisan" by Willian Jarvis has a evil sociopathic character - as well. This new novel has strong male and female characters. It is based on facts about World War II. That book is only 99 cents on the Nook right now. Both books are fascinating. They deserve A++++++

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2013

    Highly recommend...5/5.

    I have read other books on this subject, but this book shed some new light into both Manson's childhood and the Tate-LaBianco murders that I had never before heard. It is definitely a must read if you are true crime follower.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 4, 2013

    Even after all these years, and reading Helter Skelter, Charlie Manson remains an unfathomable con man,

    A book about Charlie Manson that delves into his boyhood, and the occurances that shaped his personality into a con-man who had the power to persuade his "Family" members to commit murders at his command. It is interesting reading, but it is no Helter Skelter.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 30, 2013

    Such a well written and researched book. Yes, I do believe that

    Such a well written and researched book. Yes, I do believe that Charles Manson does possess demons, but reading about his early years makes me question, can monsters be made by others who are evil? How could a person be at the receiving end of the abuse that he went through without becoming a predator.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2013

    Very Good

    This book is a combination of new information and a rehashing of the olldI also liked the background info on the 1960'S

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2013

    Mostly re-hashing information available elsewhere.

    Mostly re-hashing information available elsewhere.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2014

    I was so excited to read this book but unfortunately I couldn't

    I was so excited to read this book but unfortunately I couldn't even get past the first 100 pages before I gave up. This book was utterly boring, I don't know how this author could take such an interesting exciting topic and make it utterly dull. Maybe I'll try to read it later if I work up the determination and get through it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2014

    Best book I have ever read!

    I actually love getting to know the inside details of serial killers or someone related to this category. As most people, we like to know the "how and why" of most crimes that occur. This book was giving everything you need to know about the build up of how Charles Manson became the person he is. It is very intriguing, insightful, and informative. This author did a superb job of putting as much information as he can into this book, which include genetic family members words and anyone that was in contact with Charles. If you want to know how Manson became the person he is, I totally recommend this book to you.

    P.s. Saw this book at my local B&N bookstore, it was $30; as ane-book it was $15.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2013

    Haven't finished yet but it is a great read. Also check out Hect

    Haven't finished yet but it is a great read. Also check out Hector's Juice as a companion fantasy/historical fiction book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 8, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Jaw Dropping & Surprising I just finished Manson: The Life

    Jaw Dropping & Surprising

    I just finished Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson by Jeff Guinn. WOW! I really learned a lot from this book, I was only a small child at the time the Tate/LaBianca murders, so can't really remember when this all took place. But have read and heard lots about it since. 
    The author gives a lot of background history of the 60's and 70's and what was going on in the world at that time as well as the early years of Charles Manson.

    How his mother and and uncle spend time in prison, leaving Charlie to be raised by his grandmother and another aunt and uncle. His mother did try for a while after being released but Charlie was a manipulator from the early years. His early years in reform schools & the penitentiary he learned more ways to get people to do what he wanted.

    The book contains interviews from adopted sister Nancy, and cousin Jo Ann. And pictures of Charlie as a young boy who you would not know by looking at the pictures that he would grow up to be the "The Most Dangerous Man Alive".

    It is scary that one man could have such influence over people that they would do whatever he told them to.

    This is a must have book for anyone interested in the Manson family and the Tate/LaBianca murders.

    I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review, rather it be good or bad.

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  • Posted September 13, 2013

    Recommended

    As good as Helter-Skelter. My only criticism is I wish there were more pictures--esp. of the followers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2013

    Once again, Jeff Guinn put a lot of time into his research.  If

    Once again, Jeff Guinn put a lot of time into his research.  If you are looking for gore and gross details this is not the book for you.  This book really focuses on Manson and his followers and how they got to the point in their lives where they would commit murder.  It is very detailed and provides a lot more information surrounding the hippie culture of the late 60's.  It shows how these young people with such low self esteem could be so easily manipulated.  It also provides much insight about Manson's childhood and family life.  

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2013

    Good info, but regurgitated info... (and desperately needs a proofreader!)

    If you've never read any type of book on avoiding diets and embracing a healthy lifestyle, then I would certainly recommend this book. It would also be very informative to people with eating disorders - specifically binge eating disorders - as it contains tips and facts about metabolism and your body's reactions to limiting and binging.

    However, if you have read books like the aforementioned, then you're not going to find much new other than some food facts that are, admittedly, quite interesting.

    I hate to lower my rating due to poor proofreading, but it was bad enough where I felt it was necessary. There are lots of run-on sentences, misplaced commas and excessive commas, and misplaced words or typos that could have easily been caught by a once-over before it went to the "nook press". At times this made it difficult to read because you have to read and then read again for it to make sense. There were also grammatical errors (i.e. hand full instead of handful, there instead of their, etc.).

    Information is good, and even though much of it is redundant, it is worth a read if you've never read a similar book.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2013

    xXXXX

    This is by far the most informative and interesting book ever written about Manson, at least in my opinion. And I believe I have read all books relating to the Sharon Tate case.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2013

    Half way there

    This book is too long. Over 500 pages! Its ok..but finally got to the Cielo dr murders..

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 31, 2013

    I loved Guinn's book on Bonnie and Clyde, Go Down Together, and

    I loved Guinn's book on Bonnie and Clyde, Go Down Together, and I am very interested in the Manson family so I bought this book
    in hardback which I hardly ever do. This book met and exceeded my expectations.  I highly recommend it .

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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