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  • Writer's pictureClay Anderson

Review of Manson by Jeff Guinn

Jeff Guinn’s biography of Charles Manson is a fascinating and disturbing look at one of America’s most notorious criminals. The book begins by delving into Manson’s early life, exploring the factors that led to his troubled childhood and eventual descent into a life of crime. Guinn’s research is meticulous, and he provides a detailed and engaging account of Manson’s rise to power as a cult leader in the 1960s.

One of the strengths of the book is its exploration of the social and political climate of the 1960s, which contributed to Manson’s ability to manipulate and control his followers. The counter-culture movement of the time, with its emphasis on free love and anti-establishment values, provided a fertile ground for Manson to recruit young, impressionable followers who were searching for meaning and purpose in their lives.

Guinn’s analysis of Manson’s psychology is particularly insightful. He argues that Manson suffered from a severe personality disorder, which was compounded by a lifetime of neglect and abuse. Manson’s narcissism and sociopathy allowed him to see himself as a messiah-like figure, with the power to change the world. His ability to manipulate and control his followers was a manifestation of his own pathological need for control.

The book provides a detailed account of how Manson was able to lure his followers into his web of manipulation and control. He used a combination of drugs, sex, and psychological manipulation to break down their sense of self and turn them into obedient disciples. Guinn’s research includes interviews with former Family members, which provide valuable insight into the mindset of Manson’s followers and the tactics he used to control them.

The descriptions of the Family’s crimes are graphic and disturbing, but they are necessary to fully understand the scope of Manson’s evil. The murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others at her home in 1969 shocked the nation and marked the beginning of the end for Manson and his Family. Guinn provides a detailed account of the investigation and trial that followed, including the bizarre behavior of Manson and his followers in the courtroom.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is its exploration of the media’s role in shaping the public’s perception of Manson and his crimes. Guinn argues that the media’s sensationalized coverage of the murders helped to create a myth around Manson, portraying him as a charismatic and diabolical figure who was able to brainwash his followers into committing unspeakable acts of violence. This myth, Guinn argues, has overshadowed the reality of Manson’s crimes and has made it difficult for us to fully understand the complex factors that led to his rise to power.

Guinn’s writing is engaging and accessible, making the book an easy read despite its dark subject matter. He has a talent for weaving together historical context, cultural analysis, and psychological insight to create a comprehensive portrait of Manson and his crimes. The book is well-researched, with a wealth of primary and secondary sources, including interviews with former Family members, police officers, and prosecutors.

One of the book’s few weaknesses is its lack of focus on the victims of Manson’s crimes. While Guinn provides some information about the victims and their families, the book is primarily focused on Manson and his followers. This can make the book feel somewhat unbalanced, as it places more emphasis on the perpetrators of the crimes than on their victims.

Despite this, Jeff Guinn’s biography of Charles Manson is a compelling and informative read. It provides valuable insight into the social and cultural factors that contributed to Manson’s rise to power, as well as the psychology behind his manipulation and control of his followers. The book is a must-read for anyone interested in true crime, and it is sure to leave a lasting impression on its readers.

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