Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People
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Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People

4.32 of 5 stars 4.32  ·  rating details  ·  543 ratings  ·  91 reviews
For the first time in paperback, Tim Reiterman’s Raven provides the definitive history of the Rev. Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple, and the murderous ordeal at Jonestown three decades ago. This PEN Award–winning work explores the ideals-gone-wrong, the intrigue, and the grim realities behind the Peoples Temple and its implosion in the jungle of South America. Reiterman’s rep...more
Paperback, 688 pages
Published November 13th 2008 by Tarcher (first published January 1st 1982)
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“To me, if we never got further than this, it would be heaven.”

Reverend Jim Jones sat on his throne at the pavilion before a thousand or so displaced people – people he had lured away from their homes and families to live in a dense, predator-infested Guyanese jungle which he had told them was “Paradise.” The swath torn out of the thick brush and trees was done by the members of Jones' People's Temple movement, primarily a group of people not accustomed to such labours. In fact, they had moved f...more
Up until 9/11/2001, the mass suicide at Jonestown, Guyana on November 18, 1978 held the record as the single greatest loss of civilian American lives (913) in our history. We all know Rev. Jim Jones was a creepy, skeevy, manipulative narcissist, and history is rife with those, but it's worthwhile digging a little deeper to examine the specific details of how he so bamboozled and brainwashed his followers that they gladly followed him to their deaths. (And to the deaths of their children, even.)

In case you weren't aware, Jim Jones was one crazy televangelist motherf****, who led over 900 members of his People's Temple Church to commit mass suicide by drinking cyanide laced Flavor-Aid (yes, that's right, it was generic Kool-Aid)in the late 70's. Yes, this happened a long, long time ago, but yet it still gives me chills when I think about the mindfuck that Jones was perpetuating and that lots of people actually bought into it. Jones, according to the book, was apparently the Rico Suave o...more
Nancy Oakes
Tim Reiterman was one of the journalists who accompanied Congressman Leo Ryan to Jonestown in November of 1978. His book not only examines what happened there, but goes back to the childhood of Jim Jones and the beginnings of the movement known as the Peoples Temple so as to "capture the lure of the Temple, to convey the thinking and personalities of not just disgruntled defectors but also of the heartbroken loyalists with something positive to preserve and remember -- and to unmask the real Jim...more
Tim Reiterman was a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner who was in Jonestown, Guyana on November 18, 1978 when the infamous massacre occurred. This book gives a very detailed chronology of the People's Temple, starting with Jim Jones childhood and finishing with the reporter's evacuation after the tragic events.

For the most part the account is dry and surprisingly boring considering all the prurient happenings around the People's Temple. I found that I really had to force myself to slog thro...more
Will Ludwigsen
Even without the fascinating subject matter, this book is a staggering work of journalism, digging into the life and church of a sick and secretive man with the help of terrified witnesses. As one of the victims wounded on the Port Kaituma airstrip, Reiterman also brings his own perspectives to the work as well -- perspectives that are unusually fair for someone almost murdered by the subject of his writing.

It's easy -- as any reader or viewer can discover in many of the other works "covering"...more
A gripping read about the story of Jim Jones and the People's Temple, this book is probably THE book you want to read if you want to know what happened in Guyana in 1978 and all the events that lead to the mass suicide. I would recommend it to anybody interested in cults, psychology and the general failure of socialism, top-down governance of people and the western/Christian ideology. The book is well written and well researched by somebody who was closely involved with the cult and it presents...more
Jonathan Mitchell
For anyone with even a casual interest in Peoples Temple and the events leading up to the massacre at Jonestown, Guyana on November 18, 1978, "Raven" is a fascinating read. Tim Reiterman, who encountered some of the horror of Jim Jones's madness and lived to tell about it, paints an unforgettable group portrait of Jones and those who followed him in this nearly 700-page whopper of a book. Even so, there are holes in what is generally considered to be the definitive history of Peoples Temple; mos...more
The tragedy in Jonestown (remember... the Kool-Aid Suicide Gang?) in 1978 is a story about a lot of things, and though Tim Reiterman did a great job telling the story in his book Raven, I felt there were things he was leaving out. How did the government not catch on to Jones' brainwashing and illegal activity? The beatings? The stealing? Not paying taxes? How is it possible that the families of more than 900 people weren't objecting to the sudden, FUCKING BIZARRE behavior of their loved ones? So...more
Yes this book is long, but it is oh-so-worth the investment. I've always had a tremendous interest in cult leadership, and Jim Jones is probably the sickest and one of the most evil of them all. Reading this book, you really come to understand how one man, who clearly resides somewhere well outside of his right mind and is strung out on drugs (Hitler, anyone?) can get hundreds and hundreds of people to follow him not only to a remote island, but to willingly sacrifice their lives and the lives o...more
Jun 17, 2013 Eric_W is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting interview with Reiterman and Deborah Layton, author of Seductive Poison A Jonestown Survivor's Story of Life and Death in the People's Temple on KQED. Reminded me of a very important book I read several years ago by John Hall Gone from the Promised Land Jonestown in American Cultural History, an excellent book.
Pedro Cabiya
In the book industry terms like "riveting", "edge of your seat" and "supenseful" get thrown around in a happy-go-lucky way. For the first time in years I have read a book that makes me understand what is meant by those words. This is a thoroughly researched book about Jim Jones and the sinister People's Temple written by one of the journalists wounded that fateful November 18, 1978, on the Port Kaituma airstrip in Guyana. It delves on the slow but sure degradation of the psyche of both the incre...more

Raven is the story of Jim Jones and the People's Temple - told by Tim Reiterman, a journalist who survived the massacre of the Ryan party in Guyana just hours before more than 900 People's Temple members committed "revolutionary" suicide with poisoned Grape-Aid. Reiterman begins at the beginning - the birth and early life of Jim Jones and moves carefully forward, in almost 600 pages, to chronicle the rise and fall of a people who put their lives in the hands of a sociopath.

Reiterman does a...more
There’s a thin line between “comprehensively researched” and “exhaustively researched”... actually, the line’s pretty thick. And Raven, tipping the scale at 600 pages of tiny text, falls on the wrong side of that thick line.

Admittedly, it’s easy to understand why Raven is so long. Co-author Tim Reiterman was one of the journalists shot by Jim Jones’s militia in the showdown that preceded the mass suicide/massacre. It’s understandable that Reiterman would want to collect every piece of the story...more
Kathleen Farrell
Deeply disturbing. The man who researched this book wrote it after surviving the massacre of the people's temple and their last stand. He was not a member. He was a journalist. And what he uncovered serves as a terrible lesson that, like the lessons of war, cannot be ignored.
The most complete history of Jim Jones and the People's Temple. Reiterman, a journalist who was shot on the airstrip outside Jonestown, delves deep into Jone's personal history and the events that led to unspeakable evil. A truly chilling journey into the mind and methods of a mad man.
Joshua Gross
Oh my goodness, I finally finished this book. Most of it read like a 500 page newspaper article. Jim Jones's childhood turned out to be more interesting than I expected, but there's a lot of stuff in the middle that just kind of goes on and on. It does effectively introduce us to everyone involved, and it certainly gave a complete background on the People's Temple and how it came to be. There wasn't much about how charismatic groups function and how these people really got caught up with the ch...more
Based on this book, I love Tim Reiterman; I disagree with some of the comments about the writing. I enjoyed the simple, straightforward style of Reiterman's account of the story.

I've read several Jonestown books, and this one has the most thorough story from Jim Jones's early life to the end. The book is packed with information, including much of what is written about in other books. Clearly, the author did an amazing amount of homework. I wouldn't say it includes everything all the other books...more
G.d. Brennan
Words fail me.

Disturbing, fascinating, creepy, unsettling, harrowing--all are apt descriptors for the Reverend Jim Jones, and for Tim Reiterman's excellent book on his life and leadership of the People's Temple. And yet these words seem insignificant next to the horrors Jones inflicted on his followers, and the trauma that rippled outward to their friends and families.

Jim Jones was arguably the most intensely evil person of the 20th century. Certainly the evil deeds of others dwarfed Jones'; the...more
Nov 21, 2008 Jennie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the obsessed
About to read it again...30 year Anniversary. 11/08

Having wondered for a really really long time about what the "deal" was with Jonestown, seemed like the 30 year anniversary mark would be a good time to figure that out (November 18, 1978).

This is an excellent book, very thorough, which covers Jom Jones' entire life--from troubled childhood to mental disintegration in South America.

I'd recommend a much shorter book if you just want to quickly know the disturbing details...this one is quite the...more
Krista Ashe
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jean L.
I can't say I liked it, but this book certainly detailed the madness of Jim Jones and his cult to the end. I admit, though, to skipping through parts because it was hard to read so much sheer unpleasantness and paranoia. I remember so clearly looking at a photo of the massacre at Jonestown in the local newspaper as a kid and wondering why anyone would do such a thing before my parents took that particular paper out of my hand, not wanting me to think on such a gruesome subject any further.
J.D. Horn
An amazing book. Reiterman's account of the rise and fall of the Peoples [sic] Temple is a perfect balance of description of the social upheavals that made the rise of the organization possible, and intimate personal portraits of Jones and those who would fall prey to his mad manipulations. It is rare that I really cannot put a book down, but I was captivated. More than a casual biographer, Reiterman lived (and nearly died) to tell this tale.
I found this a really engaging book. I read it because I wanted to know what The People's Temple was all about--how come people joined and stayed and how people, if they were able to, left the cult. Jones was a master manipulator. What is so very sad is that he, for the most part, preyed on his followers' best intentions. They wanted to belong to a communal community that worked for equality, and he twisted those intentions to feed his need for power and control.

I am reading Going Clear (about...more
The author included so much detail about Jim Jones and the People's Temple that I've read almost 3/4 of the book without yet getting to the massacre. I recommend it if you're looking for a truly in-depth look. The behind the scenes stuff, and the psychological studies of Jim Jones are fascinating. I can see why people followed him, yet at the same time am amazed that they didn't see right through to the crazy.

I will say that I was somewhat disappointed with the ending. I feel like the author did...more
Becki Kula Hildrew
While reading this I kept asking myself "why the heck is this 700 pages long, do they really need to give me all this detail?!"...then a couple days ago I watched a PBS documentary about Jonestown and was like "WAAAIT!!! About about this person and that event and how can you mention her without talking about blah blah" and then I realized, holy crap, thank goodness this book was 700 pages. So worth it

I can't believe I knew so little about this movement and the final event. I only knew that it wa...more
Mar 18, 2008 Juliette rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Cult Research
Recommended to Juliette by: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple Documentary
Shelves: cults
This is seriously the ultimate, most comprehensive and complete book about Jim Jones and The Peoples Temple. The fact that author Tim Reiterman went to Jonestown, Guyana, and lived to research and write about it is unbelievable. He interviewed and researched The Peoples Temple so extensively, this is as good as it gets. For some insane reason, this book is long out of print and hard to find. It really should be updated and reissued. The writing is solid and informative, and I keep checking it ou...more
Dudes - this book is written by an obsessive. . .one of the authors was shot in Jonestown which gives him the purple heart legitimacy but brother needed a solid editor to clean the shit up. You get a lot of crazy-ass dirt from one of the nuttiest maniacs in the history of cults but I haven't really been compelled by the story. If I was charting this book out I'll bet I would find reams of conflicting dates and bad info. Not an amazingly written book, not a disaster. . .I'll tell you when I'm don...more
dianne budd
thoughtful and careful - written by a journalist, not necessarily a storyteller; but it made me think about what precursors are necessary for an absolute belief, no matter how absurd, to swallow a normal person.
what precedes someone becoming a member of a cult, or falling into Mormon "obedience", or allowing domestic violence to succeed? is there a special vulnerability? a need, maybe to seek outside completion of an internal void? maybe just a thirst for community or acceptance?
repeatedly-- s...more
Dustin Gaughran
Like a decent amount of people, I knew about the Jonestown tragedy, but not the full story. Raven was a very well written, detail rich account of Jim Jones, as well as his rise and fall into madness. I was satisfied that every available source that could have been used was.
After I was finished, I was left wondering the same thing as I'm sure many others were: how can sane, free thinking people willing feed the object of their eventual demise? It's a question that's been asked millions of times,...more
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