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

4.31 of 5 stars 4.31  ·  rating details  ·  874 ratings  ·  118 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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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.)

“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
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
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
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
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"
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
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
Nick Soulsby
I’d just finished a very readable but rather bombastic account of Charles Manson and the crimes of The Family when I tracked down “Raven.” Interesting to contrast the two as events and as reading experiences. For a start, in each case what we’re confronting is the desire of people to believe in something (a positive) versus what happens when the person in whom they invest that belief is damaged on a deep level. Jim Jones is by far a more ambiguous figure than Manson – Manson was a career crimina ...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
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
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
I recently watched Jonestown: The Life and Death of the Peoples Temple on Netflix and found myself wanting to know more about Jim Jones and the cult he established. This book, written by surviving newsman Tim Reiterman, is the culmination of years of research of documents, tapes, and interviews with survivors of Jim Jones. It is incredibly thorough and can serve as a reference to all researchers of cults or the PT.

For all of the good points of the book, it is bogged down by a shifting timeline.

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
Gayle Francis Moffet
A meticulously researched history of Jim Jones as a man and as the leader of a cult. Raven does a strong job of simply laying out the truth of what happened from the time Jim Jones was a boy until he caused the deaths of 913 people in the middle of the South American junge.

Tim Reiterman has a personal connection to the Jonestown tragedy. He was one of the reporters who went down to the settlement with Congressman Leo Ryan. He was shot twice in the arm when the militant Jonestown supporters follo
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.
I was fascinated by the story of Jim Jones, a man charismatic enough to persuade more than 1000 people to give up everything and move to a remote mud-patch in a foreign country, and of course ultimately die there. So much of the philosophy of the People's Temple (racial inclusivity, social justice, communalism etc)is very compelling, and I was fascinated to see how it was perverted and manipulated by the man responsible for its creation.
While Reiterman goes into a lot of detail about the people
Kristina Smith
Crazy read, heavy-duty, but lots of cautionary lessons to be learned from this book. There are people out there who would love to take over your money, your life, your children, everything. We think of the people who succumb to such as "weak-minded" but really what this book portray's it could happen to anyone of us. It's an amazing read.

Reiterman and Jacobs give a very detailed, professional and analytical outlook into Jim Jones and his life, and those closest to him. At a certain point in the
A socialist utopian experiment in a sweltering South American jungle – hundreds of miles from any extensive civilization. Only accessible via air or long boat voyage. Only radio for communication with the outside world. But it must be OK, because “God” is there in the form of Jim Jones. Hallelujah! This sounds like an Orwellian nightmare but it’s absolutely true – it happened. We can still argue about the details & motivations but we can’t argue about the 970+ who died. This story is maybe t ...more
Vincent Alascia
This is a hard book to review. Going into it I wanted to know two things. When did it all go so wrong, and what was it that allowed these people to be so manipulated? In the first case things appear to always have been wrong. Jim Jones's megalomania and paranoia were always evident and it was his charisma that allowed him to get by and continue the con. That's what this whole thing appeared to be some twisted long con; on who I could not figure out. As for the second question, the author does a ...more
Raven: The Untold Story of the Reverend Jim Jones and His People by Tim Reiterman with John Jacobs (E.P. Dutton Inc. 1982) (289.9). The author-reporters received numerous awards for their reporting and analysis of the People's Temple debacle. Their stated goal in this book is to explore and explain why Reverend Jim Jones descended into madness. I'm not impressed with the analysis contained in this volume, though the authors' bona fides are certainly in order. My rating: 6.5/10, finished 11/21/15 ...more
Daniel Oertelt
A rare book, rare view into human psyche and how relatively easy it is to manipulate people into the most strange and outrageous situations, feelings and actions.

A lot if insight into human individual psychology and group behaviors. And depressing read in a strange way - there were far too few people that opposed Jim Jones and that made the escape throughout the years of constantly worsening and more manipulative and violent behavior of the church and its officials.
At times it reads
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
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
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
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Thoughts on this book 5 12 Nov 07, 2014 04:50PM  
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  • The Selected Stories of Patricia Highsmith
  • Dr. Neruda's Cure for Evil
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