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Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  3,956 ratings  ·  512 reviews
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bestselling, authoritative account of the life of Charles Manson, filled with surprising new information and previously unpublished photographs: “A riveting, almost Dickensian narrative…four stars” (People).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 actr
Paperback, 512 pages
Published August 5th 2014 by Simon & Schuster (first published August 6th 2013)
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Peace, Love, and Aberration

This is a mind expanding book. It’s as much a social history of America and more specifically of California in the late sixties and the early seventies as it is a study of Manson and his so called family. Guin sets the context of Manson’s story by delving into the genesis of the hippie movement in Haight-Ashbury and then as it extends across the country. One of the things that fascinates me so much about true crime is how someone comes to be involved in their crimes. W
I received a copy of this book through the GoodReads First Reads giveaway program. I was very excited to win an advance copy of this book, but for some reason (perhaps a review I read) I expected it to be very poorly written. I did not find this to be the case at all.

The most striking quality of this book was its tremendous readability; it proved a real page turner. I am a fan of true crime journalism, stories, etc., but I had no real interest in the Manson case beforehand. The author, Jeff Guin
Cheryl M-M
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 wi
As a big fan of Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders, I suspected that there wouldn't be much new for me in this biography of Manson. I was pleasantly surprised -- Jeff Guinn has written a biography of Manson, but also an overview of San Francisco in the 50s.

I heard Guinn on Fresh Air and he made that the point that Manson could not have existed at any other time in US culture. His arrival in San Francisco coincided with a time when people were seeking enlightenment through drug
Mikey B.
Page 399 (my book)
Almost everyone who had anything to do with him [Manson] was damaged in some way, and Charlie could not have cared less. Gregg Jakobson compares Charlie to a cancer cell because he thrived by eradicating everything around him that was healthy.

This book captures the totality of Charles Manson - actually called Charlie by all around him. In this crime biography the author does not give us any excuses in a sociological or psychological sense. Manson was a creep, a predator, a prim
George Paul
Jeff Guinn, Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013). $27.50, 495 pages. Hardcover / Kindle

Frigyes Karinthy originated the idea of six degrees separation in his 1929 short story, “Chains.” One of the characters in the story bet his friends that
“using no more than five individuals, one of whom is a personal acquaintance, he could contact [any person in the world] using nothing except the network of personal acquaintances.”

I had a six-degrees-like experie
I won this book as a Goodreads Giveaway.

Having read Helter Skelter years ago and being familiar with the basic ‘plot’ of the Manson Family murders, I was glad that this book contained far more than a rehashing of the all too familiar details.

The first couple of hundred pages provides an insight into Charles’ upbringing including information about his mother and the uncle and aunt who basically raised him, as well as the town where he spent most of his youth. It follows him into young adulthood
This book threw me for a loop. I wasn't alive when all this crazy s*** went down so what I thought I knew about Charles Manson wasn't at all true. I'm sure my mom (who was born in 1962) told me a glossed-over version of the truth--that Manson was a murderer. For some reason I thought he was something of a serial killer. I was surprised to find that Manson is basically a crazy misogynist-racist who enjoyed taking advantage of people and twisting the truth.

This book reads like a criminal psycholo
Nicola Mansfield
I read Vincent Bugliosi's Helter Skelter back in the day but have to say my mind has become dim on the actual facts of the Manson case. I've seen documentaries, clips of interviews with Manson; I remember the news when each of the girls were released from prison. And I remember the murder, the Tate murder, but not the others. This book brings everything about Charles Manson together in a cohesive story. It's not just a story of the psychopath though, it is also a story of the era in which he was ...more
A VERY well-researched work on one of the most frightening men still on the planet. Jeff Guinn's Bibliography at the end of the book is quite impressive and draws from all types of sources, including interviews with family members (blood family, his sister and his cousin, as opposed to Manson's "Family" of whacked-out followers, some members of which he DID speak with) who have NEVER before been interviewed by anyone about their infamous relative.

If you're looking for an account of the Tate/LiB
The book is worth a read for those interested in the Manson story, but it's not a great example of historical writing.

Guinn certainly has dug up a lot of detail on Manson's life, starting with the various plights of his grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Unfortunately, I found the early chapters to be very poorly written. The author takes the tone of an omnipresent narrator and makes unfounded assumptions about the thoughts and motivations of the various characters. If it had been written in the
Charles Salzberg
There have been a number of books about Charlie Manson and his family, the best of which I think is still one of the first, Ed Sanders's, The Family, but this is a close second. Using a number of sources, including Vincent Bugliosi's exhaustive procedural account of the capture of Manson and his "family," and the ensuing trial, as well as interviews with members of Mason's blood family, Guinn has cobbled together an extremely readable and fascinating biography of a sociopath. After finishing, yo ...more
Guinn tackles the extremely daunting task of presenting a cogent biography of one of the world's most notorious serial killers of the 20th century. Charles Manson and his life are likely of keen interest to many, though the number who will admit it may pale in comparison. Guinn is left to explore Manson's life before permanent incarceration, especially his development of The Family, the group he led by his amazing power of persuasion. Guinn sketches Manson out to be three distinct beings over hi ...more
Mary Ronan Drew
Anyone who was old enough to watch TV in the late 1960s will recognize the hippies, Weathermen, SDS, Black Panthers and other lowlifes who inhabit this unusually thorough biography of Charles Manson, the man who programmed 20-some young women to obey his every command, including murdering people, and dying for him if necessary. Xan Brooks in The Guardian describes him as: " . . . a career criminal, one-part pimp to one-part imp; the bespoke vermin of the American counterculture. He crawled insid ...more
Paul Pessolano
“Manson” by Jeff Guinn, published by Simon and Schuster.

Category – Biography/Crime Publication Date – August 06, 2013

This is another must read from the pen of Jeff Guinn. If you have not read “Go Down Together”, which is the absolute best biography of the lives of Bonnie and Clyde, I highly recommend you do so. Jeff Guinn is a master of research. “Manson” took two years to write and from the notes and bibliography it is amazing that it only took two years. If you have read “Helter Skelter” or ar
I read this book because, like another member of Goodreads, I too was fascinated with Charles Manson since I was a child. I read Helter Skelter when I was a teenager and was kind of bewitched by the whole stars and mass murder.

But this book took the fear that I had of cults and mass murderers, hiding out just waiting to get into my house, away and put the whole Charles Manson thing into perspective. As Guine said in the book, Manson was just a guy who happened to be at the right pl
Skip Ferderber
I lived in Los Angeles during the horrific events described in this book, and even knew one of the people mentioned during Manson's attempts to become a rock star. While the details of the crimes were well known to me, what was totally new was the background leading up to the murders and the well researched, well-written context of the times in which the events occurred. The author should be commended for his judicious description of the murders. The crimes were and are horrific, but Guinn chose ...more
Chances are you think of Charles Manson as Charles Manson: sprite-sized cult leader behind the murder of Sharon Tate and a handful of other socialites and common folk. Jeff Guinn's biography of the media magnet, Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson, presents a portrait of Charlie -- as his friends call him. A troubled child born of a troubled mother. A kid who subscribed to the friendship template presented by Dale Carnegie, but still kinda skeeved out those he met. A social misfit whose ...more
This book was riveting. I was a teenager when the Tate-Bianca murders took place, and I well recall hearing and reading about Manson, the Family and their horrific crimes. Although I read Vincent Bugliosi's excellent Helter Skelter and have read updates about the cases through the years, I would not have read this book had it not been so well-received. I assumed there was not really anything new to learn about Charles Manson; his life and crimes have been rehashed so many times. But this book re ...more
Gregarious cline
This book is devastating. A perfect glimpse into the heart of the 60's when shit was getting real crazy, and there's no better poster child than Manson for the dark side of the peace and love generation. The alchemy of time, place and this monster is insane. Had he been born 10 years earlier I think Manson would have ended up just a normal lunatic and probably locked up mostly. Guinn really captures the escalation of a psychopath in a way that is eerily easy to understand. Where the "free love" ...more
As the title implies, this is a comprehensive look at both the life and times of Charles Manson.

Heavy on the "what" rather than the "why", Guinn describes the circumstances around Charlie's birth and provides in some detail, often repetitive detail, the infamous Manson's life story.

This was good as a primer, but feel it lacked any real reflection or even speculation into that dynamics/forces that contributed to a Charlie Manson and his followers, which I would have appreciated. Still, a worthwh
Edwin Mcallister
I wish I could give it 3.5 stars, but I'll err on the side of optimism. It's a very good book, although I am not sure there is much to learn from it. The opening chapters make an attempt to put Manson into a wider framework than the late 1960s, but not very successfully. I don't know if it's because I read Helter Skelter so long ago that my own idea of Manson is "set in stone," or that Guinn never really tries that hard to make his case, but I don't feel like my assessment of Manson has changed ...more
How many more words can be written about the Tate-LaBianca murders of 1969? The book "Helter Skelter", written by the prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi was for many years the definitive account. In this space, I can add nothing to the facts and the subsequent trials. But, this book, "Manson," is a superb overall account of the entire sordid horrific affair. I especially found the childhood background of Manson quite compelling to read. The book puts the evens in the context of the state of where Amer ...more
Kathleen O'Donnell
I read Helter Skelter by Vince Bugliosi, despite my mom's admonishments not to, many moons ago. I was glued. Jeff Gunn does a great job of presenting previously unknown facts but without the flair that Helter Skelter had. Still, after a slow start I couldn't put it down. The horrible crimes are just as horrible and shocking today as they were 40 some years ago. The author's insight into Manson's followers damaged and broken lives was compelling and sad. Despite all evidence to the contrary, it's ...more
I have a persistent curiousity about infamous criminals like Charles Manson. That's why I read this book. He was born into a fundamentalist family in Kentucky. His mother was a rebellious, promiscuous teenager. She went to prison while Charles was young. His childhood was turbulent but I found no explanation for the twisted human being he became. It was an unfortunate coincidence that the Svengali-like Manson arrived on the scene in Haight-Ashbury, during the sixties, a time when young people al ...more
Reading this fairly soon after finishing the Jimmy Savile biog, In Plain Sight, it was easy to be struck by some superficial but interesting similarities between the two men. Both, obviously, manipulative and controlling weirdos; charismatic yet brittle oddballs with a superiority complex and an unswerving drive.
Yet, whereas Savile was an icy, aggressive loner with a single-minded focus on achieving success and having power, Charles Manson comes across as a hurt, angry and vulnerable person des
Kelsey Hanson
This book is what I wanted "Helter Skelter" to be, an unbiased account of Manson and the life he led with some insight to why he did the things that he did. The final sentence of the book pretty much sums up my thoughts on this case. "In every sense, one theme runs through and defines his life: Charles Manson was always the wrong man in the right place at the right time." The stars seemed to align horrifically for Manson. His tumultuous childhood, complete with religious zealousy and a young som ...more
I'm not really sure why I picked up this book and started to read it. Maybe I thought it would be an interesting exploration of the psychopathic mind of Charles Manson. It's not. Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson should be renamed: The Extremely Detailed Daily Jaunts of a Quirky, Charismatic Guy Named Charlie.

When I read a book about a murderer, I want to get into his mind. That sounds nasty, but I want to know why he did it. What about his upbringing, his adult life, his psychologic
Helter Skelter was one of my all-time favorite books as a kid. Or as a tween/teenager I guess I should say, as I was probably twelve when I first read it, in I guess 1975. Blew me away: the horrific crimes, the culty-ness of the Family, the sex and drugs and rock-n-roll/dark-side-of-hippies angle, and Charlie's elaborate motive for the Tate/LaBianca murders. I read Bugliosi's massive account--by the way, the biggest selling true-crime book of al time--at least twice more before I turned 20, but ...more
Linda Caminiti
Having grown up in the 60's, my teenage years, I remember a little of Manson and his family and the murders they committed. Later, I read Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi about the Manson family and the trial. This bio reminds me of Erik Larson and his way of taking a subject by encapsulating that subject in the era and how that might have affected the subject. In this case it's how the 50's and 60's shaped and molded Manson and gave him the opportunity to take advantage of the disenfranchised ...more
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Jeff Guinn is the author of MANSON: The Life and Times of Charles Manson, THE LAST GUNFIGHT: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral And How It Changed the American West, and GO DOWN TOGETHER: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie & Clyde, which was a finalist for an Edgar Award in 2010. He was a longtime journalist who has won national, regional and state awards for investigative reporti ...more
More about Jeff Guinn...
The Autobiography of Santa Claus (The Christmas Chronicles #1) 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 American West How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas (The Christmas Chronicles #2) The Great Santa Search (The Christmas Chronicles #3)

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“He felt that anything he wanted ought to be his no matter what.” 3 likes
“If anything was certain, it was that there would always be people looking for someone to tell them what to believe in and what to do.” 2 likes
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