This week’s “Books” page features a review of Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson, a fast-paced and insightful non-fiction tale by veteran journalist and Fort Worth-based author Jeff Guinn. The book is refreshing because it refuses to be dazzled by the aura of evil that has surrounded Manson for 43 years now. The real story, as usual, is more complicated and more gripping –– Manson was a sociopathic street criminal who lucked into a place and time (Los Angeles in the late 1960s) where people were so busy enjoying drugs, sex, and superficial friendships, they didn’t pay attention to the predators and dangerous exploiters in their midst. Manson desperately wanted to be a rock star, but he settled for the roles of buzzkilling counterculture boogeyman and celebrity criminal instead.
Author Guinn recently gave an NPR interview in which he discusses tidbits from the book, like the way Manson rearranged the crime scene of the savage Tate-LoBianca murders for maximum visual effect. Here’s a long excerpt from a terrific 2009 essay by filmmaker John Waters on his longtime friendship with incarcerated Manson Family member Leslie Van Houten. Among other things, Waters discusses why Manson has enjoyed a kind of twisted icon status over the years. And finally, here’s a 1966 TV interview with the most famous victim of the Manson Family –– Texas native Sharon Tate –– who takes Merv Griffin on a tour of London and discusses The Fearless Vampire Killers, the movie where she met her future husband, director Roman Polanski. A pregnant Tate was stabbed to death by Manson’s minions in the home she shared with Polanski in 1969.