Manson by Jeff Guinn
The Life and Times of Charles

82%

25 Critic Reviews

The nearer Guinn's biography draws to its central horror, the more it picks up speed. The middle section pitches us into the whirlpool, presenting a swirl of horrific gore and bubbling black comedy.
-Guardian

Synopsis

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bestselling, authoritative account of the life of Charles Manson, filled with surprising new information and previously unpublished photographs: “A riveting, almost Dickensian narrative…four stars” (People).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 actress Sharon Tate. It was the culmination of a criminal career that author Jeff Guinn traces back to Manson’s childhood. Guinn interviewed Manson’s sister and cousin, neither of whom had ever previously cooperated with an author. Childhood friends, cellmates, and even some members of the Manson family have provided new information about Manson’s life. Guinn has made discoveries about the night of the Tate murders, answering unresolved questions, such as why one person near the scene of the crime was spared.

Manson puts the killer in the context of the turbulent late sixties, an era of race riots and street protests when authority in all its forms was under siege. Guinn shows us how Manson created and refined his message to fit the times, persuading confused young women (and a few men) that he had the solutions to their problems. At the same time he used them to pursue his long-standing musical ambitions. His frustrated ambitions, combined with his bizarre race-war obsession, would have lethal consequences.

Guinn’s book is a “tour de force of a biography…Manson stands as a definitive work: important for students of criminology, human behavior, popular culture, music, psychopathology, and sociopathology…and compulsively readable” (Ann Rule, The New York Times Book Review).
 

About Jeff Guinn

See more books from this Author
Jeff Guinn is the bestselling author of several books of fiction and nonfiction, including The Last Gunfight and Go Down Together, which was a finalist for an Edgar Award in 2010. Formerly an award-winning investigative journalist and now a frequent guest on national radio and TV programs, he lives in Fort Worth, Texas.
 
Published August 6, 2013 by Simon & Schuster. 526 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences, Crime. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Aug 25 2013
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Weeks as Bestseller
Bookmark Counts:
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Critic reviews for Manson
All: 25 | Positive: 23 | Negative: 2

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Ann Rule on Aug 15 2013

Though most of the literate world knows what’s to come, Guinn ably maintains suspense. Even if “Manson” is occasionally tedious, recounting over and over the Family’s peripatetic adventures...it stands as a definitive work: important for students of criminology, human behavior...and compulsively readable for anyone who relishes nonfiction.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Janet Maslin on Aug 06 2013

“Manson” tells stories so well that it is sure to attract attention to Mr. Guinn’s earlier writing. It makes sense that his past subjects include Bonnie and Clyde and the shootout at the O.K. Corral.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Xan Brooks on Aug 21 2013

The nearer Guinn's biography draws to its central horror, the more it picks up speed. The middle section pitches us into the whirlpool, presenting a swirl of horrific gore and bubbling black comedy.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on May 13 2013

Guinn's portrait is an absorbing true crime saga and a searching exploration of the anomie, broken homes, and crazed hopes that led lost souls to mistake Manson for the answer to their prayers.

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Kirkus

Excellent
on May 28 2013

A compulsively readable account of a murderer who continues to fascinate.

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Book Reporter

Good
Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on Aug 09 2013

Guinn has successfully brought Manson and his "family" back to our attention in this fascinating tome...Charlie is still alive and still, thankfully, behind bars.

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Book Reporter

Good
on Aug 06 2013

...drawing on new information, bestselling author Jeff Guinn tells the definitive story of how this ordinary delinquent became a murderer.

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Washington Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Paul Davis on Aug 28 2013

Mr. Guinn does a fine job of describing Manson’s childhood and how he grew to become the leader of the Manson family. Mr. Guinn also offers a vivid portrait of the mid-to-late 1960s and how this frenetic decade operated as a backdrop to Manson’s life’s story.

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Entertainment Weekly

Above average
Reviewed by Clark Collis on Aug 01 2013

Manson wouldn't cooperate with the project, but Guinn does such a thorough job reminding us of his monstrousness, that actually seems like a blessing.

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LA Times

Above average
Reviewed by David L. Ulin on Aug 09 2013

Guinn can't keep himself from overstatement, framing music as the central motivation when it was just one face of a tangled psychosis, in which for both Manson and the Family the line between reality and fantasy grew irrevocably blurred.

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The Washington Post

Good
Reviewed by Daniel Stashower on Sep 14 2013

Guinn’s wide-lens approach fleshes out a great deal of background and offers new insight to those who lived through that turbulent era...

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The Boston Globe

Above average
Reviewed by Julia M. Klein on Aug 24 2013

...Guinn credibly claims to have written the definitive account of Manson’s life. No great prose stylist, Guinn nevertheless possesses a flair for immersing readers in this slowly unspooling horror story.

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BookPage

Excellent
Reviewed by Alden Mudge on Aug 01 2013

In what is probably the fullest biography of Manson to date, Guinn shows that Manson the murderer is not just a creation of the ’60s but the unfortunate sum of all his parts.

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The Daily Beast

Good
Reviewed by Wendy Smith on Aug 03 2013

It’s frightening enough to think of Charles Manson as a lunatic product of the disordered, polarized 1960s...Manson is, as its author surely intended, deeply unsettling and unnerving.

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Macleans

Above average
Reviewed by Colby Cosh on Aug 30 2013

Guinn’s Manson does not make for as good a book as Helter Skelter, but it might be a better primer for younger readers on one of the 20th century’s defining criminal cases.

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Salon

Above average
Reviewed by LAURA MILLER on Aug 04 2013

I can’t say Guinn reproduces the mood of that moment the way Didion does. But his overlay of methodical reconstruction, his deliberate and consistent minimizing of Manson’s much-ballyhooed evil as the product of pathological vanity, spite and selfishness, is actually more welcome than the usual apocalyptic thunder.

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St. Louis Today

Above average
Reviewed by Harry Levins on Aug 17 2013

...readers who wade through the 400-plus pages of text and appendices may ask themselves: Is Charlie Manson worth this much?...Manson was — and remains — a weird loser. Why spend more than 400 pages with him?

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NY Daily News

Good
Reviewed by Sherryl Connelly on Jul 28 2013

The book is most harrowing as Guinn details the prelude to slaughter as Manson, desperate for the money and fame he felt was his due, relocates with his slavish followers, the Family, to Los Angeles in 1967 trolling for the connection to bring his music, and his genius, to the world.

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Tulsa World

Good
Reviewed by Glenn C. Altschuler on Sep 01 2013

In "Manson," Jeff Guinn...draws on scores of interviews to recreate Manson's early life and sets him and his cult "Family" in the context of their chaotic times.

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Times Dispatch

Good
Reviewed by Doug Childers on Aug 04 2013

“Manson” isn’t merely a hybrid biography/true crime book, though. It’s also a sweeping cultural history, covering everything from the counterculture to the rise of Los Angeles as an entertainment capital in the 1920s and its growing control of the music industry in the 1960s.

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Newstalk 1010

Good
Reviewed by Justine Lewkowicz on Aug 09 2013

Guinn...does a good job of placing Manson’s life in perspective. Every step of the way, he describes what was happening in the States around Charlie and how that influenced his decisions and placed him in “the right place at the right time.” Manson is a disturbingly fascinating read.

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The BookPage

Good
Reviewed by Morgan Hawk on Aug 20 2013

With exclusive interviews and photographs, Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Mason goes beyond previous biographies to provide a well-written and complete study of a man who has perplexed many for decades.

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Seacoastonline

Excellent
Reviewed by Laura Malt Schneiderman on Aug 18 2013

This book on Manson will add to Guinn's reputation as an author who can both research and write well.

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Bookmagnet

Excellent
Reviewed by Jaime Boler on Aug 14 2013

Guinn’s chilling and informative book...is all about Manson. You may think you know the story, but Guinn’s new material will have you glued to the page.

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Back to Books

Good
Reviewed by Nicola Mansfield on Aug 13 2013

The book does a great job of defining the whole era that Manson found himself in and also in de-celebritizing Manson and putting him where he belongs, just another sociopath, thankfully, in prison for life.

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