Saturday, February 15, 2014

Manson Part II

Like everyone else, as a teenager, I read Helter Skelter:  The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi, and I thought I knew the whole story.  When Jeff Guinn's book, Manson:  The Life and Times of Charlie Manson came out 39 years after Bugliosi's, I wondered what more it could say.  I mean, it's not like new evidence has recently come to light.  But then the reviews started coming in, and it was clear that Guinn had found a good story to tell.

The subtitles of the two books tell a lot about the differences between the Bugliosi and Guinn Books.  Bugliosi's is the story of the Manson murders and the trials, as told by the lead prosecuting attorney, just 5 years after the Tate murders.  Guinn's book tells about Charles Manson's life, the formation of his "family", and yes, about the murders and trials.  I listened to Guinn's book in audio form, and can report that the murders occurred on disc 8 of 14 discs.  Guinn fully develops Manson's life from childhood, without trying to make the reader (or listener) feel sympathetic.  He is a reporter reporting, and he finds good information that Bugliosi either didn't know or didn't think was worth mentioning.

Bugliosi wrote his book just after the trial finished, from the perspective of the prosecutor's office.  Even if he tried to conduct interviews for his book rather than just relying on the prosecutor's file and trial record, would anyone have talked to him?  He still had connections to the prosecutor's office and the statute of limitations hadn't expired for even minor crimes that might have been mentioned. 

As Guinn explains, in Los Angeles in the 1970s, the culture of the law enforcement system was to ignore allegations against stars and the children of stars unless implicating them was unavoidable.  While Bugliosi mentioned Manson's relationship with Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys and Terry Melcher, who was Doris Day's son, he down played the friendships as tangential and just an interesting and scary fact of Manson's life.  Guinn spends much more time exploring Manson's friendships with Wilson, Melcher and other people involved with the music scene. After so many years had passed, Guinn seems to have been able to get more people talking about Manson and their own connections to him.  Unfortunately, Wilson and Melcher both died years before the book was released, so Guinn did not have their first hand accounts.  Guinn also writes about how Manson recruited his followers and why they stayed with him in much greater detail than Bugliosi did in his book.

Manson:  The Life and Times of Charles Manson was a NYT Notable for 2013.  If you have any interest at all in Manson and his followers, this book is worth your time.  In terms of 2014 challenges,  I am counting this for both the Audiobook Challenge and the I Love Library Books Challenge.

In Other News:  I saw the movie based on Winter's Tale last night.  As you may know, the reviews have not been great, and I think I know why.  The movie focuses almost exclusively on Peter Lake, his relationship with Beverly Penn, and Pearly Soames' attempts to get revenge.  There are whole story lines that are not even mentioned.  No Praeger, no Hardesty, no Jackson Mead.  The only turn of the millennium character is Virginia and her daughter, Abby.  While my copy of Winter's Tale is 748 pages, it was as though the screen writers took 75 pages from the first part of the book, 25 pages from the second half, and called it "good enough".  For a lover of the book, it wasn't.  I did like the movie, but it seemed like just a cliff notes version of one part of the story, hitting me over the head with the battle between good and evil, and ignoring the rest.  What I didn't expect was that the movie would make me want to read the book again.  Like, now.  It's already on my "Redux" list of books that I want to re-read this year, and I am really looking forward to it sooner rather than later.

Next Up on CD:  The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Still Reading:  The Rose Labyrinth by Titania Hardie

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