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Best book about the Manson Family?
November 2, 2007 9:01 PM   Subscribe

What is the best book about the Manson Family? I'm looking for details on not just the infamous murders, but the group itself - what attracted people to join "the family", what were the internal dynamics like, etc.

The book may in fact be "Helter Skelter", but there may be a Manson-phile among us here who can suggest a better on.
I'd also be content with a documentary, if any excellent ones have been made.
posted by Unsomnambulist to Law & Government (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I like to consider Helter Skelter to be the best book on this; I would suggest Manson in His Own Words, but a lot of what Manson says is somewhat biased and skewed. Perhaps CrimeLibrary's bibliography on their Charles Manson article could be of further assistance; both books I've mentioned are listed there.
posted by itchie at 9:17 PM on November 2, 2007


Can't help with books, but how about a mockumentary and an opera?

Raymond Pettibon did a film called "The Book of Manson" which is a sort of low-budget "re-enactment" of the Manson Family story. It's not what I'd call a reliable documentary but is interesting nonetheless. He did similar films about the Weather Underground and the Patty Hearst kidnapping. All are portraits of insular, paranoid "hippie" movements, filmed with handheld cameras and featuring doctrine used as a tool of control over malleable, naive group members.

Also of possible interest is "The Manson Family: An Opera" by John Moran, which is surprisingly listenable considering its premise.
posted by contraption at 9:28 PM on November 2, 2007


There are books about some of the Manson's 'family,'
"Squeaky: The Life and Times Of Lynette Alice Fromme" and "The Long Prison Journey of Leslie van Houten: Life Beyond the Cult."

Reading a bit about these two ladies has helped me understand the appeal of the Manson family. Manson reached out to troubled, impressionable and idealistic young people, treated them like family and got them wrapped up in a world of sex, drugs, rock & roll & misguided activism. Some of his early philosophies aren't really that whacked, the Manson family was primarily and passionately concerned with ecology and the environment.
posted by pluckysparrow at 9:33 PM on November 2, 2007


I have yet to find the book you describe, as far as I can tell you still have to piece it together from all available resources. One of my favorites is The Family by Ed Sanders. Be warned - the book is trashy, to say the least. Every manner of scurrilous rumor is reprinted, nothing is too unlikely for Sanders to pass along. Anonymous sources abound, obvious lies are presented with little or no caveat. However, all the gossip *does* give a much better sense of the tales people told about the Family, which can really round out your understanding *if* your able to consume the massive amount of sodium assistance required for your reading.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 9:40 PM on November 2, 2007


2nding Helter Skelter. The author is a bit of a douchebag, but it's a thick, detailed account of the whole story. Fascinating.
posted by Rykey at 10:28 PM on November 2, 2007


The late Mae Brussell was a Santa Cruz muckraker this tanscript of her radio show may be interesting.
posted by hortense at 10:30 PM on November 2, 2007


This is what you want. Creepy. Much of it is recreated in The Manson Family.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:38 PM on November 2, 2007


I would suggest My Life With Charles Manson by Paul Watkins. The guy who wrote it was a member of the Manson Family who left either right before or shortly after the murders happened. He seems sincere and the book is not very sensationalistic- mostly it just seems like a book about the group dynamics and the weird interpersonal relationships that existed between members. It looks like you could get it through Amazon, but it is really expensive. I'd say try the library, perhaps requesting it through interlibrary loan if it's rare, or used bookstores.
posted by ezrainch at 10:41 PM on November 2, 2007


Paul Watkins' book probably gives more detail about Family life before the murders than most other books and is an interesting read. I'd also recommend Susan Atkins' Child of Satan, Child of God, which is obviously heavily biased in her favor, but is informative nevertheless. Col. Scott has a fascinating Manson Family blog that features a lot of hard-to-find interviews, documents and photos.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:00 PM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've read a lot on the Manson family, from Ed Sanders' book to the biographies of Squeaky Fromme and Susan Atkins, but have to agree with those who say that Helter Skelter is the definitive account.
posted by essexjan at 1:06 AM on November 3, 2007


I like The Family by Sanders.
posted by OmieWise at 5:32 PM on November 3, 2007


Thanks everyone!
The blog Oriole mentioned is pretty intense, and may lead me to what I'm looking for.... and happens to be free! ;)
posted by Unsomnambulist at 11:12 AM on November 4, 2007


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