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That pretty much sums up my review of this book.
This is one of those advanced reader’s copy I receive before a book is published in exchange for an honest review. And I can honestly say that other than the subject matter, I really liked it. Which seems so odd when you consider the name Charles Manson conjures up the image of pure evil.
The timing of this book release coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Manson Family Murders. I was only three when that happened so do not remember the details – only what I gleaned from what I heard or read over the years.
I was very surprised by how little I knew about anything associated with this horrific crime (probably a good thing). And surprised about how little I knew about the legal gymnastics (as the author called it) required to convict Manson and others in his group. Other than the names of Charles Manson, Lynette Squeaky Fromme (because she tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford) and movie actress Sharon Tate, I didn’t recognize any of the other victims or killers. And I vaguely recalled that lyrics from a Beatles song was somehow blamed, but I didn’t really entertain that theory or pay much attention to any of it, quite frankly.
And neither did this author, James Buddy Day, an award-winning true crime director. He definitely mastered asking the right questions to help answer why. Why does it matter to know why? Because truth matters. I especially appreciated what he questioned: “The fundamental question I considered throughout my time with Charles Manson was not whether or not he was innocent. Charles Manson was many things, and innocent was not among them…I was often asked if I thought Manson was evil. The simple answer is no. He was more misunderstood than he was evil, which is not to say he was virtuous, but rather he liked to play the part of evil.”
Another important question he asked and explored, “Should those in power be allowed to construct their own truth in the pursuit of justice?”
Through his own investigative reporting and conversations with Manson and many others directly involved with the murders and the tragedies, Day comes up with a more plausible alternative theory on the events that led up to brutal murders of nine people.
This well-researched and documented nonfiction book reads like a novel. It’s just so sad and heartbreaking that it really happened. So many innocent people in the wrong place at the wrong time. So many lost souls looking for any kind of connection even if it leads to murder. I was also surprised by how well-known celebrities crossed paths, albeit brief, with members of the Manson family – Doris Day’s son, Terry Melcher, to Dennis Wilson, member of the Beach Boys. And that Melcher actually may have been a target instead of others.
It’s definitely not a feel-good story or uplifting tale. Rather, it’s an unfortunate part of history that shouldn’t become romantic folklore.
That sums up my book review.
Up next: So my last three reads have been about murder, murder, and murder. Not really digging that theme, so am going back to finish Becoming by Michelle Obama for something a little more upbeat.