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The Life and Times of Charles Manson on Thursday's AU

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Jeff Guinn, author of “Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson” (now out in paperback) says he wanted to answer two questions with the book: “Why does Manson’s name still resonate with us, all these years after those famous murders? And what happened in his life to make him the way he turned out?” Guinn says that in answering those questions “it was really like a trip across American history because Manson represents so many aspects of American society.” More than 40 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 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 some members of the Manson family provided new information about Manson’s life. Guinn 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 shows how an ordinary juvenile delinquent named Charles Manson became the notorious murderer whose crimes still shock and horrify us today. Jeff Guinn is a former award-winning investigative journalist and the bestselling author of numerous books of fiction and nonfiction, including “Go Down Together: The True Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde,” “The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral and How It Changed the West.” Guinn lives in Fort Worth, Texas.