The Making of a Monster: Charles Manson’s Childhood
Jeff Guinn's biography goes deep into Charles Manson’s troubled childhood and shows how he became the crazed monster that captivated America.
More than 40 years after the gruesome murders that made Charles Manson an infamous household name, perhaps enough time has passed finally to assess him as something other than a satanic incarnation of the darkest impulses unleashed by the turbulence of the 1960s. Jeff Guinn certainly thinks so. His chillingly matter-of-fact biography depicts Charlie (as Guinn belittlingly calls him throughout) as a garden-variety sociopath with above-average social skills, and as a lifelong predator whose early history reveals the typical profile of a small-time criminal.
Guinn’s principal source for the book’s new information is relatives who have not previously spoken to reporters, and they don’t paint a pretty picture. “Little Charlie Manson was a disagreeable child ... he lied about everything [and] always blamed someone else for his actions ... obsessed with being the center of attention ... he tried to manipulate everyone ... his interest in people was dictated by what they might be able to do for him.”
Granted, the odds were against a baby born to a 15-year-old girl more interested in partying than motherhood, one whose shenanigans earned her a five-year jail term for robbery when her son was 4. We quickly get the grim impression that Charlie’s destructive course through life was fixed very early. But we also see that he was no hapless victim of circumstance; he chose his path. A kid whose main interests were knives and guns was unlikely to grow up into a happy citizen, even if he was also fond of music.