Manson in His Own Words: The Shocking Confessions of “The Most Dangerous Man Alive”
as told to Nuel Emmons
Rating – 7/10
Summary – This is Manson’s “as told to” autobiography and it is surprisingly good. You have to take everything the guy says with a mountain (or two) of salt, but Charlie admits to plenty of wrongdoing and provides readers with an idea of his savage worldview.
Review – In 1979, an ex-convict-turned-writer named Nuel Emmons headed back to prison to renew his acquaintance with a contact from his old life outside the law. The contact was Charles Manson, with whom Emmons had served time twice in 1950s and early-1960s. Emmons says that the two had never been close, but Manson granted Emmons a series of interviews that covered Manson’s version of his life story. The result is the short, shocking 1986 book Manson in His Own Words.
The book’s most-moving section is Manson’s account of his early years, his upbringing makes Oliver Twist’s childhood look like Leave It to Beaver. Born to an unwed, teenage mother who allegedly dabbled in prostitution, Manson felt unwanted from birth. One feels compassion for the young Manson when reading of his escape from a Catholic boys school in an attempt to find his mother:
“I was sure my mom would throw her arms around me, as glad to see me as I was to be there with her. She’d take me down to the judge and tell him she was in a position to take care of us. Everything would be all right. God, was I dreaming! She turned me in and the next day I was back at the Home for Boys. But I didn’t feel like a boy any longer. There were no tears. At least, none that ran down my cheeks. I didn’t feel weak or sick, but I also knew that I could no longer be sick or be happy. I was bitter and knew real hate” (page 36).
Manson also gives a good account of his descent into a life of crime as a pimp and petty thief.
Still, for most readers, the real attraction here will be Manson’s discussion of the infamous 1969 “Tate-LaBianca murders.” This section is a mixed bag, as Manson admits some fault, but often pins the blame on others.
In regard to admissions, Manson states that he allowed the power of leading his so-called Family to go to his head and that he led his young followers into petty crime to make money. Perhaps the most-damning admission is that he rode with his followers on the night of the LaBianca murders and directed them to murder the LaBiancas.
The rest of Manson’s account is a curious mixture of denial and admission. In regard to the Tate murders, he concedes suggesting Tate’s residence as a prospective location for murder, but says that his followers had already decided to murder and lacked only a potential victim. (See more below). Manson (who was not present during the murders) claims that he went to the Tate house after the victims were dead, but before police arrived, so that he could see the scene and plant false clues.
Charlie also dissembles regarding The Family’s murders of Gary Hinman and Donald “Shorty” Shea. Manson says that he told a follower to kill Hinman, but contends that he was joking. More disappointingly, Manson refuses to discuss Shea’s murder, claiming that he wants to protect participants who have not been prosecuted.
Manson directs much venom toward his former disciples. Specifically, he mocks “Tex” Watson and Susan Atkins for claiming to have found religion in prison and for stating that Manson controlled their actions during the murders. He also blames the Family women for the Tate-LaBianca murders. A bit of background is needed here. The Hinman murder was the first and led to the arrest of Family heartthrob Bobby Beausoleil. Manson claims that the lovesick women conceived the Tate-LaBianca murders as “copies” of the Hinman murder; the idea was that the Tate-LaBianca murders would be so similar to the Hinman murder that police would conclude that someone other than the jailed Beausoleil must have been the killer. Whatever else may be said of Manson, he does not portray himself as a “stand-up guy” who takes accountability for his actions.
The book contains Manson’s rebuttal to prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi’s contentions that Charlie had a shadowy ability to control his followers. Some of the arguments are credible; for instance, Manson scoffs at the notion that he could use his mind to stop Bugliosi’s wristwatch, as Bugliosi suggested. Also, Manson says that he did not believe that the murders would lead to a race war, as Bugliosi has stated. But Manson undercuts his own case here by admitting that he told his followers –
“Look around you, the worm’s turning on the white man. Him and his pigs have put the dollar in front of everything. Even his own kids. Blackie’s tired of being the doormat for the rich man’s pad. So, while the white man’s locked into his dollars, blackie’s balling the blond, blue-eyed daughters and making mixed babies. It’s all leading to bad shit. Real madness is going to explode soon – everything is going to be Helter Skelter. But that won’t affect us, ‘cause we’ll be in a beautiful land that only we know how to survive in” (page 172).
The book says little about Manson’s much-publicized trial and his life in prison after his conviction. At one point during the trial, Manson grabbed a stray pencil, jumped over the defense table, and made a lunge for the judge before being restrained. The trial even drew comment from then-President Nixon (who said that Manson was guilty before the case had gone to the jury). After his conviction, Manson spent time on death row, before California (temporarily) abolished the death penalty. It would have been nice to hear Manson’s twisted take on these events.
Even granting that Manson in His Own Words is (in Kris Kristofferson’s words) “partly truth and partly fiction,” it is still well worth reading.