Portrait of a Pure Lunatic

Taming The Beast: Charles Manson’s Life Behind Bars

Why is this guy’s face so damn scary, 100% of the time?

Edward George, a retired corrections officer who met Manson in 1975 at San Quentin, says up front in this latest entry in the canon of a true madman that his Jesuit training led him to believe that the beast could indeed be tamed. His years of knowing Manson—who he frequently describes as “devilish” or “demonic” or a “wicked troll”—led him to believe otherwise.

As both George’s narrative and the parole board hearing transcripts cited here make clear, Manson is as monstrously sick as ever; he builds cockroach cages and voodoo dolls and rants about himself as a Christ-like figure. This volume (coauthored by true-crime writer Dary Matera, who wrote the definitive account on the life of America’s “first celebrity criminal,” John Dillinger) gives us an ugly, ugly look at a man whose entire life has been a study in sickness.

George advances a few theories about Manson’s childhood and relationship with his father, then admits he doesn’t know if Manson actually knew his father. In the intro, this lunatic idiot is quoted as saying,

“My father is the jail house. My father is your system. I have ate out of your garbage cans to stay out of jail. I have wore your second-hand clothes. I have given everything I have away. Everything! I have accepted things and given them away the next second. I have done my best to get along in your world and now you want to kill me, and I look at you and I look at how incompetent you all are, and then I say to myself, You want to kill me? Ha, I’m already dead! have been all my life! I’ve lived in your tomb that you built.”

George also has little to offer about Manson’s motivations, though he does provide a chilling glimpse of Family members like Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, who showed up at the prison regularly in her red cape, begging to be allowed to see Manson. George saw her just days before she attempted to assassinate then-president Gerald Ford.

George also gives updates on the women who still follow Manson—and there are quite a few of them—and it’s scary how active the Family still remains nearly 30 years after they rose to infamy. While it’s tough to see the rationale behind yet another book about this particular psycho—Manson himself counts 58 books on the topic—George has some items that will be of interest to those who want to know all the details of Manson’s prison life.

Taming The Beast: Charles Manson’s Life Behind Bars; By Edward George & Dary Matera (St. Martin’s; 288pp)


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Rebecca Kurson

Rebecca Kurson writes about literature, pop culture, television, science fiction and music. Her work has appeared in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Observer, The Federalist and Rodale's Organic Life.

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