I suppose I should thank him?
I’ve been sharing a lot of content from my book, The Manson Family: More to the Story over the past couple of months.
The book was inspired by a conversation over sushi, four years ago this summer, with a friend. My buddy Jake and I were enjoying our dinner, and catching up on the events in each others’ lives when suddenly the conversation turned to the subject of Charles Manson.
I don’t recall why we started talking about Charlie — this was about a year and a half before he died. Maybe he was in the news? That, or perhaps another Manson Family killer was up for parole? Who knows.
The point is that we had just finished dinner, and we were getting ready to pay the bill when we started talking about Manson.
I mentioned to Jake that I did not think that Helter Skelter was the true motive for the murders of 1969.
Jake asked me what I thought the real motive was, and I had no answer.
Beyond a gut instinct that told me that Helter Skelter wasn’t the full story, I actually had no opinion on what WAS the correct motive, or motives.
So, Jake challenged me to write this book. He said, “You’re a researcher — go exploring, and see what you find and if you come up with anything interesting, maybe you should write a book about it.”
And that’s what I did.
Beginning just a few weeks later, I began to read (or re-read) as many books as I could get my hands on. I also watched quite a few documentaries, and searched for various articles online.
I spent a year doing research, and only wrote a tentative introduction, focused on detailing the gruesome crimes and the sensational trial, with an explanation that I would be ‘debunking’ some of the theories, beliefs and misconceptions associated with the story.
Then I spent two years writing the book, while continuing to search for facts and supportive data. I did not settle upon what I felt was the true motive until a full year into the writing process when I wrote the chapter, “Motive”.
Helter Skelter, Charlie’s belief that a race war was imminent — that he and his Family would survive the Apocalypse and he would rise to lead the world — was one of several factors that compelled the killers that terrible summer. And again, this author believes that using the Helter Skelter motive in trial was probably the right call for the prosecution. But you should now see that Helter Skelter was not the only (or even primary) motive for the murders.
In no particular order, here are all the possible motives:
MOTIVE ONE: Rage — Charlie’s rejection by recording insiders coupled with his early developmental experiences which led him to resent conventional society and desire to eliminate those who stood in his way of success. That included his followers as well as the establishment. By summer 1969, Charlie’s rage had peaked.
MOTIVE TWO: Drug Dealing — The Family’s criminal ambitions put them at odds with more established dealers (like Joel Rostau, Bernard Crowe and the Straight Satans) and revealed their own ineptness and desperation for power.
MOTIVE THREE: Drug Addiction — The Family’s growing dependency on hard narcotics which led the killers to become delusional and dangerous.
MOTIVE FOUR: Helter Skelter — Their belief that a race war was coming, that they were to be the benefactors and thus were justified in creating the tipping point if ‘Helter Skelter’ did not happen spontaneously.
MOTIVE FIVE: Cult Programming — The Family’s loss of self-identity and autonomy, following months or years of systemic programming by Manson, which (among other beliefs) conflated their view of death. Many followers did not believe they had the choice to leave. And in some ways, the killers did believe they were freeing their victims by slaughtering them.
MOTIVE SIX: Money — The Family’s financial woes. By the summer of ’69, they’d burned every bridge ever extended to them.
- The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing, published June 2019 from Swann Publications
A year ago this week, my first deposit of royalties were collected. So this week, as I manage my normal financial spreadsheets, I thought I’d go back and see just how much this book (which was self-published) netted me in one year’s time.
That has been my collected earnings so far on my book, along with earnings here at Medium, in exactly one year’s time.
I still have my June and July earnings from Kindle and Nook to be deposited, and a couple hundred dollars from July’s readerships here at Medium that will be deposited in August.
So in all, I’ve earned at least $2500 from this story.
Maybe I should thank Charlie, posthumously, for being such a freakin’ wild card, such a sociopathic character and such a cultural touchstone; providing me (and countless others) with an unlimited fodder of material?
Maybe I should also acknowledge that if Vincent Bugliosi, lead prosecutor of the Tate/LaBianca murder trial, had not continued to spin a half-truth about the Family and their crimes for five decades, I might not even have had a story to share.
Maybe I could find a way to pay it forward, by providing information that encourages others to seek the truth about the Manson Family and other true crime tales.
Perhaps I’ll take that $2500 and invest in a camper, and hit the road and visit all those Manson-related sites that I’ve always wanted to see.
Maybe I’ll use that money to start that Family-related podcast I’ve been dreaming of…
Or maybe I’ll invest the $2500 and then I thank Charlie for helping me double or triple that money.
So thank you, Charles Milles Manson, for being such a bad bad dude but an endless source of ongoing fascination. I never really liked the guy — and I liked him a whole lot less when I really studied this story — but he has given me something and for that, I am thankful.
I am also incredibly thankful to my readers, social media followers and my true crime community. I didn’t set off to become a true crime author but darned if it isn’t paying off…
PS: I will be releasing a Second Edition of the book later this summer — just clearing up a couple of minor errors and inconsistencies. Hey, I did my best but every book always has a couple things you wish you could go back and change. Self-publishing means you get to do exactly that.
You can read more by visiting MansonFamily.net, or you can read the following articles: