Book Review: Hippie Cult Leader: The Last Words of Charles Manson by James Buddy Day

TW: Death, violence, gore, torture, racism There's this weird fascination for serial killers that so many people have. ...

TW: Death, violence, gore, torture, racism

There's this weird fascination for serial killers that so many people have. I'm one of those people with that fascination. I tend to want to know more about the victims, but there's this desire to understand why these murderers and psychotics do the horrid things they do. Charlie Manson is one of the most famous cult leaders of all-time, but allegedly wasn't around during any of the famous Manson family murders, so he doesn't actually fall into the "serial killer" fascination, but he's still in the same kind of realm. This month marked the 50th anniversary of the infamous murders, and thus sparked the release of Quentin Tarantino's latest film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and true crime book Hippie Cult Leader: The Last Words of Charles Manson. My family and I went opening weekend to see Hollywood, and that same weekend I began reading Hippie Cult Leader. It was a rough few days, to say the least, reading about Manson is really uncomfortable.

James Buddy Day is a documentarian with a fascination with Charles Manson. He pushed his luck by writing a letter to Manson requesting an interview, and low and behold, it worked. Over the last year of Manson's life, Day regularly talked with Manson to hear his side of the story. Alongside his Manson interviews, he spoke with several people inside and outside of Manson's circle to try to divulge the true story of the Manson family murders.

I've picked up Manson info here and there, and read up about things on the internet, but this was my first time reading lengthy accounts of what happened. I haven't even read Helter Skelter, which is basically the Manson family murders bible. This book was so tough to read, though, because it almost felt like the author was a sympathizer to Manson's cause. And at times, the author noted that he, too, was concerned about becoming tricked by Manson's ways because he seemed to have a likable manner to him. It's all very concerning, and reading the book was all very uncomfortable.

If you're unfamiliar with the specifics of the murders and don't want to read about it, this isn't the book for you. It's pretty graphic and sickening at times.

But my biggest complaint with the book is that it wasn't structured in a way that made everything easy to follow along. There were so many people involved with Manson in the 60s and thereafter, it was hard enough to keep them all aligned with their involvement in the crimes. They've all got their birth names and then nicknames, as well, which is confusing enough, but chapters would skip back and forth in the timeline, so it was all just very tough to keep everything straight.

"A fascination with serial killers and the way their minds work is not hard to understand, but to become enamoured and to align yourself with a person whose actions are so shameful seems disturbed." - Hippie Cult Leader, James Buddy Day

In terms of true crime books, this one wasn't my favorite. I appreciated that it attempted to bring a new point-of-view to a story everyone knows, but I felt it was sloppy and difficult to follow. Though this book was only about 250 pages, it took me over a week to get through it. I really struggled reading this book, and if I was the type of person that doesn't finish books, I likely would've marked this one as "DNF."

Goodreads rating: ★★☆☆☆

*I received this book for free in exchange of an honest review. All opinions, as always, are 100% my own.

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