Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA and the Secret History of the Sixties
Penguin / William Heinemann
I think it is safe to say that Charles Manson, the case around him, the man, the myth, the legend will always have a place on the firmament of Western pop culture.
While there have been a myriad of books on his story and its implications – some more reliable than others – this solid tome by the journalist Tom O’Neill is based on decades of research on the fraudulent Manson trial, shedding light on the covert influences of the 1960s and how the shaping of a nation was manifested through the manoeuvring of intelligence agencies.
The book continues where Sanders’ The Family and Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter stopped and while there is a good share of what could be considered conspiracy theories apart from the known facts about Manson’s unholy odyssey, the attention to detail and interpretation of events gives reason to believe that Manson had a lot more going on in than anyone ever could fathom and that there was more to what was portrayed as motiveless murders.
Tom O’Neill examines the involvement LAPD and the FBI, and microscopically analyses how they not only contributed to muddying the waters but – as with the CIA – played an integral role in creating fertile ground through experiments with hallucinogenic drugs.
Even for the initiated, there should be an array of new facts and theories to discover that give Tom O’Neill’s approach credibility, yet it at times borders on the fantastic and sensationalism, a e.g. when details are shared about characters that were involved in the lead up and the trial itself.
Needless to say that Tom O’Neill does not resolve all the mysteries and unanswered questions, but his fascination, meticulous research and obsession raises a lot of interesting questions about facets and the narrative of the Manson case that so far have been largely and perhaps deliberately ignored, which makes for an intriguing read.