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Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA and the Secret History of the Sixties Reviews


Charles Manson, the CIA and the Secret History of the Sixties

Tom O'Neill, Dan Piepenbring

Score pending

2 reviews

Imprint: William Heinemann Ltd
Publisher: Cornerstone
Publication date: 27 Jun 2019
ISBN: 9781785152085

In those two dark nights in Los Angeles, O'Neill finds the story of California in the sixties: when charlatans mixed with prodigies, free love was as possible as brainwashing, and utopia-or dystopia-was just an acid trip away.

  • The ObserverBook of the Week
3 stars out of 5
Peter Conrad
7 Jul 2019

"A journalist’s obsession with the infamous murders by the Family unearths startling ties linking the group’s leader to the US government"

O’Neill’s dottiest character is himself, a lonely obsessive hoarding Manson ephemera in his cramped apartment, with 190 binders full of notes on his shelves, plus six extra stacks of unfiled documents, each of them four-feet high, littering the floor. He begins as a dutiful gumshoe like Chandler’s Philip Marlowe plodding down the mean streets, but he ends closer to the justifiably paranoid taxi driver played by Mel Gibson in Richard Donner’s thriller Conspiracy Theory. As he admits, the loose ends are still not tied up and with so many of the culprits dead they probably never will be. O’Neill’s intricately sinister “secret history” often sounds incredible; that doesn’t mean that it’s not all true.


2 stars out of 5
30 Jun 2019

"An analysis of the horrible murders by Manson’s hippie cult raises far more questions than it can answer"

None of these questions produces conclusive answers. There is always a connection O’Neill just can’t make or a key witness who refuses to speak to him. Nearly 500 pages later, his investigation ends with the dampest of squibs: “What do I think really happened? The plain answer is I don’t know.”

He concludes: “I haven’t found the truth, much as I wish I could say I have. My goal isn’t to say what did happen — it’s to prove that the official story didn’t.” The Manson mystery, if there really is one, has yet to be resolved