Dedicated to destroying a myth,"" these curiously flat but never dull memoirs of world-class psychopath and convicted killer Manson reveal--true to his stated intent--little of the evil Svengali popularized in the press. Instead, here is the unapologetic tale of a self-avowed two-bit hustler, who claims he is society's child and victim. Photo-journalist Emmons, who first met Manson while he himself was doing time in the 50's, initiated recontact in 1979; he cobbled this book from six years of face-to-face interviews and a number of Manson's letters. Frightening accounts of meetings with Manson bookend the chronological material and reveal as much as the rest: Manson scuttling to the back of a cell, looking like a ""frightened, distrustful animal""; Manson pretending to strangle a female journalist by tightly wrapping a tape-recorder cord around her neck. Without directly saying so, Emmons makes it clear that this is the tale of a grade-A sociopath; reader be warned. According to Manson himself, whose voice is jail-hip, he never had a chance: orphan of an uncaring mom and brutal penal institutions, his star shone black from day one. But as late as 1967, when Manson was released from prison and set loose on the flower children, he was, he claims, still a basically decent guy with a message of love. Sure, he seduced a lot of underage girls, but ""those parents sent their kids to me."" As expected, when Manson details the downward spiral into murder, he forgoes any serious attempt at further explanation--other than to lay most of the blame on two followers--and simply relates the facts in all their bleakness. Manson's con isn't clever enough to pass off his life as yet another casualty of a cold, cruel world. These memoirs do fascinate, but as much for their twisted abrogation of responsibility as for their gruesome story: The banality of evil has rarely been so obvious.