A one-time member of the Manson family delivers a dutiful account of her part in that history of mayhem.
“I had buried my history so well I’d almost forgotten that once I was someone else,” writes Lake—called, in Mansonese, “Snake.” Rattled out of decades of small-f family life, churchgoing, and good deeds—she testified against Manson and her fellow cultists during the notorious Sharon Tate murder trials and was released to a foster family as a minor, thus avoiding imprisonment—by the news that a corpse dog might have located yet more bodies in the haunt of the Manson family, she turns in a memoir that is courageous in spirit but long on self-justification: if society didn’t make her run off and join the cult, then her hippie parents, erstwhile members of the decidedly peaceful Hog Farm commune, certainly didn’t help with their endless permissiveness. The Stockholm syndrome is well in play as Lake describes Manson’s deft use of psychological tricks—some of them picked up by doing time with pimps on Terminal Island—to undermine the egos of his young followers, especially girls. “The first was to use fear and intimidation, but that didn’t always work,” she writes, adding, “the final and most important was making the girl feel fully loved.” Lake goes on to reveal that in her case, as the youngest member of the family, fear was the strongest operative factor, with Manson often threatening her. The author’s portraits of figures such as Tex Watson, Leslie Van Houten, and Susan Atkins will be of interest to Manson completists, although the main outlines are already well-known. Likewise, the author’s account of a bewildered, manipulated Dennis Wilson, of Beach Boys fame, makes it clear that Brian wasn’t the only brother to have borne mental wounds from childhood abuse—again, no real news there.
Though firsthand, a minor addition to the literature surrounding the Manson cult.